Thursday, September 18, 2008

Setting the record straight

Because I have spent most of my adult life as a journalist, I am well familiar with the importance of getting things right. In more than 25 years as a reporter, columnist and editor, I’ve either wrote or ordered thousands of the “corrections’’ you generally find tucked away in daily newspapers.
For the time being, I’m out of the daily newspaper game (Injury Report: Strained Reputation, Out Indefinitely), but I find that corrections continue to hunt me down.
This was the case with my previous blog entry, entitled “How Slim Saved the Wave!’’
An alert reader -Mr. Clay Stewart of Tupelo, Miss. - pointed out that when I wrote that Clay Stewart had fallen ill and missed the game in question I was dead wrong. Although ill, Clay Stewart had played and played valiantly, collecting six tackles and returning an interception for a touchdown (not that he was keep track, of course).
I expect to hear from Mr. Stewart’s attorney any time now. I suspect we will have a long and candid discussion about the grievous harm I have done to Mr. Stewart’s reputation in the community, as well as the severe mental anguish my cruel and reckless misstatements have caused.
So I would like to point out that I have long considered Clay Stewart to be the best football player Tupelo has ever seen, not to mention he is a strikingly handsome man and a man to be trusted above all others. If I should father two more boys (the surgeon who performed the procedure back in 1992 assured me that’s not likely) I would, in fact, name them “Clay’’ and “Stewart.’’
Another alert reader, Mr. Jerry Britton of Pigeon Forge, Tenn., wrote to say that I had the score of the game wrong. I had recorded the score as Tupelo 24, Pine Bluff 16. Mr. Britton contends that the score was actually Tupelo 16, Pine Bluff 0 and I confess that I am much too lazy to look it up. I cannot see any reason why Mr. Britton would lie about such a thing, however.
In my defense, I will remind readers that in the blog post in question, I freely admited that I spent a lot of time watching the cheerleaders instead of the game. So under those conditions, I do not see why some people would bother to nitpick.
I mean, aside from getting many of the basic facts of the story all wrong, I thought it was fine prose, indeed.
Yet another alert reader, Mr. Randall Strange of Hattiesburg, Miss.. wrote on the subject of this post. Of course, Mr. Strange - never one to stay “on message’’ - soon wandered off to some other somewhat related memory of my football career at Tupelo High.
Mr. Strange wrote: “Out of all those years of football - games, practices, meeting, etc.. - the ONE THING that I remember vividly was our senior year - the last game and you were to be named captain for that night’s game. You were escorted into the pep rally by Perkins, Baker, Scrib, and, I think, Johnny Harris all wearing black pants, white shirts and black ties looking like the secret service protecting the President of the United States. That’s one of the memories I have smiled about over the last 30 years.’’
I know that you will find Mr. Strange’s comment alarming: Who would have thought that Mr. Strange could remember even one thing “vividly?’’ Obviously, I have underestimated the man.
But on this point - assuming there is no objection from Mr. Stewart or Mr. Britton - the recollections of Mr. Strange are quite accurate. The Pep Rally scene did play out just as he related.
However, Mr. Strange did neglect to relate another important part of the story, namely the inspiring speech that I made at the Pep Rally - a speech that, without question, rallied our team to victory in that game.
I remember warning the euphoric crowd at the Pep Rally that while it was true that I had undertaken the solemn responsibility of being Team Captain for the game and saying “heads or tails’’ when the coin was tossed before kickoff , that I was only one man and could not be expected to carry the team single-handedly.
I suspect that thought had probably already occurred to Coach Waite and the coaching staff.
But we did win. (If you want to know the score, ask Mr. Britton).
I further suspect that Mr. Stewart played a prominent role in that victory.

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