I recently wrote about my first Sports Editor, a man who was so strange he counted dribbles at basketball games and kept dribble stats on the front page every day.
He couldn’t drive either. When he went in service they put him in a huge truck to teach him to drive, and he ran through a barracks.
He got to and from sporting events by offering somebody, anybody, a chance to see the game free by giving him a lift.
He had it down to something of an art, but since he kept hanging around gyms and football fields after games, doing approximately nothing, he had to keep getting new folks to go for his “see-the-game-free-gimme-a-ride’ con”.
When all else failed and he just couldn’t get a ride, he would call a taxi.
Oh yeah, something else he didn’t do was bathe regular, but we won’t talk about how folks rolled their windows down after getting him back home trying to get the aroma out, even in the dead of winter.
I had worked my way into a part time job in sports, and it was my day to sit in the office and answer the phone all day.
I hated that part. Nobody called.
Everyone else had something to do – an interview, a story to write, something. I had nothing, and reading a book on the job was just frowned upon.
It was my Saturday to sit in the office, so that morning when the home phone rang and it was the boss, I was hoping hard my luck had changed.
It was clear right off he couldn’t find a ride to that day’s Spring Game up in Clemson, so he asked if I would like to go.
Back then, the spring game was more like a pickup game. Plenty of time between plays, coaches yelling instructions, giving pointers, and water breaks. I was sitting in the grandstand, just about alone, getting some sun. The boss was in the press box, which he assured was packed with writers and there was no room for me. He came out at halftime, eating an apple and telling me how sorry he was I couldn’t go in and eat.
My reply was something about being happy just laying around in the sun and getting paid.
That’s when he told me he had called in someone else to work my shift, and that I was not getting paid. He went back in the press box, and after thinking about it for maybe 15 seconds, I went to the car, cranked up, and set sail for home.
When I got home, I told my dad what I had done and said I had lost my job.
He suggested, instead, I go on down to the newspaper, and tell Mr. Hall what all had happened. He said I might could get another job in the company.
So I did. I told the owner’s secretary what I had done. She told me not to move and disappeared in his office. A few seconds later she jerked open the door, and with a huge smile she told me to confess to what I had done. The more I talked, the more they laughed.
He said that not only was I not fired, that I had the most secure job at the newspaper at that moment.
“I own this place,” he said. “That makes me your boss and you don’t take orders from anyone else.”
I had to stay at the newspaper until the Sports Editor caught a ride back to Anderson and walked in the office.
He fired me instantly.
I told him to go see the boss. He came back and unfired me instantly.
I worked there all summer. Then on Tuesday before the first high school games, I went in and told him a few things. I told him I knew he wanted to fire me, but couldn’t, that he had given me the worst shifts and most of the weekends, trying to get me to quit. So I did. I quit, right then.
He got all red in the face and said now is when he needed me the most. I said he should have thought about that up at the Clemson spring game, and walked out the door.
When I went to work for the sports department at the Greenville Piedmont, they called him for a reference and said he gave me a glowing recommendation.
I still don’t believe it.