Oh my goodness. I don’t know about you, but things have been CRAAAZY around here lately. For one, my husband right now is the most important person in the state of Mississippi. Well, one of the most important. Well, OK, an important person. (And, of course, to me he always is the most important person everywhere. This commercial message brought to you by the institution of marriage and soulmate-age.) Why is this, you ask? What has he done to bring such fame and fortune? Of course, those who know John L. Pitts are not surprised to discover the extent of his influence, but lately he holds in his hands, literally, the story that is shaking up everything anyone knows about football: namely, that the two teams his newspaper, the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, in Tupelo, covers — Mississippi State and Ole Miss — are in the top 10 in the AP poll. And, as of right now this very minute, they are no. 1 and no. 3 respectively. Pretty amazing. And now there’s Heisman talk? All I know is that for the past few weeks, my sports editor husband has been working pretty much 24/7 to cover this national story for his local readers — not easy. But, as always, he’s excelling. Of course, this could explain his recent encounter with a deer, on a heavily traveled road less than a mile from our downtown. I really don’t like to think too hard about this. And what’s even stranger is that my Republican-voting, NRA-supporting, Obama-criticizing husband went and bought a new car that’s synonymous with all he makes fun of: a Prius. It’s the mileage, you know. And the anti-deer capabilities.
Well, those are not even the most exciting things to happen to our family lately. Our third precious grandbaby-boy got born last weekend. Older Daughter and son-in-law did an amazing job of completely un-medicated childbirth in a hospital suite dedicated to a natural and drug-free experience. She is a warrior mom, through and through. I did un-medicated by accident with Younger Daughter (Me: “I really think that we need to go to the hospital now.” Husband-at-the-time: “No. You can’t be that close to pushing yet.” Folks at the hospital as soon as we got there: “Get this woman to delivery stat!!!”), and there’s something to be said for it — now that I’m 28 years away and have pretty much forgotten the details. And speaking of totally awesome Younger Daughter, she now shares her birthday with her third nephew, which is the second shared birthday in our family. I think we’re on a roll.
This is the one spot in the world — that I know of, at least — where three of my worlds collide. And, strangely enough, I’m pretty much the only person who takes notice of such a significant location. Everybody else just hurries past because they have Things To Do. But not me. Well, I usually do have Things To Do, but whenever I’m here at this spot, I always stop and consider that I have at one time worked and/or am currently working for all of these newspapers. I just think that’s … well, I’m not sure what I think about it. Only that these three papers represent a huge chunk of what I do and who I am and, as different as they are from each other, it’s sort of jarring, I guess, to see them all lined up. It’s the majority of my working life, lurking outside of Jack’s in Iuka, Miss. And then, of course, I get to thinking about newspapers (see “the demise of “) and friends & talented journalists who are moving on before they get moved and the painfully irretrievable loss that is. Sigh. Deep, deep sigh. On the other hand, each of these papers serves its community brilliantly, and I’m honored to be a tiny part of that success. (Also: They all have “Daily” in the title although one of them is lying.)
I adore working on a college campus. I love the energy and the enthusiasm of 20-somethings. I always defend them when folks start conversations with “Oh my gosh, can you believe kids today?” Almost every student I encounter WANTS to be in school and WANTS to learn (at least something) and many of them work two jobs and drive two hours and otherwise sacrifice A LOT to be at school. On the other hand, sometimes this generation sort of stuns me. Such as when I recently noticed this how-to-address-an-envelope tutorial taped to the mail-center counter in the student center. “Are you seriously telling me that some students don’t know how to address an envelope?” I asked the mail-center staffer, incredulously. She nodded grimly. “We just got tired of explaining it all the time,” she said. I know that actual paper envelopes are going the way of landlines, CDs and watching movies in a movie theatre — but still. I mean, can you believe kids today?
JOHN L. PITTS: Let’s keep some fun in games
My older grandson, who’s 5, got his first taste of T-ball this year.
He really likes practice – we’re talking about practice, y’all – because there’s more hitting and running and doing stuff. He’s less enamored of baseball’s quiet stretches, an attitude he may get from his grandmother, my wife. Her immortal observation, “Baseball is so boring!” will probably never be enshrined in Cooperstown.
He’s learned to adapt.
His mother reports that, sometimes when he’s playing in the outfield, he just tosses his glove aside, lays in the grass and stares at the sky.
It looks like he has the right attitude.
With high school and college practices – football and all the other fall sports, too – under way, it’s worth considering that we’re all looking in the wrong place sometimes. Maybe that big cloud that looks like a monkey is the real point, not the issue of where to throw the ball with a man on second.
We’ve gotten so cynical about sports – and let’s face it, we earned it – that we’re not sure what to make of players who seem too happy doing their thing. The pure joy of the Dodgers’ rookie Yasiel Puig presents quite a contrast to many of his mercenary rivals.
Whatever his off-court problems, it’s the outsized style of Ole Miss guard Marshall Henderson that seems to provoke the most reaction.
My grandson, meanwhile, really does have his eye on the ball – so to speak.
I hope the youngsters who’re practicing never lose sight of the fact that it’s a game. It’s hard work, yes, but for the larger purpose of playing well.
I hope coaches who’re leading them never lose sight of the fact that these are young people who may not realize it now, but are learning lessons they’ll rely on for a lifetime.
I hope the parents and fans keep some perspective – do they make that any more? – and remember that good sportsmanship isn’t just a good idea for sportsmen.
And I hope we make every deadline, but along the way I hope we’ll have fun getting there.
John L. Pitts (firstname.lastname@example.org) is sports editor of the Daily Journal.
This is my husband. This is my husband on vacation. I offer it as photographic proof that he actually can get away from his office occasionally and relax. Like most newspaper folks and especially like most newspaper editors and doubly especially like most newspaper sports folks, he is dedicated to and enthusiastic about his job. To him, following sports stories online for six hours straight isn’t “work” — it’s just what he does. And he does it well. He also is an exceptional boss. He supports and encourages the sportswriters and copy editors he works with and never asks anybody to do anything he wouldn’t do himself. Like be at the newspaper 12, 15, 20 consecutive days. In a row. Now, he and I both are pretty independent people — having a commuter marriage for several years will do that to you — and I rarely invoke a wifely clause but sometimes I just have to insist we Get Away. Luckily, there’s a window of relative calm that comes after college baseball and before SEC Media Days when he’ll agree to sneak off for a week, provided he can take 1) his laptop, 2) his cell phone and 3) my laptop, tablet and smartphone for back-up. He even wandered out to the beach a couple of times. But at least being almost 400 miles from the newspaper prevented those “I think I’ll just run over to the office for a little bit” moments.
Every time I see this sign — on the side of a building in downtown Pensacola, Fla., — I always think it’s talking about my chosen-and-now-part-time field of journalism and how truly it is “citizen journalism” because reporters don’t have to earn specialized degrees or procure official certifications or register anywhere for anything. Can you write clearly, accurately, entertainingly and well? Good. You’re hired. Do you make things up, ignore the facts and don’t understand the difference between “you’re” and “your”? Sorry. Nice try. On the other hand, as journalism jobs disappear and the journalism landscape shifts almost daily, training and professionalism are key. Another thought: This obviously is my morning to ramble. Perhaps I should get ready to go to work? And kudos to the registered professional COURT reporters at Hitchcock & Associates in Pensacola. Love your sign.