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Sports broadcasting: A career unintended

By   /   November 19, 2009  /   Comments

Beside my bed the bright moonbeams bound

Almost as if there were frost on the ground

Rising up, I gaze at the Mountain moon;

Lying back, I think of my old home town.

Li Bo, Quiet Night Thoughts

Poet   Tang Dynasty 700 A.D.

It was Friday afternoon and I was headed down U.S. 19 for Pelham. The Pelham Hornets were facing the Randolph Clay Red Devils for the last playoff spot in Region 1-A. I was completing my first season of broadcasting Mitchell County, Pelham and Westwood Wildcat games for WQLI radio. Longtime friend Jerry White had allowed me to join his broadcast crew for the first time. I had accumulated 41 years broadcasting radio sports here in Albany and needed a change of scenery.

I felt my relationship with the local schools needed to come to an end. “Familiarity Breeds Contempt”, was one of my mother’s favorite sayings. She hit me over the head with that old bit of wisdom a number of times as I grew up in Albany. It was time to break with over four decades of sports broadcasting and ply my trade somewhere else.

I really don’t know how many games I had broadcast over the last four decades, but it was probably several hundred or more. From the late 1960s until the middle 80s, each football season had 18 to 20 games on our schedule. Since 2000, the schedule has slowed to about a 10-game-a-year football slate.

There was also the frustration of watching local schools produce weak and mostly mediocre football teams. There were exceptions and I was lucky enough to have been there for some of them.

They can’t take that away from me

It was 1968 and I was enrolled at Albany Junior College (Darton) and working full-time in local radio to pay for the college, books, food, cars, etc. The sports department at WALG had been broadcasting local high school football since the 1950s and needed a color analyst for games. My schedule included 1-local games from Mills Stadium as well as out of town games in Douglas, Jesup, Valdosta, Tifton and Moultrie.

In the 1970s, I broadcast some of the first Deerfield-Windsor football games and was part of the first broadcast crews to include Lee County High football. Lee County football was pretty bad in those days. The old stadium was awful and each August wasps and spiders battled with our crew to keep us out of the old press box on Starkville Road.

In 1968 I became the first Caucasian announcer to announce Monroe High football as the Tornadoes joined the Georgia High School Association. The late Doc Settles and I began a friendship that season. Our close friendship lasted until he died. Doc had begun his broadcast career one year earlier than I.

In 1976, I announced the first Dougherty High Region 1-AAA football championship as they beat Thomasville Central for the title. The next week the infamous “Flood Bowl” game at Mills Stadium was on WALG. Dougherty lost 7-6 to Wayne County during the largest downpour of rain I have ever seen before a football game. The north end zone was covered with one foot of water and the officials would hold the ball till snapped to keep it from floating away. If you remember the name Lindsey Scott, Lindsey Scott, Lindsey Scott then you know the guy that helped beat Dougherty that night and also helped build the legend of University of Georgia broadcaster Larry Munson.

It was the only football game I ever attended that could have led to a player drowning during big pileups near the north end zone.

This was no joke! Players were sometime submerged under water after tackles concluded and held their breath until officials yanked them off the ground.

State finals were coming

I had not been involved with Georgia state football final broadcasts until the 1980s. I was lucky enough to broadcast State finals in GHSA (Worth County-Marist) and GISA (Deerfield Windsor-Savannah Christian) during that period.

I even went to Camilla to broadcast a Westwood-Savannah Christian final in GISA during that period. I was working for a Savannah radio group that carried Savannah Christian games, but the crew could not make it to Camilla. I contracted with them to broadcast a game and did my best to sound interesting for a team I had never known, a city I had visited only once and a radio station I had never heard of either.

During the 1990s, I worked several seasons as Dougherty made it into the first and second round of state play. In 1998. I followed Dougherty all the way to their state championship in Peach County which included my first broadcast of a game from the Georgia Dome. (You haven’t reached the big leagues until you broadcast from the Dome).

Four state championships in football; seven state championships in basketball and one baseball state final are on my resume. Not bad for a guy that never intended to spend forty years in sports broadcasting. My real desire in life was to have been a lumberjack! We will save that story for another day.

Sonny-Lofton-002By: Sonny Lofton.   Albany natve Sonny Lofton is a veteran broadcaster and writer. He co-hosts the “Frank and Sonny” show from 4 to 6 p.m. Monday through Thurday on WWVO The Voice FM-90.7.

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Comments

  1. Bill Bradshaw says:

    Sonny;

    I was one of the high school players who played in a game you announced. It was October 19, 1973, Deerfield vs Riverview, I never got to hear you announce but if you have tapes I would love to listen. Thanks for your voice

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