Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Rick Cleveland: Better than fiction

We honored the remarkable life of Mississippi sports legend Bailey Howell this past weekend in a fundraiser for Sunnybrook Children's Home in Ridgeland.

The original idea had been for the event to be a roast. Wiser heads prevailed. I mean, how do you roast Bailey Howell? Answer: You can't, unless you make things up and Bailey's life has been too well-lived to inject fiction.

Nearly six decades later, his numbers at Mississippi State still numb the brain: 27 points per game, 17 rebounds per game and those are for his career, not just one season. In the NBA, there were nearly 18,000 points, more than 9,000 rebounds. And yes: six-time all-star, two-time NBA champion.

As each speaker pointed out, those statistics are just numbers. Bailey Howell, the person, is far more than numbers. He is goodness, personified. He strives to make his part of the world a better place, as is evident in his active 44 years on the board of directors at Sunnybrook, which provides a home and a structured home life for children who otherwise would have none.

But back to sports. If you were to write the sports history of Mississippi, Bailey would be a chapter unto himself. And even as we were honoring him on a balmy Saturday night, more chapters were being written. I know this for a fact. Between speakers at the Howell tribute, I was checking twitter. Mississippi athletes were everywhere.

• At Rio, Tori Bowie of little Sand Hill in Rankin County wins the Olympic silver medal in the 100 meters. She began her track and field career at Pisgah High School where there was no track, much less starting blocks.

• Again, at Rio, Sam Kendricks of Oxford leads qualifiers in the pole vault. Who would have ever thought this possible when he first used a converted high jump bar to make his first vaults for his daddy's Oxford track team?

• Still again, at Rio, former Hinds Community College national champion Joe Henderson leaps 27 feet, 6 inches to win the gold in the long jump. Laurel's Ralph Boston surely approved. In 1960, Boston leaped 26 feet, 71/2 inches to win the gold at Rome.

• In Minneapolis, Fulton's Brian Dozier, the former USM baseball star, slams his 25th home run of the season and the 100th of his Major League Career. It is Dozier's 17th home run since June 25. Nobody – nobody – in the Major Leagues has hit more.

• In Los Angeles, Mississippi State's Dak Prescott makes his Dallas Cowboys preseason debut a most memorable one. He completes 10 of 12 passes (two were dropped) for 139 yards and two touchdowns. Yes, it's preseason, but already Dak has NFL front office people scratching their heads and asking, “Now how was it that Prescott lasted until the fourth round?”

Remember, all this was happening during a two-hour window on one Saturday night in August. And I am sure I am leaving someone out.

Let's close with this story I told at Saturday night's tribute to Bailey Howell. Recently, at the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame's Induction Banquet, Rudy Tomjanovich, the famous Rudy T, showed up to honor Larry Smith, the Alcorn State and NBA standout, who had played for Tomjanovich in Houston. Tomjanovich is a five-time NBA All-Star and coached the Houston Rockets to consecutive NBA Championships.

Tomjanovich, Smith and I were chatting at the reception when Tomjanovich spotted Bailey Howell across the room. Tomjanovich had the look of a five-year-old seeing Santa Claus for the first time.

“Hey, that's Bailey Howell,” he said. “I didn't know he was here. He was my first hero. He's the reason I got into basketball. When I was a kid, I wanted to be Bailey Howell.”

Rudy Tomjanovich, five-time NBA All-Star, two-time Coach of the Year, couldn't wait to have his photo made with Bailey Howell. In Mississippi, we understand. We understand heroes. And we fervently hope today's heroes will strive to have the social impact Bailey Howell has had.

Rick Cleveland is a syndicated columnist and historian at the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum. His email address is


Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

9:14, you are the most predictable poster on here. Keep 'em coming, Kingfish. I look forward to Rick's column every week, and this one didn't disappoint.

Anonymous said...

I really don't know what 9:14's problem always is. He must not be from Miss.

Anonymous said...

From my observation @11:12 you rise to the bait every single time.

Anonymous said...

Shows how much you know, 12:33. This is my first rise. I tend to read a lot more than I comment.

Anonymous said...

