Sportin’ Life goes Bye Bye at News&Observer
I always figured that Barry “Sportin’ Life” Saunders would be the Last Man Standing as The News & Observer sank inexorably into a bottomless pit of very very red ink.
I, AgentPierce, stand before you to admit I was wrong.
Barry be gone and The N&O is still on life support. Barry-ly.
The once-haughty-now-pathetic newspaper has not technically “flat-lined”. Ergo, I was technically wrong in my prediction… but not by much.
Yesterday, July 18, 2017, “Sportin’ Life” (1) signed his Keep My Mouth Shut… Or Else form; and (2) snatched his severance check from the clamy hand of either the N&O publisher, the editor or some HR flunky; and bid a not-very-fond farewell to his employer of the past 24 years.
I suspect it was either the publisher or the editor. That’s just a guess. One or more security personnel were likely in the room… When you can as many people as The N&O does, you learn the process can get “messy”.
NOTE: I nicknamed N&O columnist Barry Saunders “Sportin’ Life” some years ago. Less than 8% of you had a clue where that came from.
Sportin’ Life is a central character in George Gershwin’s classic all-black Broadway play Porgy & Bess. The character was a jive-talking street hustler. Pretty much the persona that Barry Saunders chose for himself in his columns. It was the PERFECT nickname for Barry.
I also referred to Saunders as “The Colonel” as in Colonel Saunders of KFC fame. One of the 100s of former N&Oers around The Triangle told me once Barry hated that name. I tried to use it whenever possible. But Sportin’ Life was more better.
In my opinion… Barry Saunders is a very accomplished wordsmith, columnist, writer, humorist, race-baiter, and general-purpose provocateur.
His job description was piss off the white male baby boomers in North Raleigh and Cary. He did that job very well in his heyday. I always figured he got a bonus every time an enraged white male reader threatened to cancel his subscription over some jive-ass insult Barry had made in a column.
In recent years “cancelled subscriptions” stopped being a joking matter at The N&O.
I should add… Barry is also an accomplished archivist of the complete works of Redd Foxx / Fred Sanford.
I have never met Barry Saunders nor exchanged words with him in any format that I am aware of.
The formal announcement of Saunders’ departure was “interesting” in several respects…
1. There was a glaring absence of any of the usual phrases such as “retiring” or “pursuing other career options” or “going on sabbatical” or “entering WITSEC” or “signing on with Rev “Bully” Barber as his Man Friday”. Nada… nuthin’ as to Barry’s future.
2. There was a glaring absence of any quote whatsoever from Barry himself. You know the usual yadda yadda about “so many wonderful memories… so many incredibly wonderful people”… “I’ve been blessed to have…”… Nada… nuthin’. …. Huummm!
There was an effusively glowing This Is Your Life Barry Saunders scrapbook account of his more provocative works. There were the usual quotes from the usual area left-wing luminaries that will still take a call from anyone at The News & Observer. But no “future plans”… no quote from Barry.
My best guess scenario… having spoken with more than a few “former N&Oers”. Despite the Keep Your Mouth Shut… or Else form they all report what a gawd-awful depressing place The N&O has become in it’s lingering death throes. I’ve been hearing versions of that for 3-4 years.
Imagine the most depressing “old folks home” you’ve ever visited. Imagine the “smell of death and dying and hopelessness”. Picture the looks on the faces of those shuffling down the hallways… either afraid they might die today or tomorrow… or afraid they WON’T. Both options equally depressing
Imagine having to exist another day or week surrounded by empty cubicles… imagining the echoes of long-gone co-workers last seen carrying their cardboard box of “personal items” out the door as a security guard confiscated their IDs.
Imagine the only reason you are still there is (1) there is nowhere else to go… (2) the last check you got did clear the bank and hopefully the next one will too… but who knows for sure.
Imagine being at The News & Observer today… next week… next month?
When Barry’s turn came, it ain’t like Sportin’Life hadn’t rehearsed this scene.
I doubt he played the…. YOU CAN’T FIRE ME…. I’m Barry… I’m Black… I know people who will pop a cap on yo sorry white asses… blah blah blah. But maybe?
I’m guessing Barry was pulling down around $150,000 since he was “Barry Saunders” for 24 years.
I’m guessing that put him in a very small elite payroll group with RobRielleWho Christensen and “That Damn” Dan Kane. Maybe Op/Ed Editor/ Weasel Ned “DUI” Barnett but maybe not.
Barry became economically unretainable.
I’m guessing N&O Publisher / Editor whoever offered Barry the either/or of “take a sizable pay cut OR… sign this Keep Your Mouth Shut… or Else form and hit the bricks dude.”
The empty cardboard box the security goon was holding might have been a clue.
Barry chose the OR… and exited somewhat acrimoniously… as most/all such encounters tend to go.
So now… who gets to “turn out the lights” when the final STOP THE PRESSES is uttered?
I’m betting it’ll be Jim Jenkins. “Jenks” is the Op/Ed something or other. No one really knows what “Jenks” does. He has been lurking around South McDowell Street since Frank Daniels Jr was riding a tricycle.
But hey… I was wrong about Barry.
Epilogue: To Phil Berger: Yo Phil PLEASE DO NOT issue some piece o’ crap statement about how “I never knew what Barry’s politics was”. DON”T PHIL!