Catching up on reader questions

I have never been one to complain about getting in some good couch time. If anything, I usually enjoy when I have a few days off to binge watch a TV show – I recently completed rewatching ‘How I Met Your Mother,’ for third or fourth (or 10th) time. That being said, this week has been a little too much for me.

I decided to listen to the weather reports this weekend and stocked up on milk and bread (along with lots of Little Debbies) to get me through the time we were supposed to be snowed in. Alas, we didn’t get any snow Monday or Tuesday and seemed to avoid a crippling ice storm as well ---- Thanks to all those who kept the power on for many of us this week, GREAT JOB!

While it never truly became a winter wonderland, it did just enough to grind sports to a halt. Spring sports were supposed to start practicing this week, but sub-freezing highs aren’t great for softball, soccer and baseball. Also, basketball couldn’t get rolling into the postseason like we hoped it would.

Therefore, I got super bored. I wanted to do something for the website in the meantime and figured I’d just copy the writers I’ve been reading for years (Bill Simmons and Clay Travis mainly) and do a mailbag. So here you go… some questions I got over the last 24-48 hours (questions in BOLD)


Any predictions for the District 6AAA tournament?

One, I hope we get to play. I don’t know if that’s a certainty right now. The weather reports this week don’t look great and, at some point, you have to get the region tournaments going to not delay the start of the state tournament.

Let’s just say for the sake of predicting that the Lady Pioneers and Pioneers do get to take the court this week and all district tournament games are completed. In that case, I will say that both teams will clinch a region berth. That’s an easy prediction – the boys already have a berth sealed up and the Lady Pioneers need to win just one game against Rhea County, a team they’ve beaten by 30 or more twice.

Taking it a step further, I think the teams split their matchups with Cookeville in the semifinals. The Lady Pioneers will again play the Lady Cavs tough, but I don’t think they’ll pull an upset on the road. As for the boys, I don’t think they’ll lay an egg twice at home against the Cavaliers. I’m going to say Warren County shoots better than 2-for-23 from deep in a semifinal rematch.

For the final games next week, I’m guessing the Pioneers face White County in the finals and the Lady Pioneers meet the Warriorettes in the consolation game. I’ll save my thoughts on a potential final matchup for next week – the girls will play really well, come close against Sparta but ultimately fall and likely punch their ticket to face Bradley Central in the first round of the region tournament.

These are just my predictions. If they’re anything like the weather reports we received early this week, then you can just skip right over them.


In the meantime, you can read about which Pioneers and Lady Pioneers were named to the all-district team Tuesday by clicking the following links:

Four Pioneers recognized

Two Lady Pioneers honored


Why doesn’t George Oleksik get more love in the “Best WC athlete ever” debate?

I cheated a little bit here – this is something somebody asked me a few months ago and I never really got around to answering it.

It’s a good question. Oleksik is a little before my time – I was 6 when the Pioneers won the 1992 state title. Even growing up a diehard baseball fan, I really didn’t hear Oleksik’s name much. Instead, I heard Cat Walker and Gooby Martin – I even attended a pitching camp they held one time. Maybe nobody knew how to pronounce Oleksik – there’s a zero percent chance six-year-old me was going to get it right.

Making the case isn’t hard: Oleksik has the state title, went to MTSU and set records, then was drafted in the MLB draft twice (first by the Marlins 1995 and again by the Diamondbacks in 1996). From what I’m told, he was a pretty good basketball player too.

So if you’re looking at a checklist for best Warren County athlete, Oleksik has:

Team success – and it’s the highest level you can reach locally

Individual success - he was a baseball MVP

College/Pro clout – while Warren County has started sending more kids to school lately, there’s still just a handful who can say they were D1 athletes, set records and were drafted in their sport.

The “Best WC athlete” argument is probably my favorite one to have with local sports fans. It spans generations and is always a lively debate. You could probably choose 8-10 people and make a pretty good case. Oleksik has his name in that group.

For me, it’s getting harder and harder to go against the guy playing for the Pioneers now. But I’ll listen to all rebuttals.


Idea: get the best local basketball players from all elementary schools and let that team play in the CTC conference, then all the rest of the schools can play in a league locally. Would that work?


I love this idea. I’ve supported it for years. I’ve written about it multiple times and it usually comes up every year around this time (when elementary basketball ends). It absolutely should happen.