Maybe 9:14 is not a morning person and was just waking up. Or maybe he/she doesn't enjoy well-written articles touting Mississippians and their accomplishments. Just not controversial enough.

Anonymous said...

Cleveland is a bore. The one-note Bill Minor of Mississippi sports.

Anonymous said...

There is nothing more boring than Mississippi sports!!!!

Anonymous said...

Are you planning to cover Rick's stepping down as Sports Museum Director?

Anonymous said...

Kingfish please stop this column since Cleavland got a job at Mississippi Today he doesn't need $$$ from you anymore. Put him on the slow boat to China.

Anonymous said...

... since Cleavland got a job at Mississippi Today ...

Perfect fit for the liberal.

Anonymous said...

I don't know that party politics plays into sports reporting. Can 7:53 explain that association?

Anonymous said...

At least Cleveland writes storie rather than opinions. CL only employs opinion writers now. I could give a sh!t about Hugh Killenbooger's opinion pieces.

Anonymous said...

Khayat and Jones kool-aid drinker. He'll be welcomed with open arms but it still won't equate to anyone actually reading Mississippi Today.

Anonymous said...

I don't know that party politics plays into sports reporting.

Reading comprehension problem @8:26 PM?

Anonymous said...

Cleveland is one of the best sports writers in the state. Don't care about his politics - what I care about when reading his (exceptional) columns is that he has a good grasp of history of sports in the state, and writes about it without showing his (obvious) USM loyalties. Glad that JJ is running his column - and I don't give a damn if MS Today is also running his works.

If you don't like him; don't want to read him; don't give a damn about his columns - simple solution. Go on to the next item. Skip his. JJ does a good job of letting you know when its Rick. Be a big boy and skip it if you don't like it.

Not hard to do - I've done it on many items that don't pluck my interest. Try it - you'll like it.

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed the piece.
I do hope that Tori Bowie will get the welcome home to Mississippi she deserves for winning two Olympic medals.

Anonymous said...

Thnks, Rick. Always enjoy your articles.

Anonymous said...

Gallons upon gallons of kool-aid.

I believe strongly in Mississippi Today’s nonpartisan, not-for-profit mission and urge you to go to and read about it, bookmark it. There are good people behind it, people who want to make Mississippi a better place.

Yup, no politics in sports.

Anonymous said...

can someone explain how ms today makes money?

Anonymous said...

"I believe strongly in Mississippi Today’s nonpartisan, not-for-profit mission."

You gotta be a plumb damned idiot to see that as a political statement.

Anonymous said...

bringing it up, trying to sell it, makes it political.

Anonymous said...

If you believe mentioning a magazine is politics, you gotta be slow. Neither the magazine nor mention of it is associated with politics.

Now This Here Is Politics.. said...

Gallo and that's politics. J.V. Wannabe politics but politics nonetheless.

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Trollfest '09

Trollfest '07 was such a success that Jackson Jambalaya will once again host Trollfest '09. Catch this great event which will leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Othor Cain and his band, The Black Power Structure headline the night while Sonjay Poontang returns for an encore performance. Former Frank Melton bodyguard Marcus Wright makes his premier appearance at Trollfest singing "I'm a Sweet Transvestite" from "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." Kamikaze will sing his new hit, “How I sold out to da Man.” Robbie Bell again performs: “Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be Bells” and “Any friend of Ed Peters is a friend of mine”. After the show, Ms. Bell will autograph copies of her mug shot photos. In a salute to “Dancing with the Stars”, Ms. Bell and Hinds County District Attorney Robert Smith will dance the Wango Tango.

Wrestling returns, except this time it will be a Battle Royal with Othor Cain, Ben Allen, Kim Wade, Haley Fisackerly, Alan Lange, and “Big Cat” Donna Ladd all in the ring at the same time. The Battle Royal will be in a steel cage, no time limit, no referee, and the losers must leave town. Marshand Crisler will be the honorary referee (as it gives him a title without actually having to do anything).

