“… the good is oft interred with their bones”
I told a friend last Friday that I was “going back home” to a local Hall of Fame awards dinner. He replied Have a good time. You always make those sound like fun…
I did “have a good time”. To “make it sound like fun” will be easy.
My first “things like this” happened 35+ years ago… in a far away place called Kansas City. My 5-6 years in KCMO were far more pleasant that Roy’s Boyz’ most recent visit. OUCH!
I was Sports Director for a fancy hotel called The Crown Center. We hosted all the visiting pro sports teams as well as the annual fancy shindigs put on by The Royals and The Chiefs. … There was this one time when Howard Cosell and Reggie Jackson and three hookers… but let’s not go there today. This is about fancy sports award dinners.
Those affairs were grand indeed considering the A/V technology available “back then”. 1,000+ KC’s gliterrati turned out dressed to the 9’s with their trophy wives in tow. National celebrities filled the dais in The Grand Ballroom and I recall musing “Gee, can it possibly get any better than this…?”
Fast forward to a recreation center gymnasium… on the former site of a slaughterhouse… across the highway from a state mental hospital… with an A/V system that worked like every A/V system in every gymnasium always does… a lot of “I can’t understand a word… can you?”.
Several hundred+ “local glitterati” were on-hand… with trophy wives in tow and… Yes… for this Internet Legend – in many ways – it WAS “better than” those halcyon days in Kansas City.
I almost did not go this time. Thursday I get a call from “Leo” – “You’re coming to the Hall of Fame dinner… aren’t you?” … I was busted. Wherever he is on The Planet, Leo uses any excuse to come “back home”… he recently moved from Napa Valley to outside Atlanta and he was, of course, coming back.
I’m 90 minutes away and I was wavering … “Oh sure… I’ll be there”… Leo and I chatted a few minutes about the onrushing National Apocalypse as well as Duke and UNC’s chances for the weekend… then signed off.
“Who was that? asked Blondie. “Leo” … “You’re going aren’t you?” … “Yes” … “Good, you’ll have a good time. You always do. Stay at the goofy retro motel…”
The “goofy retro motel” was about a “3” on a 1-10… but otherwise A Very Fine Time was had by all at:
The 2019 Kinston /Lenoir County Sports Hall of Fame Awards Dinner.
Now – FINALLY – to the point of this rambling tale…
From those glitzy “big city” affairs in KC… to the ever-improving North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame fetes … to the notorious George Whitfield Sports Hall of Fame “things” in Goldsboro … to … this gymnasium / “grand ballroom” on the site of the old slaughterhouse… with the sketchy sound system…
IMO… events such as these MATTER. Sure, at less sophisticated levels they get a bit “HOKEY” but – by golly –
HOKEY IS A GOOD THING.
Maybe Hokey events like this can slow down America’s Self Destruction by a few days.
Even if that is overly-optimistic… at least some of us will face our mutually assured obliteration with pleasant memories of recently shared experiences with friends of long standing. … So it was this past Saturday night in My Home Town.
NOTE: Would Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez have enjoyed The KLCSHoF shindig? Probably not. Alexandria Who?
A small town (20,000 or so give/take) honoring its “sports heroes” is hardly a Big Deal even to neighboring small towns. The seismic impact of last Sat night was not felt in Greenville, Goldsboro, New Bern, et al. Hell, maybe the folks 10 miles away in LaGrange “The Garden Spot” were unaware. None of Kinston’s gathered “glitterati” seemed to care.
It was Kinston… like Tex Ritter describing Hillbilly Heaven…. There was Reid… and Dorsey… and Stinky… and Claude… and The Twins – Ray/Jay… and Larry… and BettyLou… and Willie & Barbara… and Teena… and Tall Paul… and Titus & Phyllis… and The Gwaltneys… and and and… and 3-4 folks who I have no clue who they were that gave me hearty hugs and handshakes and said how great it was to see me again… ??
The KLCSHoF is a dozen or so years old. All the obvious inductees have already been inducted. The legendary coaches… the athletes who starred at “the next level” or even “that mythical level beyond the next…”.
By the time a Hall of Fame sports or otherwise gets to its 3rd – 4th – 5th induction ceremony, the pickins’ start getting kinda arguable… to some observers.
Of this year’s dozen inductees, I was familiar with ten of’em. Six of’em I count as personal friends.
I have a local reputation as “… ask BobLee he remembers all that stuff.” I’m also renown as “the guy who wrote that column about Cotton.” – a classmate who died suddenly 6-7 years ago. One can be locally renown for far less noble reasons… for sure.
Wilbur “Buck” Fichter was this year’s WHO? … but when his bio was read no one questioned Buck’s creds.
“Buck” Fichter was a local high school pitcher in the early 50s who was on Wake Forest’s NatChamp team … “Buck” went on to become a renown Brilliant Engineer with freakin’ NASA. HOLY COW!
The Wilbur “Buck” Fichters of this world is one of many reasons I am such a strong advocate for “hokey local events held in recreation centers with sketchy sound systems”.
I have traveled this country far and wide enough to appreciate that “My Home Town” is Special… BECAUSE It is “My Home Town”.
If you are from a “small town” I hope yours has such activities as this. I hope Yours is Special… Because It’s Yours.
If you are from Hickory… or Shelby… or Albemarle… or Cape Girardeau MO or Tucumcari or Valdosta or … chances are there have been Wilbur “Buck” Fichters that grew up there.
My Home Town – thanks to the bulldog persistence of – yes – The George Whitfield – him again – has such a process in place. Will Kinston’s process outlive George… be picked up and carried forth by others?
“They say” the world will end in 12 years. Maybe George can hang on that much longer.
George Whitfield runs a Hall of Fame Ceremony like Captain Bligh ran the HMS Bounty. Inductees “walk the plank” if they get wordy and violate George’s 4-Minute Rule.
Are there other “Buck” Fichters to be found… deserving to be re-remembered if only for one night … in a recreation center gymnasium with a sketchy sound system… on the site of an old slaughterhouse… across from a state mental hospital… in someone’s home town.
For, as Will Shakespeare lamented thru Julius Caesar…
“The Evil that men do lives after them …The Good is oft-interred with their bones.”
PS: Thank you George… Thank you Leo… and Thank you to all of my old (YIKES!) and dear friends of long standing… in My Home Town.
NOTE: This column was posted three minutes before BREAKING NEWS about UNC Women’s Basketball. My crack team of “Inside Sources” are “on it” …… COULD Be an April Fools Joke … but we don’t think so.