Just Thinking by Mac McLeod

One afternoon while out in my shop working on some Christmas presents for my granddaughters, I had some time to do a little thinking on just what was going on. I retired some 20 years ago, moved to Livingston from South Carolina, and instead of “slowing down”, it looks like I’m “picking up”.

I used to think that when a person retired from the everyday grind, they would be between 65-70, would sign up for Medicare and draw a Social Security check in the mailbox. I never figured that at 76 I would be doing a lot more now than I did when I was 35.

Well, I can’t say a “lot” more, but recently it seems I am going to cover some ball game for the newspaper just about every night of the week, and in between, covering certain meetings that have an influence on the community. It’s not that I’m not having “fun”, but despite the fact I think I’m still 39, I’m not, and I finally realize I can’t do what I used to do.

I’m covering more sporting events for the Overton County News, a weekly newspaper, than I did years ago for the Sumter Daily Item, a daily paper.

And that’s okay with me because I’m still having fun – to an extent.

When I signed on at OCN some 15 years ago, we agreed that I would cover football and basketball at Livingston Academy, and for several years, that was what I did. Then we kinda expanded somewhat and I agreed to cover girls softball, and in between, I got to enjoying middle school sports, especially basketball and threw in Junior Wildcat football just to have something to do on Thursday nights.

All that was working fine since I really didn’t have to go to the middle school basketball games and Junior Wildcat football lasted only 7 or 8 weeks. And all the while, I am getting to know all these young athletes and they are getting to know me – that’s a good relationship when you’re looking for a player to give you a story.

All the while, I’m clicking off another birthday every August 31, but I’m still in good health and always looking for something to do.

Then the pandemic hit early this year and things started to change. The 2019-2020 basketball season had just concluded with the exceptions of the state playoffs and most of the local spring sports were closed down. Most of us figured it would be over by fall, but that hasn’t happened and now we’ve made it through most of the fall sports and we’re still playing – for the time being.

Which gets to my original point – I’m working more now for a weekly than I did for a daily. What happened?

Well, for starters, all the sports that normally get off the ground in July and August were grounded but were allowed to practice if the players would stay 6 feet apart and have no contact, so just about every morning during the week, I would grab a biscuit at the Dairy Queen and so did most of the Livingston Academy athletes – football players one day and girls basketball the next, and every morning I would stop and talk with them, getting their story and how they were going to do when real play started.

We were reacquainting.

For me it was enjoyable. Then, one day it dawned on me – who’s going to cover these youngsters for the newspaper? Football and basketball were covered, but what about soccer, golf, volleyball? Those sports I seldom, if ever, covered. But as the seasons drew closer, it became clear we at the paper didn’t have or couldn’t find young reporters who usually did this.

I went to the OCN editor, Dewain Peek, asked him the same question and got a big “I really don’t know.”

That usually has not been a problem, but now, with some students in school, others getting it done virtually, there were no “bodies” looking for that kinda work.

In my mind, I couldn’t let all that hard work by these athletes, who over the years have become my friends, go unrewarded. It has always been my job to get these kids names in the paper so their mommas and grandmothers would have scrapbook material, and also, 35 years down the road, these youngsters of today will have proof to their children that they did, indeed, play sports at Livingston Academy, and the fun of going back and reliving those precious moments of high school.

“I’ll do it,” I told Dewain. “I’ve got football and basketball covered, and I did play volleyball once or twice. Golf is my favorite sport, but when it comes to soccer, I’ll need help.

For almost three months now, I had somewhere to go to cover a sport almost every night. There were nights where I had a golf match at Hidden Valley in the early afternoon, a soccer match starting at 5 and a volleyball game at 6. There were even times when both soccer and volleyball were at home and I did a little here then crossed the driveway to do a little over there. And there were even some nights, when the football team was having their weekly supper that coach Bruce Lamb would pull me down and invite me to eat.

It’s great being part of the team.

So with all that said, the most important thing I need to say is “thank you” to a lot of people. It was them who really made this thing work.

To David Sadler and the soccer team, “thank you”. Without your e-mail reports on the games, I could have never made that happen. Assistant coach Steve Huntley was never far away from a phone call and wife, Kim, provided some great pictures. Your help was great and your players, when I had the chance, were very talkative and so helpful.

Buddy Sells and I agreed early, if he would give me an e-mail after each match, I would do my best to get out to the course and take some pictures, etc. Buddy did a fine job and I responded with my part. It worked well and talking with the players made it fun. Thanks so much.

And Christie Jenkins and her volleyball team. For all the e-mail exchanges we had, it worked out fine and I’m grateful. Covering a team that went undefeated in the regular season, it was exciting, game after game. And talking with the players after each game just made it delightful. All of you were just great.

Then there was Kevin Coffee and the Overton County Junior Wildcats. What a mixed up deal those hard working youngsters had to endure, and it ended the same way it started – confusing. Practice got underway two or three weeks later than normal due to the virus, and often was called off because a player would test “positive”. Kevin and his staff of Jonathan Ramsey and Will Sims probably spent more time on the phone calling parents telling them “not” to come to practice today than to “come on”.

After six games, the final two were called off, bringing 2020 to an end and graciously putting a stop to all the confusion.

Coach Lamb and his staff have managed to keep the LA varsity football season going on schedule, but there’s always that “bully” in the room that might stop play any day.

Amongst all that’s been going on, I’ve done my best to see that every game of every sport has gotten the coverage it deserves and you have just seen why it happened – great help from some of the finest people you ever want to be associated with.

Again, “Thank you” from the bottom of my heart, because you have allowed me to do my most important job – get these young athletes’ names in the newspaper.