/Cleveland Back to the future, covering sports every day

Cleveland Back to the future, covering sports every day

Next month marks fifty years since I was a football reporter for the Hattiesburg American. Brooklyn, now Forrest County AHS played Lucedale now George County. Some days, I forget my phone number. But I do remember this score: Lucedale 12, Brooklyn 0. The circumstances are vividly recalled by me. At 13, I had no driver’s license, no car. My daddy drove me to Lucedale, and he walked with me on the sidelines, helping me keep my stats. Afterward, he listened as I timidly interviewed coaches. He drove me back from Hattiesburg, and we spoke about the game. He drove me back to Hattiesburg with his Underwood manual typewriter, while I was rolling a sheet of bleached-white typing paper into the cylindrical. Daddy returned to the kitchen 30 to 45 minutes later and that sheet of paper was still white. He said, “LUCEDALE –.”” I said, “What the hell are you doing?” He was confused and he laughed. I knew exactly what had happened in the game. I knew the statistics. I knew the statistics. I didn’t know where to begin. My dad, who was a great sports writer, said, “Well, if you were me, I would write it exactly the way I would tell it, then go back and fix it up.” And that’s what I did. That’s what I’ve been doing for the past 50 years. I write it as I would tell it. I get the most important information up first and then I transition to the end. *** At age 17, I started working full-time for the American. I also worked my way through college. My nearly 64-year career has been spent in Mississippi, with the exception of a year in Monroe, Louisiana. 47 years of my life, I was a full time sports writer, editor, and columnist. It was a great job. It was the best job I ever had. After the passing of Michael Rubenstein in April 2012, I was appointed to the position of executive director of Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum. It has been a wonderful experience. The best part? I’ve helped to preserve Mississippi’s sporting legends for future generations. This has been my job for four years and four month. It’s almost unbelievable to believe that Walter Payton, the legendary sportscaster, has been gone for 17 years. This means that high school seniors were still babies when Walter died. They have never seen him run like anyone else. They don’t know his childhood. They don’t understand the incredible work ethic that turned a Columbian boy from poverty into one of the greatest football players. High school seniors and future generations will be able to visit the museum by busloads and learn everything they need. They can learn, marvel, and be inspired. We are proud of the achievements. “We” refers to a highly involved board of directors as well as one of the most hardworking staff members. Boo’s daughter is Margaret Ferriss White, now a retired lawyer. Lulu Maness, Chunkin’ Charlie’s goddaughter, is Chunkin’ Charlie’s goddaughter. Andrea Patterson was raised in Mississippi sports. Cully Turner was a referee and played before becoming our building manager. They believe in the mission, love the place, and it shows. We have accomplished much. You should visit the museum if you haven’t been in a while to see all the improvements and additions. Similar museums across the country have reduced their hours or closed. The present one is even better. Bill Blackwell, who is my successor as executive director was on the original board. The museum is in good hands. *** Yesterday, the MSHOF announced that I was leaving to start work at Mississippi Today. I will continue to write almost daily, telling stories as I would tell them. My career as a full-time journalist in sports writing is how I want it to end. I am a full-time sports writer. Mississippi Today’s nonpartisan, non-profit mission is something I strongly believe in. Please visit Mississippitoday.org to learn more and bookmark it. It is run by good people, people who are passionate about making Mississippi a better state. Although sports journalism wasn’t part of Mississippi Today’s original mission, the people there recognize that sports are an integral part of Mississippi culture. Look at the Olympics and the contributions Mississippians make. These stories are fascinating and I look forward to sharing them with you. Let me be clear, the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum won’t have a more passionate advocate than this writer. Although my paycheck won’t come from the Hall of Fame any more, my heart will remain there. Rick Cleveland is a Mississippitoday.org columnist who writes a weekly sports column. You can support this work by making a regular donation to us today as we celebrate our Spring Member Drive.