My favorite photo of Vince Dooley dressed as a Shakespearean character

The old Red & Black offices at the University of Georgia were wonderful. They certainly weren’t state of the art — no, you had to climb up squeaky stairs just above the coffee shop that chimneyed up wonderful fumes on Sunday mornings, and there were times you felt like the floors below you could collapse at any moment, which totally would have screwed us for deadline — but they were the perfect offices for a bunch of cocky, green college newspapermen and newspaperwomen.

I remember the dusty old couch in the room where the daily story budget meetings were held. I remember looking across the street at Toppers, one of the two local strip clubs in Athens. I remember the concert flyers, the stickers, the inside jokes that were plastered on all the walls. This was a college bar without the booze, a shrine to the Athens of yesterday made by the journalists of today so that when they took their future jobs they could remember the past and smile.

And there was the best wall art of all. It was a photo of Georgia’s legendary coach Vince Dooley, wearing a hat with a feather in it, posing like a stage actor eager to tackle hours of Shakespearean iambic pentameter.

That photo hung on the wall in the sports department, next to the Mac computer that barely connected us with working e-mail in the late 1990s.

No telling how long that photo lived on that wall, but one day in April of 2000, I hatched a plan. I took the picture off that wall and drove to Dooley’s office. I must have had an appointment to interview him — we didn’t have the kind of relationship where I could just drop on by whenever I wanted to chat — and at the end our talk, I pulled out the photo that labeled him Vince “Hamlet” Dooley

He looked at it, laughed, and claimed he didn’t remember posing for it. I believed him, though I also found it hard to believe.

That, I’m sure, is the last time we spoke.

I was reminded of that photo when I read Tanya Sichynsky’s nice piece on Dooley for the R&B as he was set to be honored for the 50th anniversary of his first season in Athens.

So, I went and found it. It, of course, is still glorious.

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After I left the interview, that photo somehow never made it back to the newspaper offices. It never retook its place on the wall along with the old REM stickers and the Asa Nisi Masa concert flyers.

Because after I left Dooley’s office, with the signature of a legend and a personalization to boot, I took it home with me.

That piece of wall in the sports department of the old Red & Black would remain bare. And much like Dooley himself, that spot was never again filled by anything quite as grand.

In my mind’s eye, I think I’m OK with that.

Amber Roessner, author of Inventing Baseball Heroes/media history professor

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My former colleague at the Red & Black student newspaper, Amber Roessner is now a professor of media history at the University of Tennessee, and she’s written a fascinating book, “Inventing Baseball Heroes: Ty Cobb, Christy Mathewson, and the Sporting Press in America”. In our chat, we talk about the future of our industry and how she as a teacher is optimistic about what’s to come, how newspapers played a role in the making of baseball heroes in the early 20th century, and why the relationship between ballplayers and sports writers back then was so chummy.

Plus, we talk about why I’m annoyed by the attitude of long-ago sports writers about protecting the athletes they covered, and we listen to Roessner squirm when I ask her whether those writers were actually any good.

Interviewed on 8-27-14

Here’s something similar:

My first-ever podcast was with Cincinnati Enquirer Reds writer C. Trent Rosecrans. We talked plenty of baseball that day.

Sandy Puc, co-founder/photographer of Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep

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After an interesting chat with Cheryl Haggard last week, we check in with Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep co-founder and photographer Sandy Puc. We get her perspective on why the duo started the foundation, what it was like photographing Cheryl’s son before and after he died, how the thousands of NILMDTS photographers approach each session, and how they proceed through their workn. It’s yet another emotional chat, but it’s also a fantastic talk.

Plus, on a lighter note, we talk about why Sandy decided to get married via an Elvis impersonator and how and why she travels eight months a year, much of the time with her children.

Interviewed on 8-14-14

Cheryl Haggard, co-founder of Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep

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We’re taking a different tone the next two weeks as we talk to the two co-founders of Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep, an organization that provides the gift of remembrance photography for parents suffering the loss of a baby. The first guest this week is Cheryl Haggard, who wrote this beautiful piece after her son, Maddux, died. During our chat, we talk about how the loss of her child spurred her to help start this organization, how those photos have brought hope to her future and honor to her child, and the perception problem the organization faces in regards to postmortem photography.

Plus, we talk about how a photographer approaches a session with a family who’s suffering a loss and if society is becoming more accepting of this kind of photography.


Interviewed on 8-6-14

How’d You Write That? Tommy Tomlinson

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For the second time on the MTTS podcast, we’re presenting our “How’d You Write That?” segment. The first time was with ESPN The Magazine’s Kevin Van Valkenburg on Episode 40, and it should be fairly obvious what this is all about. Before you listen to my interview with Tommy Tomlinson, make sure to read the this ESPN The Mag feature on former Kentucky star/NFL backup quarterback Jared Lorenzen, “You Can’t Quit Cold Turkey.”

In our chat, Tomlinson and I talk about how he crafted his lede and why he circled back to it a few times later in the feature, how Tomlinson established his tone for the story and why he wanted to write simply, and how he structured the entire article (this last portion really fascinated me, by the way). Plus, Tomlinson talks in detail about how he reported the piece and how he handled all the interviews around it.

Interviewed on 8-24-14

Clark Judge, Talk of Fame Sports Network/former CBSSports.com NFL writer

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Clark Judge’s new project is fascinating to me, mostly because he, along with the Boston Herald’s Ron Borges and the Dallas Morning News’ Rick Gosselin, have started a radio show that deals strictly with the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the history of the game. Which I love. In our discussion, Judge and I talk about the niche the Talk of Fame Sports Network will fill, why baseball’s history is so idyllic while football’s history is less discussed, whether the Baseball HOF is better than the Pro Football HOF, and how difficult a landscape it is out there for writers who are looking for work.

Plus, we talk about the role and impact of the local sports columnist (as first discussed in Episode 43 with the Memphis Commercial Appeal’s Geoff Calkins). And whenever I get together with Judge, we can’t help but talk about prog rock and prog metal and why that genre of music gets a bad rap. This chat was no different.


Interviewed on 8-18-14

Here’s something similar:

We talked prog rock with Judge. And I talked heavy metal with CBSSports.com’s Jason La Canfora. And ska with Pietasters lead singer Stephen Jackson.

A correction:

During the podcast, I accidently said that the Pro Football Hall of Fame is in Akron, Ohio. Since I’ve actually been there, I, of course, know it’s actually in Canton.

Jessica Luther, freelance writer/feminist activist

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The impetus for my chat with Jessica Luther was her blog post on sportsgrid.com’s response to the demise of Sports on Earth, and she has a fascinating story to tell about how she marries her activism for feminist issues to writing about sports. In our chat, we discuss sportsgrid.com’s thought process on the use of click-bait, why it makes Luther sad and angry at the same time, and why she believes those kinds of websites contribute to what Luther calls the “rape culture.”

Plus, she talks about the process of writing a book on the intersection of college football and sexual assault, and Luther describes why she remains optimistic.

A quick FYI: In this episode, we talk a little about the Vanderbilt football sexual assault case. I wasn’t that familiar with it, but if you’d like a little background, here’s one of Luther’s pieces. Also, here’s her piece on her internal conflict on rooting for Florida State with Jameis Winston as quarterback.

Interviewed on 8-11-14

Here’s something similar:

I haven’t delved too often into women-in-sports-journalism issues on the podcast, but I still love Episode 22 with Claire Smith, a journalistic trailblazer and a current ESPN.com editor. We talk about her struggle to enter MLB clubhouses in the 1970s. Check it out.