Some Things Never Get Old
As it turned out, the phone call five years ago from Alabama's athletics director was a very bright one for me. He wanted to know if I had plans for the day. For some reason i didn't want to confess that I was going to do what I do every Friday if the weather permits, which is play golf. The weather was just fine that day.
I hemmed and hawed and let Mal continue. He wanted to know if I could play golf. Whew!
Actually, I confessed, that was my plan. Going back to when I worked for Coach Bryant in Alabama's sports information office, Friday afternoon has always been my off time. The thinking was then (as it is now), if you haven't gotten it done by Friday afternoon, it's probably too late.
Mal wanted to know if I would mind taking Joe Namath to play. I was thrilled. Not just because of my admiration for Joe, but also because I was in the final stages of writing a book, "What It Means To Be Crimson Tide," and I desperately wanted to include Namath. I had barely over a week until deadline. Mal knew that and set up the golf game so I would be able to get that interview.
Joe and his longtime friend-attorney-agent, Mike Bite of Birmingham, and my friend and golf associate, Mike Echols, played together that day. It was my normal Friday dogfight group's day to play, and unknown to me Echols had some things for me to commemorate my 60th birthday. Thus, I had Joe Namath as a guest at the party on the first tee.
It was a birthday I'll never forget. Echols and I have talked about it a few times, particularly a moment that left us both awed. We were chatting together on the 15th tee, waiting for the group in front of us to clear the fairway so we could hit our drives. Joe was tossing a couple of golf balls–not juggling them, but alternating left and right tosses and catches.
Suddenly, Joe slipped on the bank. One golf ball went high and left, the other high and right. Namath regained his footing and his left hand reached out to grab the ball to his right, his right hand to snatch the ball to his left. A snake's strike could not have been swifter.
Echols and I were dumbstruck at what we had seen, and Mike told Joe he had never seen anything like that.
"I've always been quick,." Namath said. "And golf is the only game I've ever played where that wasn't an advantage."
I got two things at the end of the round. One was assurance that Joe would meet with me so I could do the Joe Namath chapter of "What It Means To Be Crimson Tide."
The other was Joe signing the scorecard, adding his best wishes for my birthday.
I have a handful of autographs, a couple that others (thank goodness) got for me from Coach Bryant. One is of us together in a photograph, one on the first issue of 'BAMA Magazine which featured him with the 1978 national championship trophy in the spring of 1979.
The two I have requested for myself are both on golf scorecards. Before I got Namath's, I asked for one from the famed blind golfer, the late Charlie Boswell. Mr. Tom Brock Jordan of Centre had a football affair late each summer, often including the Alabama head football coach. Mr. Jordan was a longtime friend of Boswell, who had been a fine football player at Alabama before being blinded in World War II and going on to golf fame.
Mr. Jordan invited former Tide radio color man Doug Layton, longtime Bama trainer Sang Lyda, and me to come up and play golf before the event. I played that day with Charlie Boswell in Rome, Georgia. Word spread that the all-time greatest blind golfer was playing the course, and when we arrived at the ninth green we had a nice gallery.
Mr. Boswell hit his drive down the middle, his second shot just short of the green, chipped on about 20 feet short of the cup, then made his putt for par. It is one of the truly most memorable sports moments of my life.
I also asked Mr. Boswell to sign the scorecard for me after we finished playing and it is an autograph I also cherish.
Another good birthday today, lunch with friends at Cypress Inn overlooking the Black Warrior River in Tuscaloosa, then dinner tonight with family at the Bright Star in Bessemer. I'm glad I'm young enough to enjoy it.
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