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AUSTIN BISHOP: Everybody’s got a bucket list, even Old Sports Dudes

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As I am rapidly closing in on my 63rd Birthday and reminiscing in print each week about the wonderful journey the Lord has allowed me to take in both journalism and life, I found the blessings too numerous to count.

Oh, there were storms, trials, and tribulations for sure, but I’ve never found much value in counting those. Why waste your time with that when you can pick out the joys and embrace them instead?

That being said, most people of “advancing age” begin to put together a bucket list of sort or another and old sports writers are no different. I’m going to share these with you, but understand this: If I never go to another place, see another thing, conduct another interview, or write another story — I’m pleased with my journey, despite my many mistakes. That’s where God’s grace, time, the chance to mend fences and correct wrongs, and the opportunity to learn as we live come into play.

There are a couple adventures sports-oriented adventures I would love to take in during the remaining days of my life. In no particular order, here are four of them:

— Catching a day game at Wrigley Field in Chicago is definitely near the top of my list. Im not a Cubs fan but have always been intrigued by the mystique of Wrigley and would love to experience that day game atmosphere. Many may not even remember that the Cubs were the last team to install lights at their stadium and played only day games for years.

Wrigley is one of two baseball stadiums that were always on my list, with Fenway Park in Boston being he other one. I got a chance to lay my eyes on that magnificent place back in the mid-1980s when I traveled to Boston to do a series of stores on Meridian native and Red Sox pitcher Dennis ‘Oil Can’ Boyd.

— Soccer has grown on me over the years. I actually was an earlier convert to the sport than most in the Deep South, quickly picking up on the nuances of the game. I would love to attend a top-level match involving either the men’s or women’s U.S. National Team.

While flipping through the many channels that Direct TV provides for me, I catch myself stopping for periods of times to watch such match-ups as Peru and Ecuador, Germany and Sweden, or any two national teams for that matter.

One regret is that I never got the chance to see the great Mia Hamm in person. She certainly brought women’s soccer into the limelight in the United States.

— While I have been blessed to cover The Masters at Augusta National Golf Club on a half-dozen occasions there is one thing I really wanted to do have yet to accomplish — take my wife Barbara with me to view those majestic grounds herself.

Walking through Augusta National is about more than golf, it really is.

I’ve tried for the last few years to get into the “lottery” to get tickets to a practice round, but to no avail. Now that they play a women’s amateur tournament at Augusta National just before the Masters a door may have been cracked open for us. Hopefully it’s one we can walk through this year.

While we love going places together, I’m sure that will be one of the longest days of her life as I share all of my memories as we walk through the course hole-by-hole.

— There are a couple interesting things my sports writing career has provided for me. One is to watch colleges and universities on all levels compete on the field, court, ice rink, golf course, etc. A few years back, on a whim, I tried to trace back and see just how many teams I had seen play — either as a reporter or a fan.

My unofficial total is 208. I”m pretty sure it’s more than that, but If I can’t verify it with some sort of document or at least a “clear” memory, then I don’t count it.

I once had a goal of seeing at least 350 schools compete in a sporting activity of some sort, but at this point I’m just trying to get to the 250 level.

It’s really a little harder than you may think. There are generally only 10 to 14 schools in a given conference, and even though I’ve covered leagues such as the SEC, SWAC, and Gulf South for years, one you’ve seen them all you’ve seen them all.

COVID certainly delayed my progress on this bucket list journey, thus moving it down to 250 seemed a little more realistic.

Just for fun I will share a few fun facts with you: I”ve seen 17 colleges in Alabama compete, 13 in Arkansas, 13 in Georgia, 15 in Louisiana, 15 in Mississippi, 10 in North Carolina, 13 in Tennessee, and 18 in Texas, but even more interesting is the two I’ve seen play from from both South Dakota and Delaware, and one each from Maine, Hawaii, and Alaska.

Connecticut, Idaho, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Vermont and Wyoming are the only state that I have yet to see one of their schools compete.

Here are just a few of the more unusual colleges I’ve seen compete: Alaska-Anchorage, Biscayne (Florida), Life University, Oglethorpe, and Emory (Georgia), Wartburg (Iowa), Holy Cross (Massachusetts), Fontbonne (Missouri); Montana State, Geneseo State and Houghton (New York), Belmont Abbey (North Carolina), Oklahoma School of Science and Arts and Phillips University (Oklahoma), Gannon (Pennsylvania), Fisk (Tennessee), and Carthage (Wisconsin).

Obviously the aforementioned four items are just a glimpse of the complete list, one of which I may get back to sharing at a later date.

Austin Bishop, AKA The Old Sports Dude, has been covering high school, college, amateur and professional sports since 1975. He is currently pastor of Great Commission Assembly of God in Philadelphia, Miss. He may be contacted by email at starsportsboss@yahoo.com.

 

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