RIP Blackie Sherrod

Blackie Sherrod died last week at the age of 96. He was a giant in the world of sports reporting. In addition to some of his own prose that you will see momentarily, he amassed a great staff of writers as the sports editors of the now defunct Fort Worth Press. That sports staff included Dan Jenkins, Bud Shrake and Gary Cartwright; all you can say about that lineup is, “Wow!”.

When asked how he managed to assemble such a great staff of sportswriters, Sherrod said that he did not hire sportswriters, he hired writers. He told an interviewer:

“Red Smith wasn’t a sportswriter. Jim Murray wasn’t a sportswriter. Jimmy Cannon wasn’t. There wasn’t a one who could tell you the definition of the infield fly rule.”

Last weekend, many writers took a moment to pay tribute to Blackie Sherrod. I think that Mike Bianchi’s tribute in the Orlando Sentinel was the best one I read:

“A Moment of Silence, please, Blackie Sherrod, the legendary sports columnist of the Dallas Morning News, has gone to That Big Pressbox in the Sky. Three of Blackie’s best lines:

    (1) On legendary quarterback Bobby Layne’s car accident: ‘After indulging in some heavy, late-night research with scholarly friends, Bobby was driving back to his hotel, innocently enough, when he was sideswiped by several empty cars lurking at curbside.’

    (2) On leveling the playing field: ‘In a perfect world, a fair world, Bob Hayes should be forced to carry a small calf on his shoulder when he runs the dashes, Mark Spitz would swim with a sea anchor and Ella Fitzgerald must sing every note with a mouth full of Tootsie Rolls.’

    (3) On an unknown tomato can fighter: ‘He has everything a boxer needs except speed, stamina, a punch, and ability to take punishment. In other words, he owns a pair of shorts.’”

Rest in peace, Blackie Sherrod…

It looks as if today’s offering could be easy to write if I just keep quoting the brilliant prose from others. So, to keep on that glide path, consider these three capstone comments from around the country about the totality of the NFL Draft from last week:

“If Ole Miss has to forfeit a bunch of football wins and scholarships, just think of it as a Tunsilectomy.” (Dwight Perry, Seattle Times)


“Quarterback Carson Wentz of North Dakota State was chosen No. 2 overall by the Eagles at the NFL draft. Imagine one day you’re living in laid-back, friendly Fargo, and the next you’re in Philadelphia being booed on your way to breakfast.” (Brad Dickson, Omaha World-Herald)

And …

“The 81st NFL Draft wraps up in Chicago: Three days, seven rounds, 253 players, and if you paid much attention beyond your favorite team’s selection in the first round, please have yourself evaluated by a mental-health professional. Somewhere, the first 2017 Mock Draft is now out. Oh how I wish I were kidding.” (Greg Cote, Miami Herald) will launch on May 17. This site had come to be known as “The Black Grantland” and in its original incarnation Jason Whitlock was supposed to be in charge. For whatever reasons, that did not work out and the launch of the site was delayed. Kevin Merida – late of the Washington Post – is in charge now. Here is the site’s Statement of Purpose: will combine innovative long-form and short-form storytelling, original reporting and provocative commentary to enlighten and entertain African Americans, as well as sports fans seeking a deeper understanding of black athletes, culture and related issues. The name, The Undefeated, is inspired by a passage from American poet, author and civil rights leader Maya Angelou: ‘You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.’”

I mention this for two reasons. First, I want to visit the site to see what it has to offer and who is doing the writing there. But beyond that, the fact that the birthing of this website led to Jason Whitlock parting ways with ESPN – or vice versa? – brings up ESPN staffing issues. I have mentioned in the past that I believed ESPN lost a significant amount of talent over the last year or so with the departures of:

    Colin Cowherd
    Keith Olbermann
    Bill Simmons
    Jason Whitlock

Now it appears that more folks are in the process of departing “The Mother Ship” in Bristol, CT :

    Skip Bayless supposedly will leave ESPN to go to FOX Sports. Bayless and Stephen A. Smith spend far too much time “debating” various sports issues on ESPN’s daytime show, First Take. The poor woman who “moderates” those “debates” will be a candidate for sainthood when she passes simply because she put up with those non-stop bloviations without taking a machete to either or both of the participants. I can take Skip Bayless in small doses. His departure is not of the magnitude of the 4 folks above in my mind.

    Trent Dilfer is rumored to be on his way out as an NFL analyst. If indeed that is the case, ESPN will lose one its best analysts. It is not as if they do not have several dozen of them on staff, but if I were to “thin the herd” there and do it on the basis of quality of performance, Dilfer’s position would be in no danger.

    Brad Nessler is rumored to be on his way to CBS. Nessler is a mainstay of ESPN’s college football telecasts and the rumor is that he will go to CBS to do college football there with the idea that he will take over for Verne Lundquist on the SEC Game of the Week somewhere down the line. I like Nessler’s work; he is not “a screamer”. However, I like Verne Lundquist a lot and will be sorry when he does hang up his microphone.

    Mike Tirico supposedly will leave ESPN – and Monday Night Football – to go to NBC where that network does Sunday Night Football and will have five Thursday Night Football games late in the season starting this season. NBC also has the Olympics; Tirico’s versatility fits right in with broadcasting that sort of stuff.

Finally, when the Denver Broncos drafted Paxton Lynch last week, folks were quick to pronounce the Broncos “out of the QB market” and to put the kibosh on any trade rumors that had been out there. However, Brad Dickson of the Omaha World-Herald may have reason to believe that the Broncos are still in the market for Colin Kaepernick:

“A rumor has Colin Kaepernick going to Denver. This would give the Broncos some much needed tattoo depth.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports……..