The Idle American: Time and Sports Keep Marching On.

Blackie Sherrod: The Best Sports Writer There Ever Was

Across the years, sports have loosened “message spigots” of cascading creative juices, particularly for collegians across the land.

Stephen F. Austin State University, newest member of The University of Texas System, has a storied basketball history, but in football – for a few seasons, at least. – not so much.

Such was true for the 1959-1960-1961 football teams, when late Coach William (Red) Conkright – a collegiate grid star at The University of Oklahoma and later a professional player and coach – didn’t fare well at SFA.

His three-year record was 6-25-1, with his SFA tenure fading to black after the third season. Numerous pickets and banners at the November homecoming parade in 1961 suggested that he, uh, leave. One banner on the parade route–unfurled in front of what was then the Stone Fort Bank–pulled no punches. It read: “Win, Heck. Just Score.” And those frat guys didn’t even know how to spell “heck.”…


   Across the years, sports have loosened “message spigots” of cascading creative juices, particularly for collegians across the land.

For example, during a quarter-century ending in the 1990s, Tom Osborne’s University of Nebraska teams marched roughshod over most opponents. One usual victim was The University of Missouri. A Cornhusker faithful hoisted a two-word banner: “Maul Missouri.”

The Tigers – as if flying a white flag long before kick-off – seemed content with building character instead of seeking football lore. Their banner read: “Maintain Dignity Against Nebraska.”…



Don Newbury

Arkansans and Texans whose memories stretch back a half-century remember the intense rivalries between The Universities of Texas and Arkansas.  For several years, Longhorn Coach Darrell Royal pitted his wizardry against that of the Razorbacks’ Frank Broyles.

Before the storied 1969 game in Little Rock, a clever message appeared on the marquee of a church in Fayetteville, Arkansas. It provided a memory still found to be humorous decades later. It read: “Football is Only a Game. Spiritual Things are Eternal. Nevertheless, Beat Texas!”

It was called “the game of the century” in college football’s 100th anniversary season, when the Longhorns and Razorbacks ranked one and two nationally. President Richard Nixon attended the game, arriving by helicopter in the end zone. Texas scored late, winning 15-14….


   It is worth the re-telling of Blackie Sherrod’s first day of retirement. Having written for the Temple Telegram, Fort Worth Press, Dallas Times-Herald and Dallas Morning News for more than sixty years, he had won all the major trophies, plaques and citations signifying his greatness among sports journalists.

Many fans think he was “the best there ever was.” They may be right.

Anyways (and that’s the way he introduced sentences regularly, just as predictably as his calling baseball’s annual highlight, the “World Serious”), somewhere along the way, he spotted a T-shirt he wanted to wear on his first day of retirement. He bought it, eager to wear it when his work was done.

No doubt he had dozens of T-shirts, but none was adorned with such clever words reflecting his view on things. A further guess is that the message accurately summed up his reflection on a colorful life that was to span ninety-six years. It read: “You Have Mistaken Me for Someone Who Cares.”…


   Sherrod was a graduate of Howard Payne University, picking up his diploma there a decade before I crossed the same stage in 1961. During my HPU presidency, 1985-1997, a highlight was conferring the university’s highest recognition – an honorary doctorate – to Sherrod.

During his response, this sports writing genius – who never had a journalism course – credited the late Dr. Cleo McChristy, then a middle-aged college English professor, with teaching him most about writing. She was a veteran professor when I sat in her classes. Admittedly, she was genius, but she “learnt” Blackie more than she “learnt” me.

Sherrod’s fans at the commencement exercises shed tears – just as he did – when he accepted the award. One fan, appreciative of Blackie’s rapier wit, observed, “I’m so glad I came today, if only to see Blackie weep. I didn’t think he had tear ducts.”…


   Dr. Newbury, longtime university president, has written weekly since 2003. He continues platform appearances throughout Texas. Contact: 817-447-3872. Email: Facebook: Don Newbury

Please click HERE to find Don’s inspirational and humorous Memoir on Amazon.

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