Monday, February 27, 2006

TAS: Prologue

A bit of background before I provide the column that you are probably here to read.

For a little more than a year I was the sports editor for one of the two college newspapers at Georgia Southern University in Statesboro, Georgia. I was a junior and I didn't really consider myself a sports fanatic. (I figured that this was necessary to be a successful sports reporter.) I got the job because one of my friends was a journalism student and had been recently named as overall editor of the paper, known as The Eagle.

The Eagle was the "independent" college paper at GSU. That means it wasn't the official newspaper of the school, which was written by journalism students, part of their curriculum, and produced on campus. Working for The Eagle was a job--but not a very high-paying job, to be sure. We didn't get any credits for it and the work was produced and printed out of the office of the local town newspaper--the Statesboro Herald.

I had no training in journalism, newspaper writing, sports reporting, anything. The most I had ever written before was assigned papers for classes and occasional scribblings in various personal journals. You can see in the following articles (if you haven't already learned from reading my blogs over the years) that I can put words on paper, but was not/am not much of a "writer." But, for the sake of truthfulness and posterity, I'll reproduce the articles as they were printed--warts and all.

I didn't think of myself as a big sports fan. I grew to become more interested during college--somewhat as a result of this newspaper experience and in part due to the growth of playoff success that the Atlanta Braves had beginning in 1991 (my sophomore year in college). I grew up a Braves fan, meaning that I followed their successes and their far more numerous failures during my childhood. If I watched any televised sports, it was the Kentucky Wildcat basketball team (my dad was an alumnus). But reading fantasy and science fiction and keeping up with the A Team, Knight Rider, Buck Rogers, and Star Trek: The Next Generation meant a lot more to me growing up. I attended high school football games, but I was in the band--it was a requirement. Often we get on the bus to head to a road game and I wouldn't even know where we were headed.

So . . . I was familiar with sports but not versed in the intricacies of it. Certainly I didn't grow up reading the sports pages in newspapers or subscribing to Sports Illustrated.

I point all of this out so that you can understand that when I entitled my weekly college sports column "The Authority Speaks" it was with tongue firmly planted in cheek. I felt like an imposter doing this job and while I did it to the best of my limited knowledge and overcoming an extreme lack of training in newspaper page layout . . . well, maybe I'm just setting you up to forgive my soon-to-be evident mistakes.

(I really did mean the column title to be ironic. Unfortunately, I couldn't really provide all this information to all my anonymous readers. In the end, I guess it was only ironic to me. Another in a long line of inside jokes to make myself smile.)

So anyway, here is the first column.

September 30, 1992

The win was big, real big

If any of you remember any of your history classes here at GSU, you might recall a few points of historical importance.

Two important points--let's call them pivotal points--that leapt into my mind occurred during wars. The first is the Battle of Hastings in 1066. William the Conqueror triumphed over the Anglo-Saxons and became he first true king of England.

The second is the battle of Gettysburg in 1863. The huge losses suffered by the Confederate army pushed Lee back into the South and signaled the beginning of the end for the Confederacy.

When you stop and think about it, a football season is a lot like a war. A team faces opponents every week, sometimes in hostile territory. Each game is a battle and the outcome of each battle has a profound effect upon the morale of those who participated.

The game played last Saturday against Furman is just such a pivotal point in the seasonal war we call football.
Now I admit that it does not rank with Gettysburg, but in terms of playoff hopes, it was a big one.

Georgia Southern approached the Furman game with a record of 1 - 1. Now, let us skip over the Furman game and take a look at the remaining games of the regular season.

Next weekend we play Savannah Sate at home. Just because they are a Division II team does not mean they should be taken lightly.

Remember how one Confederate soldier was supposed to equal five Union men? Still, we're in our house. I think the Eagles can obtain a victory there, especially with momentum on their side.

However, after the Tigers leave town the Eagles go "between the hedges" and do battle with them Silver Britches. I am anything but a Bulldog fan, but I have got to give that game to Georgia. We would have had a chance back in 1990 but now . . . I think not.

We are favored to win the next two games against James Madison and Jacksonville State, so give the Eagles two more wins.

The problem which arises as one looks at the final four games of the season proves why last week's win was so pivotal. Up to this point I have given the Eagles a record of 5 - 2. The chance of a playoff berth is good.

However, even if the Mississippi College and Troy State games are giveaways, the games against Middle Tennessee and Youngstown State are not. Middle Tennessee is no pushover, and Youngstown is the defending I-AA champion.

If we lose both games, Georgia Southern would finish the regular season with a record of 7 - 4. My sources tell me that a team with a record of 7 - 4 made it to the playoffs once -- only once.

A loss to Furman would have made a win in both of those games incredibly critical and out playoffs hopes all but gone. Now, however, we have momentum on our side and our blood is up.

The playoffs are once again within our grasp and historians everywhere are gathering to record The Win Heard Round the 'Boro.

You know, I think I'll start calling Alex Mash "Stonewall."



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