For the last three days I have been reveling in victory. I have been fortunate enough to be named the R.I. Sportscaster of the year four times in the last 5 years. It is an honor that humbles me, when I consider the caliber of the competition in R.I., especially the man who sits a foot and a half away from me in our broadcast booth, Dan Hoard and my dear friend John Rooke. For what it’s worth, I share my good fortune with Dan, Mike Tamburro and Lou Schwechheimer and the loyal and kind listeners we have.
Since I’ve been in Mayberry, er I mean Salisbury, I have encountered nothing but remarkable kindness. A gentleman named Bobn Setzer picked me up at the airport on Saturday. Within 5 minutes, it felt like we’d been friends forever. In his high-pitched southern drawl, the executive from a local bank asked me if I’d had lunch. It was only 11 a.m. so I hadn’t (just a lucky day). He took me to a barbecue festival in a nearby town and treated me to the best bbq lunch this side of the Dinosaur Barbecue in Syracuse. After getting checked in, I ran into several old friends, like Paul Keels. Paul, aka “Big Daddy” is the voice of Ohio State football and basketball. His voice makes me sound like a soprano, and I’m not talking Tony or Uncle Junior.
As a kid , I often fantasized what life in Mayberry might be like. Having a peach soda at the fillin’ station with Gomer. Fishing with Andy and Barney. Riding bikes with Opie. Taking Helen Krump on a date. Even having a snootful of moonshine with Otis. I say this in the most respectful way possible. This is not intended to be a joke or a slam against anyone. Salisbury is Mayberry and I am jealous. Everyone is uncommonly friendly. EVERYONE!! It seems to be a nice slow-paced lifestyle, that we from the northeast could learn from.
On Sunday night, there was a dinner dance at a vintage car museum (Again, phenomenal barbecue). Alas, my “date” was my friend from the Pawtucket Times, Brendan McGair. If you see “B-Mac” congratulate him on his first win at the tender age of 30. Now, I told you the people here are nice. Colleen Smiley, the assistant to Executive Director of the NSSA, Dave Goren (formerly of WJAR) saw that I was alone and she came over and said “Come on. You are dancing!” She introduced me to a lovely woman who was there with a female friend, and next thing you know, I’m cutting the rug. That is just how they are.
Ran into all-time greats like Gene Deckerhoff (Florida State and Tampa Bay Bucs), Wes Durham (Falcons and Ga. Tech) as well as Hall of Famer Bob Ryan and National Sportscaster of the year, Mike Tirico of ABC and ESPN. No “big timers” here. They treat the guy from little old “Rhody” the same way. They treat everyone the same way. And even though we may see each other just once a year, it’s like old home week.
On Monday, former Salisbury resident Ron Morris (South Carolina sportswriter of the year) took me on a behind the scenes tour of the town. We stopped at the Innes Street Drug Store (located, incidentally, on Main Street) and it was as if we stepped back to “Miss Ellies’ Apothecary”. The gal behind the counter of the soda fountain made us fresh “orange- ade”. Talk about a step back in time. Fantastic. We opted out of the planned luncheon at Rons’ suggestion and dined at “Happs”. Four hotdogs with chili, mustard and onions and two “Cheerwines” (locally produced soda)…$9.00 total!! No seats. We stood outside the restaurant at tables and ate while chatting with locals, including a senior citizen named Jean Brady, who proudly proclaimed her love for the Red Sox. I love it here. Not sure I want to leave!! My dear friend Rick Medeiros (“Rollin’ with Rick”) would love it here.
Monday night, I will accept the award. My first time, they gave me a magnificent plaque. Subsequently, though, they give you a little bar with the year you won, to attach to the plaque. It’s all good.
I will rejoin the PawSox on Tuesday for the series in Columbus. Until then, though, I’m hoping to run into Aunt Bea for some fried chicken and nestleroad pie.