BL:… then Cowboy Joe West pulled out a fork

May09/ 2018


… then Cowboy Joe West pulled out a fork

I have attended too many sports/Hall of Fame banquets over the years.  Root canal surgery can be more better.  They can too oft be fraught with the twin perils of boredom and bad taste.

In preparation for last Friday night’s annual North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame shindig, I concentrated on the pleasant anticipation of seeing “old friends” gathering to honor our beloved “Coach Jones”… a 2018 posthumous inductee into the NCSHoF.

The “seeing old friends” was the pleasure it always is, but, by golly, the banquet itself was amazingly well-done. By far the most pleasant of the dozens of similar shindigs I have attended over the years.

Well-deserved KUDOS to the NCSHoF officials who recognized the logistical perils lurking in any such event where an open microphone is given to anyone unaware of the responsibilities therein… and with no innate sense of how long “just 5-8 minutes” is.

Apt comparisons would be (1) giving an uncapped magic marker to a 2 year-old… (2) trying to clip a cat claws by oneself… (3) voting for a political candidate who does not note his/her party affiliation in their mailers.

Friday night… the video and audio worked… the meal was fine… the assembled 1,300 were well-behaved… only one inductee “got political” noting how glad he is that sexual predators have access to women’s rest rooms in NC… the only inductee that used humor – MLB Umpire “Cowboy Joe” West – knew what he was doing and “did it” very well.

The NCSHoF has been doing this for 50-some years. It gets criticized for all the reasons any “Hall of Fame” gets criticized… you don’t agree with who got in and/or who didn’t especially if “didn’t” is you or someone you know and like. NCSHOF

The NCSHoF induction criteria is ambiguously specific or specifically ambiguous. “Controversy” is to a Hall of Fame what garlic is to cooking… some is good. Too much can be too much. The NCSHoF seems OK in that regard.

This year’s 15 inductees included one of NC’s three speed skaters (?) and a woman who surfs and owns a popular grocery store in Morehead City.

The current President of The NCSHoF is NC State’s legendary pitbull Nora Lynn Finch. Ms Finch exudes “no-nonsense” and a “because I said so… end of discussion” administrative persona. I think that is just fine as opposed to the more traditional “good ol’ boy” style. … Enough about that.

About 25 or so of my “grew up with” guys and gals gathered for the induction of our high school basketball coach – “Coach Jones”. His full name was Coach Paul Jones. If any of us ever referred to him as “Paul” none of us would know who they were talking about.

When he made his permanent and most positive impact on our lives we were all teenagers and he was in his early-mid 30s. Now we are twice as old as he was then. He was handsome with a Hallmark card family and possessed all the admirable qualities one could ever imagine in an adult role model for “young people”.

In this era of clay-footed role models… Coach Paul Jones – over 76 years – NEVER, to my knowledge, revealed any aspect of his personality or personal life that was less than exemplary.

Try living your life for 50 years as a “everybody knows him/her” in a small town of 20,000… and do so “exemplary”. THAT is as deserving of “honor” as any sports accomplishment.

“Coach” passed away in 2009 from pulmonary fibrosis. He won over 660 Basketball games over a 38-year career all in Kinston.

Of the 1,300 people at Friday’s event, I suppose “maybe” 50 knew anything about “our Coach Jones” beyond what appeared in the printed program.

I cogitated about that through the night’s festivities. Of the 15 inductees, I had heard of maybe 10 to the degree I could say “Oh, she was an LPGA golfer (Donna Andrews)”… “he was a UNC/MLB pitcher (Scott Bankhead)”… “he was a wide receiver at Duke (Wes Chesson)”… etc.

The other five… I had no clue. But there were friends and family on-hand that knew them and knew of their achievements… that was/is “a good thing”.

I was chatting with “one of us” as we found our seats. “Steve” was saying how deserving Coach Jones was of this honor… and how it was “long-overdue”. I certainly concurred but added in the context of the sports history of the entire state, Coach Jones’ impact was primarily within our community… and, more specifically, with our generation.

As the program began, they did the five posthumous inductees first with video clips. They did them alphabetically.

Before they got to “J” they did “Jack Holley”. Coach Jack Holley coached high school football in North Carolina for 46 years. He won a whole lot of games and championships at 4-5 small towns across the state. I had never heard of him… and I’m pretty good about “hearing about” anyone of note.

I turned to my friend Steve. “I’ve never heard of him… have you?” Steve shook his head…

“He was someone’s Coach Jones.” I said.

Does being in a Hall of Fame, by definition, imply that one is “Famous”?

Is “Fame” measured solely by mansions and money?

Does defining “Famous” comes down to “the size of the fish” and “the size of the pond”?  Coach Jones was not “Dean” or “K” or Jimmy V”.

I would not pay $150 to attend a banquet to honor them.  I did for Coach Jones… and never considered NOT being on-hand Friday night.

A group of 25 or so men and women, all of whom are now older than we ever imagined we would ever be, gathered in Raleigh to commune… to honor a man who positively impacted our lives directly for 3-4 years over 50 years ago.

NOTE: Our basketball teams went 51-1 over two years with back-to-back State Championships.  Two earlier teams had been runners-up.  I don’t think that success was what we were honoring.

3-4 of our group had remained in Kinston over the years. The rest of us left for parts near and far to raise our families and make our marks and live our lives. “Keeping in touch” has been via reunions and “running into…” happenstances.

Those opportunities are dwindling down.

There is no one in “my home town” group that I “don’t like”. Not a single one. I can’t say that about everyone I’ve ever met for sure. I don’t live near any of them nor do I socialize with any of them on a regular basis. Maybe “familiarity would breed contempt” but I don’t have to be concerned about that.

With a couple of exceptions, I don’t know their “politics”. With those exceptions it is absolutely inconsequential. Can’t say THAT much anymore.

Was “Coach Jones” special? Is “our group” special?

“Coach Jones” was certainly special to us… and the collective “we” are special enough to one another that we all got together last Friday night.

Is it all attributable to Kinston’s World Famous Pure Artesian Well Water? … or all of the above.


BobLee… what about Umpire “Cowboy Joe” West and the silverware? You had to “be there” to understand.



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