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A Florida family affair

This is a guest essay from Matt Boedy, a professor of English at the University of North Georgia who teaches in its First Year Composition program, as well as upper-level courses in writing and publication. He is the author of Murder Creek, chronicling the story of the last man to die in Georgia’s electric chairand Speaking of Evil, an examination of the question of why God would allow for the existence of evil through a rhetorical prism.

There is a picture somewhere lost, but always in my mind. It is a Saturday morning in the fall in the South and like many of you we are dressed up in our team’s colors. It’s the 1980s, and we are standing outside a Knights Inn in Gainesville, Florida, a medieval-style rent-a-room with purple bed covers and coats of arms on the wall. 

There is my family — two parents, three kids — and my mother’s parents, all dressed in some shade orange and blue. Visors and hats and some with jackets. Some also with Gator icons rubbed on their cheeks. 

There is also in the photo the other half, my mother’s brothers and their children, dressed in garnet and gold. All dedicated to a school which these are directions to find it: drive north from Gainesville until you smell it and then left until you step in it.

We would chomp, and they would do that stupid arm motion and sing that stupid song where they spell the name of their stupid school like they are hooked on phonics. 

And win or lose, we all the next day would go to Shoney’s for breakfast. I loved that place.  

Still in Dale Earnhardt’s shadow, NASCAR leans into future

Photo courtesy of Joe VanHoose

It’ll be 20 years Thursday since Dale Earnhardt, the greatest NASCAR driver of his generation, died on the last lap of the 2001 Daytona 500. 

No, that can’t be right. 

How can it be 20 years since my greatest hero was found to be mortal? I can still remember being bummed with my mom at Daytona International Speedway the Thursday prior when Earnhardt lost the lead on the last lap of his Daytona 500 qualifying race. I can still remember racing off to my job at Baskin Robbins as FOX left the air that Sunday, my mom saying to me, “I don’t like this” as I walked out the door. 

Me neither.

I remember the phone call from my brother at work. Fortunately, the ice cream parlor was empty. 

“Dale’s dead,” my brother’s voice told me directly. That’s when I found out, but I already knew. 

NASCAR changed forever that day, and it’s been changing ever since. An entire generation of drivers have come and gone since Earnhardt helped steer it to national prominence. It’s hard to say what he would think about NASCAR’s path it has been on since he left us. 

Point-counterpoint: Bulldogs and Gators edition

Given that 2020 was pretty much a dumpster fire of a year, Joe VanHoose and Johnathan McGinty decided to kick off 2021 in a more lighthearted way. If you know them, you know that informal back-and-forth exchanges can make for some pretty entertaining literary journeys. For instance, just check out the time the duo went to see Bruce Hornsby and wrote up a review for Athens’s independent newspaper, Flagpole (additionally, Bruce Hornsby fans can be INTENSE). With that in mind, they decided to write about their collective best of times and worst of times in Jacksonville, Florida.

JOE VANHOOSE: First of all, happy new year. Can’t fall through the floor, right?

Anyway, as we flush 2020 down the toilet and hope 2021 brings us something better, now seems like the perfect time to take stock of some of the disasters of the football series that binds us together.

Because, man, I have had some bad times in Jacksonville at the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party. 

JOHNATHAN MCGINTY: I mean, to be fair, it is Jacksonville. You’re already starting your weekend off behind the curve.

Rebuilding the Ramblin’ Wreck

This week’s article is made possible thanks to a collaboration with Matt Brown’s Extra Points newsletter, which shares news and analysis about some of the forces that shape college athletics beyond the field. It’s one of our favorite reads at BTT, and we’d encourage everyone to sign up for his free subscription and consider supporting his work with a paid one as well.

This piece was written by Jake Grant, a History and Non-Revenue Sports Editor for SB Nation’s Georgia Tech team site, From the Rumble Seat. He hails from River Forest, Illinois, outside of Chicago, and is a 2020 graduate of Georgia Tech in mechanical engineering currently pursuing an MS ME back on the Flats. Feel free to follow @jakegrant98 on Twitter.

The headline “Georgia Tech cuts Swimming, Golf, Lacrosse, and Tennis” might not be all that out of place in our current circumstances. Schools, even Power Five (P5) schools, are dropping sports programs almost every month. And yet, even in these times, if another P5 school with a long history in high-level college athletics were to trim half of its teams in a single cut, it would certainly be national news. 