WCHS boys coach Chris Sullens said it best during our talk at halftime of the elementary boys game. He mentioned how players can be Tigers, Wildcats, Eagles, Warriors and Bulldogs all the way up to eighth grade, but at some point, we’re all going to be Pioneers. Really though, it would be beneficial if those kids were already in training to be Pioneers well before their freshman years.

For far too long, we’ve not done enough to get the pipeline flowing properly. It has too many bends in it and too many people trying to manage it.

It seems simple to me: Sullens and Lady Pioneer coach Anthony Lippe should have control. They should be instrumental in selecting any basketball coach in the county, particularly their main feeder program at WCMS. And at WCMS, the coaches Sullens and Lippe select should be managing the best 12-15 players in the county while playing Central Tennessee Conference opponents.

Starting next year, we’ll be the closest to aligned in conference play from middle school to high school than I’ve seen in 10 years. WCMS plays Franklin North, Franklin South, Shelbyville Harris, Coffee County, Tullahoma East, Tullahoma West and White County in CTC games. Beginning with the 2021-22 school year, the new basketball district for WCHS will be Franklin County, Shelbyville and Coffee County.

We need to build chemistry and know how we stack up as early as possible.

This wouldn’t ruin elementary basketball either. Our current league could still be played.

Irving College, Centertown, Dibrell, Eastside, Morrison and Boyd can continue to play for titles. I’d love to see Covenant join too. If WCMS wanted, it could add a team of players who didn’t make the CTC team and make it an eight-team league (or let WCMS kids go try out at other schools if they didn’t make the CTC squad at their school – it would be like elementary school free agency).

Even the most ardent supporters of elementary basketball realize that the competition level in the CTC is higher. And usually, playing better talent makes better players.

It’s beyond time to cede control to the high school coaches, allow them to pick their feeder program coaches and upcoming players and get this thing fully streamlined.


With the every changing climate in youth sports, I feel we are seeing a decline in youth participation in all sports. I understand this has many factors that add in to it (I.E. cost of sports, the growing popularity of electronic gaming, and negative mindset of Warren County sports from history). As a person who has been involved in youth sports for over 23 of my 30 years on this earth, I do not see the kids as being the issue. Kids today are the same as kids from 10, 15 and 40 years ago. They love to play games, they love to be with friends and they love to compete.

What do you think parents, young adults, community leaders and the community as a whole could do to increase the amount of kids who want to play games for the love of the game and begin rebuilding the local youth sports community to a thriving place where kids can be safe, grow, learn and compete?


Now that is a question! I don't know if I can answer it all right now.

This is something I've tackled in my writing in the past, even going as far as writing a series of stories about the decline of youth sports participation. It's not an easy problem to fix - if it was, I think somebody in Warren County would have done it already.

Perhaps I can tackle this on a podcast where we have hours to talk it over, but I say the No. 1 thing I would do to help youth sports right now: Get them out of the city's hands.

The biggest youth baseball, softball, soccer and basketball leagues are all ran by the city right now and they have shown no ability to grow the sports. If anything, every single one of those leagues have went downhill under city management while cost has went up.

Honestly, do people right now trust that the Parks and Rec department is going to get this stuff working? I don't think so. They have seen the evidence up close; Leagues aren't ran well, officiating is questionable across the board and, worst of all, I think people really got a look at the Parks and Rec's indifference to youth sports when they rushed to cancel soccer and basketball a few months ago.

Nobody was calling for them to cancel youth sports - in fact, at the time, most of our school sports were in the midst of returning. Many people wanted their kids involved in sports, but Parks and Rec made the call to cancel soccer and basketball. I truly think that if it wasn't for an opinion piece Jeff Chisam wrote (which we published on the WCSA website), those sports would've went quietly into the good night this winter.

Basketball still might. The inability to get the Milner Recreation Complex (formerly known as the Civic Center) open has delayed basketball to the point where it may be playing as most kids are transitioning to baseball, softball and soccer. What a mess.

I don't think the people in charge are trying to submarine these leagues, they just aren't capable of making it better. It's been pretty obvious from the moment they took over baseball and softball, and it only got worse when they inherited soccer and basketball as well.

As a community, it is going to be on us to get a group of people together that can take this stuff back (and the city needs to be willing to give it back, which should be a no-brainer). Who is the next Darrell Austin - a person who stepped up and ran youth basketball for decades? We need the next Jeff McGee, Earl Partin, Don McBee, Carl Bouldin and the many, many more who spent countless summers at the ball fields. There have been so many dedicated men and women in the past who helped get the leagues running, but it's time us (me included) who benefitted from their leadership to pass it down to the next generation.

