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Simmons Says - February Mailbag

WCSA editor-in-chief Jeff Simmons answers our questions about an array of topics.

Sorry about getting this out a little later than expected. I meant to bring this out on Sunday, but I had a dinner with my family to celebrate a few recent birthdays and got sidetracked. If you're wondering, we went to Crawdaddy's in Cookeville and it was really good. I'd recommend it - as long as you're not the one paying for it. Thanks for the meal Pops!

Before we jump into the questions, I have a favor to ask those who are reading this: Go back to Facebook after you're done and share a story from the WCSA page. It can be this one or some other story you liked, but I'd appreciate it if I woke up at noon Monday with hundreds of notifications on my phone from people sharing, liking and commenting on posts. As much as I love doing this for me, I love entertaining people and need everybody's help to make sure this reaches a large audience. Hopefully you'll take 10 seconds and help me out!

If you're looking for updates on upcoming reporting, just know the WCSA should be in full force Friday at Charlie Dalton Gym for the first Lady Pioneer home region game in 11 years. It looks like Warren County will face stiff competition - Cleveland, the presumed No. 2 seed in District 5-4A, was upset in the semifinals and is the likely opponent this week.

I'm also going to be checking in on our diamond squads as they get ready to crank up in March. We may have a preview or two out this week of the WCMS and WCHS spring teams.

OK, let's get to the questions, starting with non-sports for a change:

What is your favorite Netflix series or one you’d recommend?

I’ve touched on my streaming shows in the past, but if I’m limited just to Netflix (removing all the MCU shows from Disney+, Ted Lasso from Apple TV or ‘Peacemaker’ from HBO Max – a show I was shocked by and loved), then I’m going to dive into the dramas.

Peaky Blinders may be my favorite show of all time (ranking up there with How I Met Your Mother, Scrubs, Breaking Bad and The Wire). I can’t wait to see what happens in Season 6 – the final one that should be coming soon. I tell people all the time – if you like The Godfather, then you’ll like Peaky Blinders (the same holds true for Yellowstone, another great show).

My brother always throws in the caveat that if you’re going to watch Peaky Blinders, you may have to do it with subtitles. I don’t personally do it, but I can understand why some do. Those accents are hard to pick up.

I’m also a big fan of Ozark (another show that will soon come to an end) and Breaking Bad is always something you should go back and watch if you haven’t seen it. I’ve danced around with starting Better Call Saul in recent weeks – at some point I’ll binge watch it.

The Queen’s Gambit isn’t a series (at least I don’t think it will be), but it’s worth a watch. Although I didn’t enjoy ‘You’ as much in Season 3, I still like it. Squid Games was phenomenal, but it’s not for the faint of heart.

If you’re looking for something more light-hearted, watch Outer Banks. It won’t win any awards for plot or acting, but it’s a great guilty pleasure and everybody loves a treasure hunt. I haven’t watched the latest season of Atypical yet, but it’s a tremendous show with a lot of heart.

Stranger Things is great too. I’m looking forward to catching up with Eleven and the squad this summer.

Cobra Kai has also been a nice change of pace from the heavy dramas I usually watch on Netflix, but I haven’t been able to get into Season 4. I usually can watch it start to finish on a lazy Sunday, but I’ve had to start and stop a few times because my attention fades (it probably has something to do with not having any knowledge of the new character from the past, Terry Silver. I guess I missed Karate Kid: The Ocho).

Once you’ve finished that gauntlet of recommendations in 5-6 months, I’m sure I’ll have more.

Would the Pioneer boys win a county tournament between our high school teams? And would the big scorers at the private schools help Warren County?

Finally, a “who would win…” question for high school that isn’t about the Lady Pioneers vs. the Lady Broncos. Thanks for that!

Yes, the Pioneers would win a county tournament against Boyd and Covenant. If you want to talk in hypotheticals, the better question would be last year’s Covenant team against this year’s Pioneers (I still think Warren County would win). I’ll continue to say if you want to see these matchups one specific year, then you need to have them EVERY year to make it realistic. I don’t think it’s good for anybody to cherry pick times to play.


Quick aside: I think an alumni game where past Pioneers play a Covenant/Boyd combo team would be a phenomenal fundraiser for the programs or a local organization. I pitched it last year as an idea for the McMinnville Special Games basketball. I think you could make it a full day and be something like this:

First game – Special Gamers vs. Fill-in-the-blank (They destroyed the WCSA/Mud Bums squad last year)

Second game – Police vs. Firemen (a one-time long running tradition that needs to come back)

Third Game – County All-Stars vs. WCMS (Girls)

Fourth Game – County All-Stars vs. WCMS (Boys)

Fifth Game – WCHS alumni vs. Boyd/Covenant alumni (likely co-ed, though I wouldn’t mind seeing separate girls and boys games).

