This 4th…

Visiting relatives abroad, my thoughts are in a faraway place. I’m thinking of much younger days, when my father’s family celebrated July 4 by reuniting on our back lawn — the one time a year, aside from weddings or funerals, aunts, uncles and cousins on ‘the Socci side’ could be found in one place.

Mainly, I’m thinking of the oldest men in the family. Mostly, first-generation Americans. Mostly, veterans of World War II.

Like Uncle Les, who earned four Bronze Stars fighting in the Army’s “Big Red One” in Northern Africa and Europe and a Purple Heart from a battle in Sicily. Like Uncle Jim, a Marine who came home from the South Pacific with his own Purple Heart. And like my father, Tony, a Tech Sargeant the Army Air Corps kept stateside from the summer of 1942 to the fall of ’45 to fix the airplanes needed to train fighter pilots.

They loved this country and showed it with humble service and sacrifice. They worked hard, faithfully supported their wives and families, lived respectfully and honestly, cared about their neighbors and succeeded in raising children who did the same. They led long, full lives — Les to age 96, Jim to 93, my dad to 83 — and left us with a country better than the one they found. Imperfect, yes. But inching at least toward fulfilling promise and possibility.

Shifting thoughts from then to now, them to me, I worry on this 4th of July about the country we are leaving to our kids and their kids. I believe we have made gains and lost ground in significant ways. What worries me most is the desire of too many to ditch the entire idea of an ‘American experiment’ — as in “of…by…and for the people” — and the willingness or apathy of others to allow it to happen.

People like my uncles and father faced the hardship of the Great Depression and did their part to defeat fascism and the despots who rose to power as populists in times of widespread despair.

Will enough of us in these hard times do the same?

2022 NSMA Awards

The National Sports Media Association annually honors many of the best in our business. More than that, as I experienced throughout my time in Winston-Salem, it reveals and celebrates what’s best about our business. Thanks to some charitable local peers, I was there to receive a state award. I left rewarded in ways that humble and inspire me.

Seeing ‘old’ friends and colleagues who’ve marked every step of my professional journey, from Chapel Hill to Boston. Getting to know others whose work I’ve enjoyed and respected from afar. Sharing time and insights with those in the earliest stages of their careers, trying to pay forward all the advice and encouragement I’ve accrued along my own way.

Meeting and, more so, listening to the men and women who led the way for others onto sets and into studios, press boxes and locker rooms; and/or raised the standards for everyone else lucky enough to call those domains our workplaces.

Like Jackie MacMullan, who delivered on her late father’s faith to become a Hall of Fame writer and example; Jayne Kennedy, who kept pushing for an audition with CBS, earned the full-throated endorsement of Brent Musberger and became the first Black woman to host a network sports telecast; and Ernie Johnson, simply the best at what he does in broadcasting and even better at what he is as a human being.

Thanks to Dave Goren, the NSMA board and their many volunteers for making this wonderful weekend possible.

Clockwise from left: NSMA Hall of Fame inductee Jackie MacMullan, National Sportscaster of the Year Ernie Johnson (photo by Daniel Colston) and Roone Arledge Award for Innovation winner Jayne Kennedy.