Hope In Henderson

January17/ 2000

… I had one of THE coolest experiences I’ve had in quite a while recently.  I wish each one of you regular readers could have been there to share it.  It was exactly what I needed to remind me that what we preach here and the principles I pound you with day after week after month are still manifested at least in certain communities across America.  BobLee went up to little Henderson NC and found “hope”.

   Henderson NC is a typical North Carolina “small town” of 14,000 located about 30 north of Raleigh/Durham.  If it is “unique” it is in its “typical-ness”.  To call it “a Mayberry” is probably apt, and I doubt the locals would mind too much.  Big enough to have a Wal-Mart, but not a Wal-Mart AND a Target … a Lowe’s but not a Lowe’s AND a Home Depot.  Got the picture?

…The special occasion was a BobLee ALIVE program for the Henderson Rotary Club out at Henderson Country Club.  I passed the 50 programs mark a month or so ago.  My vagabond travels have taken me not quite from Murphy to Manteo but close … from Greensboro, Raleigh, and Charlotte to Mt Holly, Statesville, and now Henderson.  Largest audience was 270, smallest was 13.  Another opening, another show.

   Everywhere I have been I have met nice folks.  Of course I go in expecting to find “nice folks”.  You may recall the socio-pathic “Al Bundy” Wolfpacker I encountered at a Triad area show.  He and his ilk have been such the small minority.  As I take the podium I look out at curious expressions of “what’s this guy all about?”.  Hopefully over 20 minutes I can answer that question in a pleasant fashion.

   As you would expect, with any cross-section of citizens in North Carolina, there are a mixed bag of fan loyalties in every audience.  Tar Heels tend to dominate but only by a few percentage points over Wolfpackers.  The Triad area brings out Deacons and east of I-95 tends to get a purple hue.  With civic clubs, be it Rotary or Kiwanis, the age demographics begin in mid 30s on up into “well into retirement”.  Civic clubs seem to be losing popularity with up and comers which does not bode well for our communities.  The friendships and fellowship they provide bring a community together rather than everyone cocooning in their own private worlds.


   The 40+ guys (and one gal) at the Henderson Country Club fit the profile for Rotarians.  There were the “professionals (lawyers, doctors, accountants) and the small business owners and a few “corporate types” but Henderson isn’t really on the corporate HQ map. It used to be with Roses’ but not any more.  Consistent with Rotarians, virtually everyone has a college degree from somewhere with local colleges predominate.

   Not surprisingly, the clubs in the smaller communities seem to exhibit a high level of fellowship.  At around the 35-50 member mark, they all know each other and the mingling is more pronounced.  The larger clubs have obvious cells of “regulars” who likely always share the same table and swap the same jokes.  Understandable “herd behavior”.  Every club has its personality stereotypes … the Type-A personality, the back slapping jokesters, the Howard Spraques, the “always serious” guy, the suspicious beady-eyed fellow.  Amazing what you see when you look out over 50 or so folks all wondering “what the heck is this guy all about?”

   One of my pat opening lines is “Due to the nature of my subject matter, it is necessary that I use certain obscenities based on your personal perspective.  The three obscenities I use are Dick Baddour, Chuck Amato, and Mike Krzyzewski.”  It sets the stage.  Once I had a hand raised at that point and the person asked “who are they?”.  I looked at my watch and I had 23 minutes left to do “sports humor” and at least one person had no clue who those 3 guys were.  Thats when you go to juggling dinner rolls or sticking spoons on your chin.  That was not a problem in Henderson.

   Those of you who do any public speaking know that some times you have your A-game and sometimes you just don’t.  The “just don’t” times are excruciating experiences for speaker and audience.  I had one of “those” in the Triad a few months ago.  I still get the hebbie jebbies when I think about it.  But in Henderson I was “in the groove”.  I could have hit a one-iron 250 yards into a tea cup that night.  It’s a combination of timing, audience synergy, shuffling material on the fly, and the various theatrical elements that create a warm fuzzy between the speaker and the audience.

   I wish I could put these Henderson Rotarians on a bus and carry them with me on the road.  Key to “getting” what I talk about is a good base knowledge of ACC lore. Both current and over the past 30 years.  If I have to explain Mike’s cussing, Chuck’s eccentric dress, Dean’s micro-managing, Tar Heel arrogance, or Wuff paranoia the 25 minutes is gone before I hit the first punch line.  These folks “got it”.  We skipped thru ACC 101 in five minutes and were doing “Dudley’s steal” and “amphibious” by the 7 minute mark.  Every fan base gets its jibes in my routine and the key is keeping two different fan bases on my side at all times.

   I usually ask my host in advance who the “hardcore” fans are and I watch their expressions.  If they grab a knife and I see their knuckles turn white, I move on to another subject.  It’s not unusual to see that by the way.  But not in Henderson.

   So I did my thing and the meeting was adjourned.  I usually do a few book sales and I’m out within 15 minutes, not in Henderson.  Several dozen fellows gathered around and we really chewed the fat.  Several were high ranking “fat cats” in the various booster clubs and had personal experiences to share.  I shared a few of my stories that are way too “inside baseball” (and a bit too ribald) for a general audience and we moved from the dining room, thru the lobby, and into the parking lot for over an hour.  We had every Big Four school represented and everyone took their turn.  It was a quite fun experience.

   Guess what … every one of these guys SWEARS he was in Carmichael for “8 down with 17 seconds to play” … was in Reynolds for “Dudley steals the ball” AND on hand for “Leo Hart’s shoestring play”.  Hey, I was their guest, I didn’t argue with them.

   Was it the “small town conviviality”, “sun spots”, or simply BobLee Swagger’s incredible Pied Piper ability to bring out the best in sports fans?  Based on nasty grams that appeared on a few fan boards after my Rashad column, I doubt it was the latter.

   Next up is Rocky Mount Kiwanis on Thursday at noon … Bienvenue Country Club.  Maybe “Dashing Danny The Rocky Mount Rocket” and/or Marion “The Barbarian” Barnes will be on hand.  Just so long as I don’t have to explain who Mike Krzyzewski is …

Don’t EVER think that the bloviating buffoons on the fan boards represent the mainstream of any school’s fan base.  They do not.  Travel to Henderson to see for yourself.  Tell’em BobLee sent you.

America needs more pancake suppers, 

more pledge of allegiances 

… and less cussin’ and fussin’. 


Swagger’s Stumper

What Rocky Mount native & former Deacon 

has at least two Super Bowl rings?


Bring BobLee to your club or community.  

Contact [email protected]  

Spring bookings already on the calendar


Klinger, from Toledo, was a die-hard Mud Hens fan

      I am declaring a moratorium on “poor misunderstood Rashad” stories.  ENOUGH ALREADY … lets talk about Sean May or Quentin Thomas, or Jared Hasse … anybody but McCants.  JJ Redick writes poetry and he is “a faggot” … McCants writes poetry and he is “enigmatic” and sensitive.  Gotta love that partisanship!

   This NHL season is hanging on longer than Pres Francisco Franco and Yasser Arafat.  Stick a fork in it Gary.

   Jose’s steroid tell-all hits the streets the same week that McGwire and his hottie wife appear in SI’s swimsuit issue.

   New UNC Asst Coach, Tommy Thigpen, has an “Urban Connection”.   The former Tar Heel LB was hired by Urban Meyer at Bowling Green in 2001.  He moved to Illinois when left for Utah.  Tommy was retained at Illinois by their new coach Ron Zook who was fired at Florida and replaced by URBAN MEYER.  Kevin Bacon has got to be in this loop somehow!

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