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OPINION | WALLY HALL: A&M conjures fun memories of road trips

by Wally Hall | October 28, 2020 at 2:50 a.m.

This column probably should have a College Station, Texas, dateline on it since everything in this column happened there.

In the mid-1980s, the bus carrying the Southwest Conference Football Writer's Tour was speeding toward Texas A&M when it stopped. Charlie Fiss and Bo Carter, the SWC tour guides, stood up at the front and announced:

"We have two options for lunch: ham and cheese on white bread or ham and cheese on wheat bread."

Charlie called the sandwich shop and ordered 60 sandwiches (there were 39 of us), half on white and half on wheat.

When we arrived, the sandwiches were passed out. Sure enough, on every sandwich one slice of bread was white and the other wheat.

In those days, the Aggies gravitated toward being the butt of jokes, despite the fact it is a great academic institution with an engineering program that is top shelf.

It was there, on another tour, when our bus driver clipped a car on the way off campus. The driver kept going, but a student -- who soon was joined by other students -- chased him down at the Ramada Inn. Thankfully, the SWC had insurance.

Another year at the Ramada, one of the sportswriters -- a rather short guy -- decided he would wrestle Tom Dore, a rookie on the tour.

Dore crushed the guy in about two seconds. Dore was 7-2 and played basketball at Missouri before focusing on radio play-by-play and later TV in Chicago -- where the game ritual was Michael Jordan dusting baby powder, which looked like smoke, off his hands in front of the TV crew.

On a side note, Dore was and is a friend. He's never been challenged to wrestle again.

A&M is where Alan Cannon is the sports information director, although he was given a fancy assistant athletic director title in 2003. He graduated from there and went to work there in 1989. He's one of the best in the business.

Before him, the assistant SID was Tom Turbiville, who owned a miniature golf course and set up a tournament for the press tour.

About 20 people went. Ironically, there were 10 from the front of the bus -- known as the milk drinkers -- and 10 from the back of the bus, where coincidentally the iced-down beer was kept.

They broke into two natural groups, and after nine holes one of the back-of-the-bus guys was shooting 10. He had eight holes-in-one and a par two on another hole.

One of the milk drinkers had a score of 11 at the turn. It soon became competitive, and the milk men sent a monitor over to make sure there was no mulligans or cheating.

On the last hole, the milk drinker was a stroke back and the back-of-the-bus guy aced the final hole for a course-record 21 to win the trophy.

There are a million stories about College Station, including Tom's Barbecue, basketball coach Shelby Metcalf and the short tenure of Johnny "Ranger" Keith, the SID who Jackie Sherrill hired away from Barry Switzer at Oklahoma.

Every stop of the SWC tour provided notes and paper for interviews. Keith's idea was different: We had notebooks to write in and could get our own notes.

Yet, when the five o'clock whistle blew, he was the best SID in the country.

He once took several Arkansas writers to a party at Sherrill's home. Sherrill had a short conversation with Ranger, and we quickly left through the back door.

That year on the SWC tour, Sherrill and a couple of his coaches played poker with some of the media, and it didn't end well.

Sherrill thought yours truly had been in the poker game, but I was too busy winning miniature golf.


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