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Conversation With A Creator: Matt Brown

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Our latest conversation is with Matt Brown, the driving force behind the Extra Points newsletter and a longtime writer at SB Nation. Extra Points is a newsletter that focuses on the forces that shape college athletics beyond the field, such as media rights, trends in higher education and more, and it operates in partnership with The Intercollegiate. This interview has been lightly edited for style and brevity.

BTT: One of the things that I hear a lot of writers say is there was some point when they were growing up where they realized ‘hey, I can do this, and I think I can be pretty good at this thing.’ Did you have a moment like that?

MB: This was a running joke in my family, ever since I was a little kid, that this would eventually be the career I would end up in. I remember when I was playing Little League, so I must have been nine — so I’m a nine-year-old, 60-pound second baseman — and I’m getting yelled at by my mom in the stands and by my coaches because I’m sitting there in the infield and everybody else is doing “hey batter, batter!’ and I’m doing Howard Cosell and play-by-play, like loud.

I grew up in rural Ohio where there weren’t really a ton of opportunities to get into this, and even though sportswriting and sports journalism and the behind-the-scenes stories were a passion, coming into college I didn’t really feel like that was a career you could actually do. So, I have this really weird, unique pathway to journalism. I went into school thinking I was going to work in politics.

Say it ain’t so

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Photo courtesy of Clemson University Libraries

A century later, the details are a bit murky. But one thing we can say with relative certainty is that in the third inning of a game at Comiskey Park on September 26, 1920, Joe Jackson went all out to make a catch on the dead run, robbing a Detroit Tigers batter of extra bases. 

In I.E. Sanborn’s Chicago Tribune account, Jackson stole a hit from Ty Cobb. According to Harry Bullion in the Detroit Free Press, the play was a “phenomenal running catch that killed a certain triple” for Bobby Veach, who batted behind Cobb in the Detroit order. 

Either way, there was little doubt that the pride of Greenville, South Carolina still had it, at the plate and in the field. At age 33, he was in the midst of his best season since joining the White Sox five years earlier. He would end up among the American League’s top five in nearly every offensive category, including his .382 batting average, 218 hits, 20 triples, 12 home runs and 121 RBIs. 

Though the White Sox still had four games left to play after that 8-1 win over the Tigers, the teams’ matchup the following day would finalize all of those remarkable stats. For on Monday, September 27, 1920 — though he couldn’t have imagined it at the time — Shoeless Joe Jackson would play his final major league baseball game. 

Darlington won’t be the same without ‘Mr. Raceway’ around

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NASCAR kicks off its Playoffs Sunday evening in South Carolina, wrapping up an abbreviated race week at the famed Darlington Raceway unlike the Pee Dee has seen in the track’s 70-year history.

While up to 8,000 race fans have been approved to attend the Southern 500, there will be tens of thousands of other seats that will remain unfilled this weekend.

This Southern 500 marks the first year I haven’t seen a NASCAR race at Darlington since 1992. I doubt they’ll notice my absence. On the other hand, this marks the first real race week at Darlington without “Mr. Raceway” around. That would be Harold King, my great uncle, who died in March at the age of 96.

Uncle Harold had a career at Dixie Cup, helped launch the funeral service that put him in the ground, and served on both the Darlington City and County Councils.

David and D.J.

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Photo courtesy of UGA Sports Information

Nearly 16 years later, D.J. Shockley doesn’t mince any words about that particular game.

Despite this reporter’s best efforts to soft-pedal the questions around the 2004 Georgia-Georgia Tech game, it really is hard to dance around how he played. Shockley, to his credit, doesn’t shy away from his own brutal assessment of how he performed that chilly November afternoon.

He used words like “terrible” and “awful” and then “terrible” again.

“I was terrible in that game, man, just say it,” said the former Georgia quarterback with a laugh. “You’re trying to be so nice, but it’s OK to say I was terrible.”

Fair enough, but there were several contributing factors at work. That day, the temperature at kickoff in Sanford Stadium was 46 degrees with a supposed slight chance of rain. Well, there was nothing slight about the elements that day.

The rain came down steadily throughout the game, including a few brief periods of sheets of water cascading across the field. The temperature dipped as well, mixing with the frigid rain to make for miserable conditions more suitable for a January in Sussex than a fall Saturday in Athens.

The Rabbit in Life and Death

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Y’all ever heard the story of The Rabbit?

The Marlin Marvel? The Mighty Midget? The Texas Terror?

The man who bumfozzled the Auburnites? The youngster who could run barefooted on greased grass and not be at all handicapped? The runningest gent who ever floated across the cross marks?

Yeah, that’s The Rabbit — Irby Rice Curry by birth, 1st Lt. Irby Rice Curry in death.

Irby “Rabbit” Curry

A hundred years ago, there would have been no need for an explanation. Folks from Texas to Virginia and beyond knew all about Rabbit Curry, the peppery little gridiron star who died a hero in the skies over France.

They revered The Rabbit back then, only a few years removed from his glory days at Vanderbilt, and his name would take on the sheen of legend. That lore was built and maintained by the men best positioned to do that kind of thing in those days: the sportswriters.

Scribes like Zipp Newman of the Birmingham News, James Stahlman and later Ralph McGill and Fred Russell at the old Nashville Banner, and above all the incomparable Blinkey Horn of The Tennessean, made Rabbit Curry a household name as a player and ensured future generations knew his story for decades to come.

You have to remember that throughout the 24 years and six days of Irby Rice Curry’s short life, from August 4, 1894 through August 10, 1918, it was the writers who created characters, who shaped public personas. With no other medium to compete against, they conjured the most florid descriptions their typewriters would allow, day after day and year after year. And boy did they spill some ink over Rabbit Curry.

So why don’t we step aside and let them tell you the story …

Is Kirby Smart Georgia’s Steve Spurrier?

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Photo by Kristin M. Bradshaw

How have you been sleeping lately?

I’ve been struggling over the last few months. Even if I am lucky to fall asleep quickly, I often find myself staring at the ceiling at 4 a.m. There is plenty to think about these days.

Perhaps the Groundhog Day effect of COVID-19 has me more anxious than usual. Maybe it’s the stories in the news that beat me into a feelings coma day after day. Maybe I shouldn’t have started a business during a pandemic. 

But there is a question — it’s almost a realization at this point — that haunts me more often than it should, especially in those moments when my eyes are shut but my mind is wide open.

“What if Georgia has their Steve Spurrier?”

Remembering ‘The Run’

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Courtesy of Georgia Southern University

The best part is that he doesn’t even score.

He comes close, tumbling over and landing on his side within 10 yards of the ultimate goal. For more than 50 yards, he’s run roughshod through defenders, eluding flat-footed linebackers and stiff-arming undersized safeties.

And then, well, he just seems to fall down, finally wobbling after a desperate, last-gasp lunge by a defender. If you just glance at it quickly, it almost seems to be a calculated decision on his part, designed to let the defense know that less than one minute later, you’re gonna have to do this all over again.

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