I can already tell you who is going to be the youth football savior - it's Matt Turner. Everybody else should just get out of the way and let him try to resurrect youth football.

We can dig into other issues at another time, but for now, I think it's a leadership thing. We need people who are truly invested in the success of youth sports, not a city that simply wants to roll the ball out there and say they tried.


What has been your favorite podcast/who is your favorite guest?

Dang, this one was tough. I probably should’ve just let Trevor Evans answer this – he was the one who pushed for us to start a podcast. But I won’t put Trev on the spot.

I don’t think you can pick a favorite guest between Chris Sullens and Matt Turner – they’re basically inseparable on the pod. I think Sullens has the most guest appearances, but it feels like the community feedback is always high when both Sullens and Turner are on the mic.

As for the favorite pod, I really enjoyed them all. While I think people probably laughed the most at any of the ones Sullens and Turner are on together, WCSA fans may have learned the most about a sport from the one that had Lexie Chadwell, Hailey Wood and Emily Mikkola as guests.

The COVID shutdown last spring, coupled with football and boys basketball dominating the headlines for the last year, made it easy to forget just how dominant the Lady Pioneer softball program was for three straight years. Having three college athletes on to share those memories probably had the most “inside baseball” moments of any pod.

I’m ready to start cranking more out. We’ve already reached out to coach Phillip King and I’m sure he’ll be on soon to talk Pioneer baseball. Gooby Martin will return as well.

Someone asked if I would want to get the Covenant boys seniors on there if they’re able to complete a great season with a TNCAA championship. That would be a good conversation.

If you have requests for people you’d like to hear, let us know. While it’s the Warren County Sports Authority, we have standing offers out to Joe Pat Cope from Coffee County, along with Eric Mitchell and Michael Dodgen from White County, to talk hoops. If we ever get those three together with Sullens, I’m just going to push record and step away from the mic.


As always, you can hear the WCSA podcast on Apple Podcasts and Spotify!


How much money did you lose on the Super Bowl?

Yikes. Thanks for asking. As some people know, gambling on sports is legal in Tennessee now. And yes, I occasionally take part.

In the early months, I was doing great. I really had a good feel for NFL games, particularly player props, and occasionally hit when I bet on my favorite NBA team – the Spurs – as well. But man, the Super Bowl was no fun.

I think I had 40 different bets on the game between the outcome and player props and 100 percent of them were on the Chiefs. So yeah, I lost every single one of them.

As for an amount, I won’t share that. But rest assured, I’m not planning on raising subscription rates.


 

While I figured we’d only get sports questions, I really didn’t specify. So of course, some people wanted to ask different things. Here is what they wanted to know:


What’s your favorite place to eat?

I’m going to field this question for the WCSA team. But for a little insight on what the squad likes, I can tell you Ansley Mullican won’t turn down a steak anywhere, Trevor Evans loves mashed potatoes a little too much and Geoff Griffin has the most eclectic orders. Ansley picked all the restaurants we went to before football games this year and none were disappointing.

As for me, I’ll take this in three parts: Local, regional and favorite place I’ve eaten

Locally, it’s easy – I’m going to eat at Mud Bums, my brother’s restaurant, 3-4 times a week. I’ll usually get the $5 lunch cheeseburger at least once, grab some appetizers on Tuesday (cheese fries with both queso and shredded cheese) and then go for a philly cheesesteak wrap (no pepper or onions) any other time. You really can’t miss. I doubt there’s anything on the menu I haven’t eaten at this point.

Around the area, I’d probably say Outback Steakhouse. I’m not a Bloomin’ Onion guy, but I grew up eating the ribs and BBQ chicken from Outback at every birthday dinner. No matter where my family travels, we usually find a way to eat at an Outback.

Finally, I’d say my favorite place I’ve eaten was on the pier in San Francisco near Fisherman’s Wharf. I can’t remember what number the Pier was, maybe 33 or 39, but it was over the moment they brought out a seafood tower appetizer for the family. It had everything.

We went to San Francisco nearly eight years ago as a family. It may be time to go back.


Why do you not work for the paper anymore?