I think you could get the Sparkle Squad there and I’m sure there are some dance teams who would love to showcase their skills at intermissions. If you can’t officially have county all-stars vs. WCMS, then just bring in the local AAU teams at those ages – same difference.


Back to the second part of the question: Yes, I think Christian Rogers and Noah Mason would’ve helped the Pioneers this year. They both easily average 20-plus points per game and the Pioneers were desperate for scorers this year.

Would it have been an adjustment for both? Sure. I still would bet on Rogers, a 2,000-point scorer, and Mason, who got to 1,000 points in just two years at Covenant, could have made the necessary changes to fit roles for the Pioneers.

Personally, I’m glad they stayed where they were and accomplished what they did both individually and with their schools.

Which team do you think will win the 7-8 grade leagues next year?

What a tough question! I think this one is going to win the month subscription from this round of questions. I had to think a lot about this one and really dig into some rosters.

Generally speaking, I usually gravitate to the teams with the best ball handlers in the county league, but it’s never easy to predict how players grow from year-to-year at that level (you can see some real leaps in talent within a year or kids that get much, much taller and more athletic). Still, I think I’ll stick to my usual criteria and go with the teams which have already proven standouts who have gotten it done at a high level in the league.

For the boys, Kristopher Robledo will need some new running mates, but he’ll give Morrison a chance to repeat as champions next year. He’s a handful and just scratching the surface of his skills – I think he’s a kid who could score 20+ per game next year.

Robledo and the Eagles will have plenty of competition – Eastside will have big man Lex Winfree and an army of young guards who are only going to get better as they grow. Irving College and Centertown are bringing up good sixth-grade groups that both had undefeated district runs this winter. Dibrell may take a step back after losing a ton of eighth graders, but I never count out the Wildcats’ ability to rebuild on the fly.

On the girls side, Centertown will always be competitive under Kelly Eckenrod and this year’s undefeated regular season champs Morrison will have Chloe Wanamaker to push the pace and harass other guards next season. Still, both teams who played for a championship just a couple of weeks ago are aware of what is building with the Lady Bulldogs.

Sarah Kate Winfree was the league’s leading scorer this year as a sixth grader. She’s only going to get better with another year of work (I doubt many in the county will face better competition this summer playing AAU than Sarah Kate will face in her backyard daily). She’s a one-woman wrecking crew ready to take over Warren County elementary basketball.

If I had to pick right now, I’d take the Eastside Lady Bulldogs and Morrison Eagles (by an eyelash over Eastside’s boys) to win championships next year.

What’s the real issue with the TSSAA ref shortage?

Admittedly, I haven’t been keeping track with the state’s issues with referees (which I’m assuming is a reference to the state moving one football game to Thursday for every team this fall). If I had to guess, it’s probably some mixture of things as always.

I’m sure the things the TSSAA faces at a state level when it comes to officiating isn’t dissimilar to what our local associations face when they’re looking to fill 4-5 gyms a night with 2-3 referees. A lot of it, to me, always comes down to the fact that most officials have other jobs and not all of them are the 9-5 variety. Football crews are even tougher – you may be able to get by some nights going with two referees at a basketball game, but you need 6-7 guys working every football game (when you consider the off-field officials usually in charge of the clock).

If you look at the officials now, I don’t see nearly as many young guys as I do older referees who have been in the game a long time. It’s not a profession that seems to bring in new blood fast enough to replace those who leave it.

That’s not a surprise to me. It’s a thankless job, one of the few that I can think of where you’re probably doing good work if nobody notices you. I know I wouldn’t want to do it, mostly because I’ve spent a couple decades complaining about many officials and I really don’t want to deal with people like me for a living (or a second job).

What local races are you looking forward to the most now that qualifying is over?

Is there any other answer than County Executive? I guess you could say sheriff, but I’ll go with the race that’s going to be two elections in one over the sheriff race or district attorney (although I think the DA race is going to be fascinating considering the unrest surrounding local deaths of late).

When it comes to County Executive, you first have to figure out who is going to get the Republican nomination in May, then we’ll see how that person matches up with incumbent Jimmy Haley in August.

Terry Bell vs. Joseph Stotts should be a very friendly, yet fierce race for the Republican nomination. Something tells me no matter who wins that one, there will be a unified push coming out of it by the party to change leadership at the county level. A “Red Wave” has been talked about for years in Warren County, but I haven’t seen it yet.

Something tells me we’re going to see Republicans win in 2022 in a number of positions, though I still think Haley is the favorite to hold his position right now.

