By Ralph Hood
I just read a listing of the greatest athletes of the 20th century in my hometown of Brunswick, Georgia. I was absolutely appalled to learn that I was not included. Somehow my name was omitted. Surely, this was an egregious error.
After all, I did have many astounding athletic accomplishments while growing up in Glynn County and later in my long athletic career.
I distinctly remember …
… losing a foot race at a Cub Scout athletic event in the front yard of Leland Moore (whose sister was voted Most Athletic in my class). That might not sound outstanding to you, but it was a mother/son foot race, and I lost to my mother! It was, as Churchill said of Dunkirk, an “ignominious defeat.”
… coming in second swimming the backstroke at the state DeMolay convention in Atlanta. (I might have won had not a few of us carried out an early scientific experiment on the effects of beer on teenagers the previous night.)
… running into the wrong huddle at a “B” team football game in Savannah. I really did. That was before contact lenses and facemasks, and I was blind as a bat without my glasses. By noon the next day, everyone at Glynn Academy was calling me Wrong-Way Hood.
… competing in the state water skiing tournament in Augusta, GA. There were 15 contenders in the men’s division, and I came in 13th. You should have seen the two guys I beat. Pitiful!
… playing the position of catcher in a Cub Scout baseball game. Daddy had told me never to play catcher. The mask was too small for me—as was everything that fit normal boys—and a tipped ball knocked me out cold. The first thing I remember when I woke up was Daddy’s face—complete with his ever-present, but never lit, King Edward cigar—as he growled, “I told you never to catch.” (Robert Sapp, by the way, was playing baseball in the same league. They put him on the “greatest” list, but not me.)
… being a master squirrel hunter in the swamps and woods of Glynn County. I was hunting squirrels long before I could drive. Daddy took me. I walked for hours and usually returned with one squirrel. Daddy took a nap beside the car. He slept until a squirrel woke him up, then he shot the squirrel and went back to sleep. His squirrel was usually bigger than mine.
… being the only person on a large deep-sea fishing boat who did not—repeat not—catch a single fish in six hours of fishing. This was in the 1960s, and I had long since graduated from high school and college. Unfortunately, one of my high-school classmates was onboard to witness this sad event. I also got seasick.
Given the above facts, it is obvious that my omission from the list was a grave oversight which will no doubt be corrected posthaste.