The less I seek my source for some definitive, The closer I am to fine.
-- Indigo Girls
I got a couple of emails Monday that took me back to my start in this business, back to my days as a sports writer with The Tifton Gazette.
I should have expected it.
"How are you taking the news of the death? You out celebrating?" one message, which was dripping with sarcasm, read.
"You're probably the only person in the state, at least the only one who's not a Georgia Tech graduate, who's not in mourning today," the other read.
For some reason I got an image of an old novelty car tag that I remembered seeing as a kid, back when I was too young to even know what it meant. The tag had a cartoon image of a Rebel soldier holding a Confederate flag and defiantly declaring, "Hell naw, I ain't fergittin'."
Some people in Tifton obviously have the same kind of long memories.
What sparked the correspondences was the death of longtime University of Georgia broadcaster Larry Munson, who succumbed to complications from pneumonia Sunday at age 89. Munson, as was vividly pointed out to me during my days as a novice reporter at The Gazette, was a legend across the state of Georgia. I found that out the hard way, and in the process created a link to the famed broadcaster that for some remains unbroken even with his passing.
I've mentioned before in this space that I have never been a University of Georgia fan. My feelings about the school and its athletic teams was one of indifference until former UGA head football coach Ray Goff made me a Bulldog hater for a period (that's another story) that I must admit has slowly faded as I've followed the 'Dogs under Mark Richt.
But back to my ties with Munson. In the fall of 1980, I was still learning the ropes after being named sports editor of The Gazette. One sunny Saturday afternoon I listened to the radio broadcast of a Georgia-Auburn game while working on a new house I was building. I had never heard Munson do his thing before, and what came through the radio on this day floored me. I couldn't believe the things I was hearing, things like, "The whole conference is on their knees, praying against the Dawgs."
I was so stunned by the pleadings, the urgency and the homerisms of this gravelly-voiced madman that I decided to write a column about how unprofessional he was. I noticed that Gazette Managing Editor Danny Carter gave me an odd look when he read that column, but he didn't pull the plug on it.
For a while, I wished he had.
The column ran in The Gazette's next Saturday edition. To say I was stunned by the reaction that started on Monday and went on for quite a while would be understatement. Three of the items that were hanging from the doorway to my office when I got to work Monday morning were a Larry Munson T-shirt (I still have it), an Atlanta Journal article about the greatness of Munson and a one-way bus ticket to Lake City, Fla. There was a note with the ticket that explained: "That's the first stop outside the state of Georgia."
I had a few people call me to complain about the column, but most haters called Carter -- who happens to be a UGA fan -- and asked him why he didn't fire me. From the volume of calls that were coming in, I started to worry that Carter might just take the callers up on their demands, so I tentatively went into his office to ask him if everything was OK.
During our discussion, I mentioned the bus ticket to Carter and asked him what I should do with it. I'll never forget his sage advice: "Cash it in," he said. (I did and got $34 for it, which at that time was a huge amount of money ... what am I saying, that's still a huge sum of money to me.)
Even a month or so later, when much of the furor had died down, ABAC basketball coach Keith Barr, Gazette staffer David Yeary and I went to a Valdosta State College football game and got into a conversation with a random Blazer fan toward the end of the game. He asked us where we were from, and when we told him Tifton, he said, "What in the (explitive) is wrong with y'all's sports editor?"
I said, sheepishly, "That would be me."
He looked at me for a second or two, shook his head and just walked away.
That story has remained with me over the years as I've watched Larry Munson's legend grow to unimagined heights. It became an important lesson learned as I gradually -- and, admittedly, grudgingly -- came to appreciate just what Munson meant to the people of Georgia. Surely his passing is a sad time for all who love UGA.
So, rest in peace, Larry. May your little parcel of heaven be adorned in red and black.
Email Carlton Fletcher at carlton.fletcheralbanyherald.com.