Thursday, May 15, 2003

Magic on the Court (Sports Cover Story)

This was one of the first pieces I did that I was thoroughly proud of. It was a hoot hanging out with these guys, and I did my best to make sure their personalities came out in the piece. Ever since, it became a standard in my pieces to do that.

It’s a typical Thursday night at Champion Johnnie Community Center in Jackson. Four men are playing a fast pickup basketball game. Shouts ring out: “Go to the net!” “Right here!” “Shoot!” Their voices echo off the walls, mixing with the squeak of rubber against the floor. The ball travels from hand to hand before James Clayton grabs it and takes a quick shot. The ball bounces off the rim and back. Clayton and another player, Bob Woods, grab for it. Both barely touch it, but the ball bounces past and out of bounds.

Clayton and Woods both race to the ball and immediately start arguing about which of them, if either, touched it and who touched it last. Clayton finally ends the argument by simply throwing the ball inbounds to his teammate. Woods races by and yells:

“He’s a cheater! Put that in the story!”

Thursday, May 1, 2003

"Run, Rudolph, Run!" (Column)

This was one of my 'angry' political columns that attracted me attention from a certain fringe group I'll call neo-conservatives. They're the ones that sent in letters, demanding I be 1) fired or 2) killed. They went online and bravely called me anti-American, communist, and all that noise. At this point, I'd had half a dozen death threats, and I was enjoying pissing them off every week. I will say, though, that when this story broke, it infuriated me like little else had since the war started.

“People around here, they take care of their own. You can't put a price on a man's head, and I don't know anybody who would have given him up, even for a million dollars.''*

This person is speaking of whom? Osama bin Laden or Saddam Hussein, you might say? You would be wrong. This person, Sarah Greenfield of Marble, North Carolina, is referring to Eric Robert Rudolph, the alleged Olympic Park bomber. Rudolph is suspected in four bombings between July 1996 and January 1998. He also is reported to belong to the fringe religion, Christian Identity, which is outspokenly opposed to abortion and homosexuality and is vehemently anti-Semitic.

The Christian Identity religion stresses that northern Europeans are the “true” Israelites and that all other races are “mud people.” They also espouse the idea that the Holocaust never happened.

Rudolph has been in hiding since the end of January 1998 in the Appalachian Mountains, avoiding any and all attempts by federal agents to bring him in. In western North Carolina, he has become a mythic figure, featured famously on the “Run Rudolph Run” t-shirts and supported outwardly by some of the region’s fundamentalist conservatives.