Meet KIM Waaaaaade at the Entergy Tent. For five pesos, Kim will sell you a chance to win a deed to a crack house on Ridgeway Street stuffed in the Howard Industries pinata. Don't worry if the pinata is beaten to shreds, as Mr. Wade has Jose, Emmanuel, and Carlos, all illegal immigrants, available as replacements for the it. Upon leaving the Entergy tent, fig leaves will be available in case Entergy literally takes everything you have as part of its Trollfest ticket price adjustment charge.

Donna Ladd of The Jackson Free Press will give several classes on learning how to write. Smearing, writing without factchecking, and reporting only one side of a story will be covered. A donation to pay their taxes will be accepted and she will be signing copies of their former federal tax liens. Ms. Ladd will give a dramatic reading of her two award-winning essays (They received The Jackson Free Press "Best Of" awards.) "Why everything is always about me" and "Why I cover murders better than anyone else in Jackson".

In the spirit of helping those who are less fortunate, Trollfest '09 adopts a cause for which a portion of the proceeds and donations will be donated: Keeping Frank Melton in his home. The “Keep Frank Melton From Being Homeless” booth will sell chances for five dollars to pin the tail on the jackass. John Reeves has graciously volunteered to be the jackass for this honorable excursion into saving Frank's ass. What's an ass between two friends after all? If Mr. Reeves is unable to um, perform, Speaker Billy McCoy has also volunteered as when the word “jackass” was mentioned he immediately ran as fast as he could to sign up.

In order to help clean up the legal profession, Adam Kilgore of the Mississippi Bar will be giving away free, round-trip plane tickets to the North Pole where they keep their bar complaint forms (which are NOT available online). If you don't want to go to the North Pole, you can enjoy Brant Brantley's (of the Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance) free guided tours of the quicksand field over by High Street where all complaints against judges disappear. If for some reason you are unable to control yourself, never fear; Judge Houston Patton will operate his jail where no lawyers are needed or allowed as you just sit there for minutes... hours.... months...years until he decides he is tired of you sitting in his jail. Do not think Judge Patton is a bad judge however as he plans to serve free Mad Dog 20/20 to all inmates.

Trollfest '09 is a pet-friendly event as well. Feel free to bring your dog with you and do not worry if your pet gets hungry, as employees of the Jackson Zoo will be on hand to provide some of their animals as food when it gets to be feeding time for your little loved one.

Relax at the Fox News Tent. Since there are only three blonde reporters in Jackson (being blonde is a requirement for working at Fox News), Megan and Kathryn from WAPT and Wendy from WLBT will be on loan to Fox. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both and a torn-up Obama yard sign will entitle you to free drinks served by Megan, Wendy, and Kathryn. Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required. Just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '09 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

Note: Security provided by INS.

Trollfest '07

Jackson Jambalaya is the home of Trollfest '07. Catch this great event which promises to leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Sonjay Poontang and his band headline the night with a special steel cage, no time limit "loser must leave town" bout between Alan Lange and "Big Cat"Donna Ladd following afterwards. Kamikaze will perform his new song F*** Bush, he's still a _____. Did I mention there was no referee? Dr. Heddy Matthias and Lori Gregory will face off in the undercard dueling with dangling participles and other um, devices. Robbie Bell will perform Her two latest songs: My Best Friends are in the Media and Mama's, Don't Let Your Babies Grow up to be George Bell. Sid Salter of The Clarion-Ledger will host "Pin the Tail on the Trial Lawyer", sponsored by State Farm.

There will be a hugging booth where in exchange for your young son, Frank Melton will give you a loooong hug. Trollfest will have a dunking booth where Muhammed the terrorist will curse you to Allah as you try to hit a target that will drop him into a vat of pig grease. However, in the true spirit of Separate But Equal, Don Imus and someone from NE Jackson will also sit in the dunking booth for an equal amount of time. Tom Head will give a reading for two hours on why he can't figure out who the hell he is. Cliff Cargill will give lessons with his .80 caliber desert eagle, using Frank Melton photos as targets. Tackleberry will be on hand for an autograph session. KIM Waaaaaade will be passing out free titles and deeds to crackhouses formerly owned by The Wood Street Players.

If you get tired come relax at the Fox News Tent. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both will entitle you to free drinks.Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required, just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '07 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

Note: Security provided by INS