This week on the Mississippi Gulf Coast doesn’t make me think fondly back on old cars that members of my family might have been driving when I was growing up.
No, it makes me think of the days when daily newspapers still cared about prep sports and religiously covered the athletes involved in those games on a daily basis throughout the school year, and also how as a child I used to love listening to many of those contests with my father and brother in the car on the radio back in the day.
We here at 228Sports have taken up the mantle of covering prep sports in the “Southern Six” on a daily basis like it used to be done, and no other outlet is anywhere close to producing the amount of content we are.
However, thankfully, there are still a handful of radio stations in our coverage area that are still keeping the airwaves crackling with the sound of popping pads and bone-jarring tackles on Friday nights in the Fall.
I think one of the many reasons I am such a sports fan, and perhaps one of the reasons I eventually became a member of the media as well, can be traced back to the days of my youth when I first started listening to football games on the radio.
The first time I ever heard the name of Archie Manning came at the kindergarten age as I sat in the car parked in the driveway of our home, listening to Ole Miss play Vanderbilt in Nashville with my dad.
My mom had some church social going on in the house, so the “men” had to take the game outside. The Rockwell home was no place, in my mother’s eyes or ears for that matter, to try and mesh “Dixie” with “Bringing in the Sheaves” into a tune that was suitable enough for both Southern Baptists and diehard football fans.
But I think it was that night when I realized that you could actually listen to what was happening during a game and you didn’t have to wait for the newspaper the next morning to find out what happened.
In fact, knowing what had already transpired the previous night made reading the headlines and seeing the pictures the next day even more enjoyable to me.
The fascination continued as I got older and would listen to countless high school and college games. It became a habit.
It was a joke at one time between me and an old girlfriend about listening to games at night while we were taking a trip. “I guess we’ll have to listen to static again,” she would whine, in reference to trying to tune into games on the AM band at night.
When I chose journalism as my profession, the need to continue to listen to games remained. While covering one prep contest, you could try and find scores from other games on your transistor back in the old days.
There was, for a time, a bit of a void of prep football on the local radio in South Mississippi as social media began to take over. It seemed like at one time you could pick up seven or eight games on any given Friday night. And then, over the course of a few years, only a couple of broadcasts were left.
Of course the days of carrying around transistor radios in your pocket and heading out to a high school football games these days are long gone. Now, many games can be streamed through various devices and such making the possession of a small, portable radio and an earpiece obsolete.
Thankfully, though, through the efforts of a few community-minded station owners and operators, there are still some high school football contests that can be heard on the “radio waves” and such.
Fans of Picayune, Pascagoula, George County, Ocean Springs and Gulfport all can still hear their games the “old way” if you will, straight through a radio sitting in your own driveway if you like.
The Panthers (WPMO 1580 AM), the Maroon Tide (WRJW 1320 AM), the Rebels (106.9 FM WRBE), the Greyhounds (103.1 FM Super Talk) and the Admirals (Bob 106.3 FM) are all featured on Friday nights on their respective home town stations
Veteran voice Carey Metzler still sits high above the crowd as the Picayune play-by-play voice for many years now. Pascagoula’s Bill Glenn is in his 25th year associated with Panther football, and he and his color guy Tommy Dorsey have been complimentary partners for some years now. In Lucedale, Bruce Thornton assumed the play-by-play duties for the Rebels a few years back from Larry Shirley, who was vital in keeping prep sports going on the radio for many years.
Former TV star Jeff Shepard mans the play-by-play microphone in Ocean Springs, continuing a long-time tradition of over 50 years first created by the Ryan Brothers and then maintained by Noah Britt for a bit. This is the first year that Gulfport has gotten into the fray on The Bob, and Harold Rose handles play-by-play for the Admirals.
Until just recently, both Resurrection and Stone County also had their football games broadcast on a weekly basis, but not this season.
I can never write about high school sports on the radio in South Mississippi without mentioning my old pal Waldo Thornton, God rest his soul. And also, I would be amiss if I didn’t say that one reason this week makes me think of prep sports talk on the radio didn’t remind me of many days spent in the studio with Tommy Domenico, who used to always request my presence this particular week to do an in-person pop in and chat about high school football. He also did Biloxi games on the radio for some years as well. Those two gave static a whole new meaning to me.
So, while 228Sports and our veteran staff have filled the role after the demise of daily newspaper coverage on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, I certainly am happy that we still have several options on the airwaves to choose from.
This is a column of opinion by Curtis Rockwell/ Sports Director at 228Sports.