I’ve written more columns in my life than I have freckles dotting my ever-aging face. Some are about sports, many are about family and life, while a few are about whatever happened to cross my mind when I sat down in front of the keyboard.

Here are excerpts from a half-dozen of those columns that first appeared in print more than 30 years ago. 

RUN AUSTIN, RUN

Anybody who knows me knows I don’t run. I don’t run down to the corner store, I don’t run to the mailbox, I don’t run next door and borrow a cup of sugar. I do not run.

Today, I am going to run.

Austin Bishop

Austin Bishop

Not very far. In fact, the furtherest I could possibly run is one simple little measly mile. The shortest? I figure I could get six feet and four inches if I just fell down, which is entirely possible.

But, for some reason, I feel compelled to make my way to Louisville and take part in the Red Hills Arts Festival. 

I was raised there, and could possibly die there. It’s just according to how this running business goes. 

LEARNING TO FLY

“If God had meant for me to fly he would have given me wings.”

Isn’t that about the silliest thing you have ever heard? Who in the world would say something like that and mean it?

I know it’s false.

Just because I don’t have wings it does mean God doesn’t want me to fly. If God had wanted me to fly he would have made me shorter.

Seriously, ask anybody who is 6-foot-4 or taller what it feels like to fly coach.

Or maybe you could just find out for yourself. It’s a simple exercise. 

First get a straight back chair and put it in the middle of the floor then get another chair and put it about two feet in front of you. Then put a couple of dictionaries under the front legs of the chair in front of you so it will recreate what it’s like when the guy in front you puts his chair seat back.

Then, sit in your chair. Slowly, lift your knees until they are dead-even with your ears.

Then pretend you are trying to read a laminated instruction sheet on what to do fi the plane lands in the ocean, or perhaps just barely glances off a mountain.

OBVIOUS HOMER

I’ve been cussed out before.

It’s a little uncomfortable, but when you’re in the public eye, you learn to live with it.

Criticism is nothing new. I’ve been hollered at, pointed at and without a doubt talked about. My ears aren’t burning, they’ve been incinerated.

When you deal with people and their feelings and passions for a living, you can’t please folks all the time; in fact, you rarely do. And when you can’t please folks all the time, they tend to complain.

I once wrote about an Ole Miss-Mississippi State football game once that earned me a dozen phone calls form irate fans. All of 12 of them said I obviously had a favorite team in the game and you could tell it by my writing.

There is a catch, however. Six Ole Miss fans said I favored State, while six State fans said I favored Ole Miss.

That must have been one amazing story. 

LUGE ANYONE?

The two sports that intrigue me the most when the Winter Olympics roll around are the bobsled and luge events. I don’t totally understand what would drive a person to risk life and limb on the side of a snowy mountain on national television.

I mean, how do you become a Luger? Do you just decide one day to lie down flat on your back on a board and slide 70 miles an hour through an iced-over culvert?

Folks who think football or boxing are dangerous sports should take a close look at this luge business. Nothing personal, but those folks are crazier than an ice sculptor in Miami.

And bobsledders aren’t but a couple rungs higher on the ladder of common sense.Those folks push that souped-up sled as fast they can and then hang on for dear life. And if they turn over? Well, that’s just tough sledding bud.

Not only have you practiced for four years just so you can get that one shot of glory only to find yourself sliding on your head in front of an international television audience, but more than likely will make the highlight reel of every sportscast around the world. 

CRAZY HORSE

I suppose every child begs for a horse at one time or another. The difference between me and most of the other children was that I got one. 

The experiences I had with that Shetland pony make me want to make it against the law for small children to beg for horses. Actually I wasn’t that small — about 12 or so — and Smokey really wasn’t a horse. He was more like a goat wearing a pony suit that wanted to eat people.

That horse was a con man, or a con pony if you wish. When my parents would see us together he would curl his lips and display the sweetest little smile and let out a cute little whinny and then would stomp his foot playfully against the ground.

“Isn’t Smokey cute,” folks would say. Yeah, he was cute all right. So was the little girl in The Exorcist before demons got ahold of her. I would have rather rode the underside of a bush hog than get within two feet of that crazy horse. 

CHURCH LIFE

When I was 6-years-old I lived in the back of a church on Pontotoc Street in Louisville. My father was the pastor and our living quarters also served as Sunday school rooms.

Believe me, it’s a bummer when even if you’re sick and stay in bed you still have to go to Sunday school. Actually I didn’t go to Sunday school. It came to me. My bedroom was the classroom.

We had no television. There was a time when we didn’t have a car. In fact, we didn’t even have a bathtub. At least not one with running water. It was a washtub that you had fill up and then dump out.

The church yard was my playground. The church itself was a part of me. I t was where God and I lived together. 

Despite the fact that we didn’t have much money, and very few conveniences, I remember those as some of my happiest times as a child.

Austin Bishop, AKA The Old Sports Dude, has been covering high school, college, amateur and professional sports since 1975. He will be retiring from the journalism business at the conclusion of 2021. He is currently pastor of Great Commission Assembly of God in Philadelphia. He may be contacted by email at starsportsboss@yahoo.com.

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