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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. 


Leaving our Mark

This is a guest essay from “Sarah G.” We are keeping her identity, as well as the identity of the family involved confidential per her request. It’s a powerful, personal read, and we’re grateful for her allowing us to share it.

I first met Mark in 2016. The first thing I noticed about him was that he was strikingly tall, quiet, and gentlemanly. According to Mark, I was a little bit too extroverted for him but weirdly happy to discuss gap schemes in an air raid offense on date night, so he was in. Almost immediately, our relationship was sweet, easy, and natural. And soon, it was hard to hide that we fell in love quickly. Except for perhaps the number of dirty socks I’d find on the bathroom floor, I truly could not have been happier.

As I said, Mark was always a bit socially anxious, but I was the one who could small talk to a wall when we were out, so it worked fine. I naturally became his gatekeeper in a crowd of people. However, Mark did tell me that he had sometimes struggled with more generalized anxiety over the recent years but thought it was probably just his nature. He grew up in a fractured family and was the youngest kid who was shuffled around the most. So, it was probably him just not feeling comfortable around people he guessed.

Because it was undisputed that Mark felt most comfortable, not talking, but on a football field. He was the epitome of a gentle giant. He was 6-foot-5, over 260 pounds, and could block as well as anyone. He loved football. He played all his life. As a kid, whose home life was a tad chaotic, football was steady. And Mark immediately excelled at it. When I asked him why he loved the sport so much, I expected something about playing or the game. But no, for Mark, it was that he loved being a part of a team. He always just wanted to be apart of a team.

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.

A different shade of blue: The Trail Creek spill

Photo courtesy of Johnathan McGinty

There are a lot of blues in this world, even in the literal sense.

There’s the soft blue of a clear morning sky or the rich blues of the deep ocean. The navy blues that make up the marks of so many sports teams, as well as the paler blues prevalent in spring flowers.

On July 29, 2010, a different shade of blue flowed through Trail Creek in Athens. 

It was bright. It was harsh.

This blue contrasted against the greenery of summer, lush leaves filling out the plentiful trees that lined the waters. Gone was the murky, muddy mixture that punctuates creeks and rivers throughout the South. In its place was a near-neon blue snaking its way through a network of tributaries and leaving streaks of artificial color in its wake.

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.

What’s to come

The most important thing, I suppose, was that Joe didn’t think it was crazy.

Though, to be fair, we didn’t really have a whole lot going on.

In the summer of 2020, we hadn’t yet formed Trestle Collective, and though we both had work, it was rather inconsistent in its nature. As such, we had some down time, and that down time led to me thinking up things I’d like to write. I’d sketch out an outline, think of places to pitch the idea and then just start cold-calling editors to see if they’d like whatever particular piece was swirling around in my head.

The thing is … there aren’t many publications, traditional or online, that are really seeking a 2,500-word oral history of a high school basketball game in Augusta, Ga. in 1995. It didn’t matter how strongly I conveyed the unique storylines in this piece or how it featured four future professional basketball players or how elements of this game were seemingly lost because it occurred in a time before social media. 

But I wanted to tell that story. And if I couldn’t find a place to publish it, I figured I’d just create one. 

So I pitched Joe the idea of creating Beyond The Trestle.

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