I didn’t get a chance to check Friday to get the full list of qualifiers, but I’m going to enjoy some of the local races for county commissioner seats. I’m in District 4 and only had one potential candidate come by and ask if I’d sign his running papers, so he’s got a leg up for one of my votes.

Last week, I thought about picking up papers to run for Register of Deeds against Wes Williams just for kicks, but I refrained. Although it would be funny to see how many votes I could get while never campaigning, I’m happy to step aside and let my good friend for many years continue his work.

Lastly, congrats to those who were reelected Thursday by simply qualifying. I think a lack of a viable candidate emerging for each of those people probably is a sign that most people believe they’re doing a very good job (or nobody wants to do what they do).

Also, major kudos for Ryan J. Moore as he will be our new General Sessions Judge and a round of applause for outgoing judge Bill Locke. I don’t know if it’s possible, but now that he’s retired, I’m guessing Locke will get even better at golf.

Madison Hollis and Layne Roberts will be worth the price of admission this spring.

Are you looking forward to spring sports? What teams/players should we be looking forward to seeing?

Yes, I’m definitely looking forward to being outside! I may go buy a few more short-sleeved hoodies to get ready for the action. You can never have too many short-sleeve hoodies in my opinion.

I don’t think if a dominant team is on the horizon this spring (though I’d put money on Covenant having a soccer team win a TNCAA title and WCMS to have good groups on the diamond). The Pioneer baseball team is going to have to replace almost its entire lineup, while Lady Pioneer softball has plenty of holes to fill from last year’s regular-season championship team (not to mention both programs are moving into a new district).

If you want to see some truly special individual talent this spring, make plans to go see the WCHS track team compete. The Lady Pioneers could have a handful of state qualifiers this year and the boys group should break a few school records too.

If you’re looking for standouts in the team sports, get a seat anytime Madison Hollis or Layne Roberts is pitching for Warren County. Hollis is coming off a District MVP season as a junior while Roberts was the Pitcher of the Year last year in the old District 6AAA.

As for soccer, August Palombo has reached out about doing a podcast to give us a look into the program he’s building and I’m going to take him up on that offer soon. He’s going to carry the conversation when it comes to the technical aspect of the sport, endure about 100 Ted Lasso references and get at least a few questions where I ask if any of his players could be the next Christian Pulisic.

Do you ever want to branch into broadcasting? You sound like you’re having fun on the elementary games.

I love doing the elementary games, but I don’t think you’re going to see the WCSA branching out to any other media anytime soon. When I started the WC Sports Authority, I knew there was a need for good sports writing that I could fill locally. I don’t think anybody needs me to jump into broadcasting or radio right now, mostly because it’s being handled by some true pros already.

Joe Harvey and the WCS-TV team are first class and Jay Walker, the Hall of Fame Voice of the Pioneers, is a legend. I don’t mind showing up when they ask, but I don’t think they need much help to keep the great broadcasts rolling (I will, as always, offer my services if they need me as guest commentary on anything and I promise I’ll try my best to make Jay laugh).

Where have you been at HS games? It seems like you don’t go to many games away from home.

This is one I get a lot when people don’t see me at every Warren County game. And I get it, the WC Sports Authority is usually expected to be there for Warren County games. When I’m asked, I say the same thing, “WE are there.” I stress we because this may be a one-man writing show, but the coverage isn’t me alone.

I would say of the 57 games (and counting) the Warren County girls and boys played this winter, either me, Ansley Mullican Murphree, Geoff Griffin or Trevor Evans attended 52-53. We don’t miss many.

The reason why I, personally, am not at as many Warren County games (particularly road games) is because I branch out to Boyd, Covenant and elementary games while the rest of the team covers HS games. Trev coaches the boys, Ansley has a brother on the Pioneers and Geoff has a lot of WCHS parents who support his business (including the cheerleaders and Pioneerettes), so they are going to be there anyway. They can do everything I would normally do (better, particularly Geoff’s photos and Ansley’s interviewing) and I can make sure the whole county gets covered.

Our updates come swift during and after almost every WCHS game and I know I’ve spent most of the winter staying up to 5-6 a.m. writing stories every night so people have something to read when they wake up (and not 2-3 days later). I think we’re doing a good job, even if you don’t see me every night.

It’s the biggest reason why our social media pictures usually have Ansley or Trev as the profile photo. I want people to know that it’s not just me – they represent WCSA just as much as I do (Geoff does too, but people should know him as Painted Barn Media first and foremost).

Finally, just be honest - everybody would rather see Ansley, Trev or Geoff than me. Odds are even if I’m there, I’m going to find a place to sit alone and listen to music while the action is going on. If I am socializing, it’s usually with a coach or I’m trying to talk my way into a free water from the hospitality room or concession stand.

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