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Ambushed … sometimes, we have to complain, too

By Staff
Feb. 2, 2001
In this profession, you have folks who complain. It's like death and taxes.
It's guaranteed to happen. Every day.
Some folks haggle among themselves. Others call us.
Sometimes, we apologize and correct our mistakes. Sometimes we blow it off. And every now and then, we complain back.
You just stepped into one of those complaints.
Tuesday night, I ventured to the opening night of the Academy District 3-A basketball tournament. Just like last year … and the year before … and the year before.
Saw a couple of good ball games and a couple of others that had me wishing for a running clock … came back to the office and hammered out a couple of stories.
Little did I know that by Thursday morning, there'd be a lynch mob of ladies from Newton County Academy who wanted my head on a platter.
Wednesday, when I was out of the office, these ladies left me six nasty messages, and apparently, they all centered around the fact that I used the word "ambush" in my girls' story. The word was used again in the headline by one of our desk people, and before I headed home in Wednesday's daylight hours, I approved that headline.
After listening to the first couple of messages, I was steaming. But by the fourth and fifth, the accusations they were throwing were just plain hilarious.
After I deleted the final of the six and none of the ladies felt strong enough about their opinion to leave a name or phone number I had pretty much decided to blow it off. But then, I got an interesting letter in the form of a fax … one which repeated the earlier accusations and practically blamed me for everything from the Newton County Academy girls' loss to Al Gore's defeat in Florida.
You guessed it it was unsigned.
Fine. But if folks who want to complain also wish to remain anonymous, they also leave me with only one way to respond right here in black and white.
Included among the most obscene accusations …
One lady who said I didn't even go to the game; that I sent a reporter who stood at the door with a camera looking totally uninterested; and in short, fabricated facts in my story.
Maybe this one needs glasses. Not only was I there, but I sat directly in front of the scorer's table all night, often chatting with NCA coaches Gary Pinson and Cliff Stamper. The guy who showed up at the door with a camera? Can't say who he was, but he doesn't work here.
Another who claimed that she had purchased her last edition of The Meridian Star, and that she would be buying The Clarion-Ledger from now on to read about NCA's Lady Generals, because the folks in Jackson did a much better job.
Don't expect me to slam The Ledger here. Yes, there are times when we are competing papers. But I'm also great friends with several of The Ledger's staff members. If you're looking for Newton County Academy basketball in The Ledger, however, it might be a while. The last time the folks in Jackson staffed an NCA basketball game was at the end of the 1997-98 season, when the boys' team won the state championship.
Staying with the media mode, one lady even accused me of writing my story from the television highlights of the two local TV stations.
Now that would be quite a trick. After all, the TV stations weren't there. There were no highlights.
Each and every one of them told me that I, and the paper, were biased against their school.
Gee, it must have been so obvious with the big story about NCA's boys and their big win at the top of same page.
I guess the things that bothered me most were the fact that these ladies were appalled that I used the term ambush; that two of them shamefully spoke of their opponent, Kemper Academy; that I was accused of not knowing the players' abilities; and that they found it necessary to represent NCA in such a manner.
After all, Pinson and Stamper, as well as the school's scorekeeper and other faculty members that I spoke with Tuesday night were drooling with good, solid, down-home hospitality.
And not only have I covered seniors like Kristin Rice, Brandi Upton and Ashley Callaghan for the past three seasons; I also saw them play when they were dominating the competition in junior high.
And was it really necessary to trash-talk the opponent? I mean, while your team may have worked hard, I'm pretty sure Kemper which had lost to the Lady Generals four times this season put in quite a bit of preparation for the game, as well.
Ambush? That's my favorite one. One of my fans found it necessary to give me Webster's definition of the word, and she was demanding that the final score of 52-45 was not an ambush. We never said it was.
You see, since I was there, I just happened to have my score sheet from the game. I just happen to know that, at exactly the 5:05 mark of the first quarter, Pinson called a timeout with his team trailing 8-2. That's also exactly when Kemper coach Russell Cruise inserted three freshmen who had never played a high school game in their lives. And after two minutes of a little full-court chaos, the score was 14-2.
Now if that's not an ambush, I don't know what is.
Indeed. You see, they were ambushed.
No, Kemper's players didn't "lie in wait to attack" or "attack suddenly from a concealed position" as Webster defines. But they dang sure ambushed the Lady Generals.
You see, in the sports media world, you don't use the same, literal words over and over. Check out ESPN, they're really good at it. I mean, if we ran the word "defeat" every time, we'd be unemployed.
Want an example? On page 3D of the same Wednesday paper, we ran a headline that read "Enterprise puts broom to Raleigh."
Now, since I wasn't there, I can't say for sure. But it's a pretty safe bet that Enterprise coach Tommy Perkins didn't physically take the broom the hind-ends of any of the Lady Bulldogs.
Of course, if Perk did do that, I guess we'd have one heckuva story.
Rocky Higginbotham is the sports editor of The Meridian Star. E-mail him at rhigginbotham@themeridianstar.com.

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