This is still something I get asked from time-to-time and really, I mostly covered it when I started the site back in August. We’ve added a ton of new readers since then, so here is the link to the story I wrote then explaining why I’m now out on my own: https://www.wcsportsauthority.com/post/out-on-my-own


For years, I really enjoyed being part of the paper. Being able to develop relationships in the community – one I grew up in and don’t plan to leave – was amazing. I always told people back in high school I wanted to work in sports when I got older. I figured it would mean coaching or maybe an administration job with a team (I’m fascinated with the NBA salary cap; If I could work in a NBA front office and still live here, that would be amazing, so Nashville … let’s get a basketball team).

I’ll always be grateful to the paper for getting a chance to start a job in sports locally. I won’t – and don’t – miss anything else, aside from a few of my coworkers who are still there.

Over the years, even as I became a manager myself, I realized upper management didn’t care about its employees, thought anybody was replaceable – the phrase, “I like you, but I could replace you tomorrow,” was used a lot to a lot of people – and had no clue how to move forward in an information society that doesn’t want to wait 24-72 hours for news.

For the coworkers who are still there, I have nothing but love.

For my managers who decided my 10 years of award-winning work wasn’t worth keeping around and decided it was easier to move on from me when I was out of the building on temporary layoff due to COVID than to bring me in and tell me to my face why they were letting me go, I have no love. I still remember getting a phone call after I had already found out from others they were trying to hire other people for my job – all he said was it wasn’t his decision. Who made the call and why did they do it – two questions that have never been answered because I was never even given the chance to ask.

That’s nothing to mention how little people are compensated there – I inquired several times about step-up raises that most jobs have (often issued yearly) and was told, “cost of living doesn’t go up in Warren County.” Let’s just say that if President Joe Biden’s $15 minimum wage passes, I’m going to happy for my former coworkers who I know have worked there decades and aren’t making anywhere near that.

You treat people like that enough – and they’ve done it plenty – and it will come around eventually.


Have/will you consider expanding to all news instead of just sports? Would love to have another option for Warren County.

No question, I’ve thought about it many times. There is no question this town wants another news source – I heard it when I worked there and hear it A LOT more now that I don’t. It takes trust to be a reliable news source – you don’t get it when there’s 50 years of grudges being held by management and story burying going on when there’s family/friends in the mix.

The problem I have is that I don’t have enough time to do both sports and news the way I want to do it: 24-7.

The reason people seem to love the WCSA is because I have information out so quickly – there’s no deadlines and then holding for 2-3 days until it’s old news. We have information out as soon as I can get it, which is usually first because I’ve been doing this for a decade and have the respect and trust of people who pass along information. I can also rush out stories because I am at games every night.

 

Quick aside: I have a great team of people who love sports like I do to help out, meaning we have photos and information from everywhere coming in quickly. I can’t stress this enough, the Warren County Sports Authority is a moniker I bestowed on myself a decade ago, but there is no WCSA without the things Trevor Evans, Ansley Mullican and Geoff Griffin do for local sports. I’m so blessed to have them helping, and I can’t be more proud of the work Daniel Tidwell, Carter Mansfield, Cody Robinson, Reed Garrison and Easton Adcock have done for the site.

Tidwell recently launched his own podcast to talk MMA – a sport he truly loves. Champion’s Corner is available on Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/show/7JbMY04uLnozAhVcDdIp8Q?si=r2wXbp-NS_WF2VgIaCpI7w

Mansfield is going to a be powerhouse covering TN high school football for years to come. He launched his own website: https://www.stateoftennesseehsfb.com/

Garrison did a great job covering the Titans for us. He started branching out recently too, doing some contributing work for the Beale Street Bears (Memphis Grizzlies).

As for Adcock, something tells me in 4-5 years, he may be ready to take over the WCSA moniker and let me ride off into the sunset.

 

To branch out into the news, I’ll need more people. Specifically, I need somebody who has the same passion for pursuing stories and promoting local events – only instead of sports, they love covering city and county news (like local government and community activities – If it was my news outlet, I wouldn’t be covering every wreck). Preferably, they would be somebody local as well.

A good friend and coworker at my last job told me he always knew I was meant to cover Warren County sports because, even if there wasn’t money involved, I would still want to do it. He was right – I’m not in this business to get rich (If anything, I’d love to get enough funding for my site through advertising that I could drop the subscription fees all together).

If there is a person out there who truly believes their passion in life is to cover local Warren County events, let me know. We can chat and give this county the news it deserves.


I really enjoyed this. I hope you did too. If you want this to continue, let me know by emailing wcsportsauthority@gmail.com. While you’re at it, go ahead and ask a question so I can start stockpiling them for another mailbag sometime soon.





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