That headline was real — the budget constraints of the Great Depression forced Tech to shutter each one of those programs. However, thanks to an interesting collaboration, the hard work and investment of the Tech student body, administration, and alumni, all of those programs recovered, and (in all but one case) returned to full competition by the end of the decade.

In a time when people are looking left and right both inside college athletics for some direction, Tech’s Depression-era recovery seems like a good example of how to navigate these waters while minimizing athlete harm. Maybe we can use some of the lessons from Georgia Tech’s past to help us think about what may come next. 


A reflection of place: The story of WNEG, part two

Photo of Mack Poss and Jason Maderer

This is Part Two of our look back at the history of NewsChannel 32, a television station that provided in-depth coverage of local news and sports for Northeast Georgia. In Part One, we took a look at the formation of the station and the work of its news department, and you can read it here.

There really isn’t any other way to put it, but if you didn’t live through it, you don’t really get it.

You see, there once was a time where you couldn’t just flip on the TV and watch whatever game you wanted to watch.

This was especially true for the NFL.

Before the days of Sunday Ticket or RedZone — where the NFL finally realized it could make even more money by simply making you pay to watch its weekly games — folks were stuck with whatever it was the local networks gave them. If the Atlanta Falcons were blacked out, hello Dallas vs. Cleveland. If you really wanted to check in on that Miami-Washington contest, just hold your breath and hope they break into coverage to show you a quick snippet.

Yes, this is hard to comprehend in today’s media landscape where nearly every professional league has some sort of on-demand package to watch games, meaning a Seattle Seahawks fan in Memphis, Tennessee can tune in every Sunday to watch Russell Wilson scramble to and fro.

In the 1990s, we all were at the mercy of the prevailing media rules of the market. And that helped make WNEG a prized asset for cable providers beyond the Atlanta market. 

“Bream to the plate!”

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Photo courtesy of the Atlanta Braves

For the past few weeks, we’ve shared a Thursday essay or story with our full email list that we intend to provide exclusively to our Patreon subscribers. Last week was the time we’ll be sharing that content with our full list, transitioning it solely to our BTT Backers starting this Thursday. In that spirit, we did want to share this brief article that was featured last week for everyone to see what we typically include in this special newsletter for our supporters. 

Supporting BTT through Patreon is important because, yes, it shows us you appreciate the stories we’re trying to tell, but also because that money goes toward our writer’s fund so we can properly and justly compensate our guest contributors for their time, effort and work. As such, if you aren’t already, we’re asking you to consider pledging just $5 a month at our Patreon site so we can build up a healthy, recurring base of funds to support our contributors, and you can keep getting unique, interesting stories through our Thursday newsletter.

Seeing the Braves in first place heading into the final 10 days of the regular season — yes, we’re there already — inevitably gets me thinking about Octobers past. 

And when it comes to the Braves, one October memory inevitably stands out above the rest: Sid Bream rounding third, torso bending forward in an I-think-I-can chug, willing himself down the baseline before sliding across the plate as Mike LaValliere lunges for the tag.

Skip Caray: “He is … SAFE! Braves win! Braves win! Braves win! Braves win! … Braves — WIN!

If you look closely at video or still photos of that spellbinding sequence that ended Game 7 of the 1992 National League Championship Series, you can see that the right leg of Bream’s uniform pants is bulkier than the left, an unnatural framework visible around the knee.

Conversation with a Creator: Richard Johnson

Each Thursday, we share an essay or story just for our Patreon subscribers that covers everything from sports to history to culture. As we get BTT launched, we’re making this content available to everyone for the first few weeks. We’d love to have your support, and if you become a BTT Backer for just $5 a month, you’ll get this type of content each and every week.

Our first conversation is with Richard Johnson, a Brooklyn-based sportswriter who has worked for ESPN and SB Nation. Recently, he just helped launched Moon Crew, a new college football newsletter, and published The Sinful Seven: Sci-Fi Western Legends Of The NCAA, a collection of essays and stories, with several of his former SB Nation colleagues.

BTT: When did journalism, writing in particular, become something you decided to pursue?

RJ: The writing thing, for me, didn’t happen until college. I went to the University of Florida and started out thinking I was going to be on TV. My degree is in broadcast journalism. About halfway through college, I thought to myself ‘I don’t love TV, it’s not my favorite medium.’ I’m talking about the normal, two-minute newscast thing — I think it lacks some context to the stories I want to tell.

I started doing some writing, and I really fell in love with it, probably around my junior year of college. I covered a team in a beat capacity, I really, really enjoyed it. In my senior year, I started working for the school paper, and I deeply loved the medium.

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