Football season brings back memories of a bygone era

Published 9:56 am Thursday, July 13, 2017

The downsizing of newspapers over the past decade, including our beloved Vicksburg Post, has meant a lot of changes in the industry. One that I’ve been saddest to see go has been the summer road trips to the various area outposts as we begin preparing our annual football preview issue.

At our peak, we covered 17 schools outside of Warren County’s borders. Many have shut their doors or consolidated in the past 20 years, and others we’ve stopped covering as our circulation area shrank a bit.

We’d typically only see the folks at what we called “the area schools” a couple of times a year, and coordinating a time and place to get preseason interviews and photos always provided some interesting challenges — some logistical, some absurd, some downright hilarious.

It started with a round of phone calls that occasionally made it feel like we were tracking down someone in the witness protection program. A call to the school office would get you transferred to the coach’s office, which invariably ended with a voicemail that had a .0002 percent chance of being returned because coaches keep office hours of 10:08 a.m. to 10:11 a.m. on alternating Thursdays during the summer.

After setting up the appointment, it was followed by a prayer that the coach actually remembered talking to you. More than once I’ve shown up to find the team already on the field practicing or the building empty as the befuddled head coach utters those four dreadful words: “Oh, was that today?”

Other times things ran about as smoothly as a Swiss car.

Our former sports editor Sean Murphy often told a story about taking a team picture at South Delta High School on a 95-degree day in Rolling Fork. It took him the better part of an hour to get everyone lined up in the bleachers, and once he did he realized the sun was at their back — meaning the entire team would appear in the picture as one big blob because the sun blinded the camera’s optics. Given what it took to line them all up the first time, he snapped the photo anyway.

I’ve been hit with the stench of a locker room that had been closed up all summer, and in the head with a wayward football somewhere else that I can’t recall. I’ve had coaches cuss me and then their players with equal vigor, heard too many clichés and promises of state championships to count from teams that went on to finish 2-9.

Sadly, it’s a different era now. I miss the old one. For all of the occasional hassle, the stories — both the ones that wind up in print and the ones that don’t — are what make this business fun.

Ernest Bowker is a sports writer for The Vicksburg Post. He can be reached at ernest.bowker@vicksburgpost.com

About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured sports reporters in the paper's 137-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

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