Getting Older and Tying Your Shoes

Lyn Scarbrough

October 09, 2017 at 11:15 am.

Lindy's staffers (L-R) Matt Lowe, Lyn Scarbrough and the late Ben Cook at an LSU media event ... several years ago.

Lindy’s staffers (L-R) Matt Lowe, Lyn Scarbrough and the late Ben Cook at an LSU media event … several years ago.

“You know you’re getting old when you stoop to tie your shoes and wonder what else you could do while you’re down there.” – comedian George Burns

The late George Burns was one of my all-time favorites. He had a legendary career in vaudeville, on stage and screen, then late in his career with a revival in the movies. He even fashioned himself a singer.

But it was on television where he became most famous. Serving as the straight man for his co-star/wife Gracie Allen, The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show was a weekly fixture on CBS Television from 1950 to 1958.

They don’t make ‘em like George and Gracie anymore.

Burns lived six weeks beyond his 100th birthday. He lived life to the fullest, always with his sense of humor, never slowing down, still working to the end, and almost always smoking a cigar.

I don’t do cigars … except, of course, when there’s a big win. Otherwise, hopefully we all can approach our latter decades with the George Burns attitude.

Which brings us to today.

I’m 70 years old. I’ve been that age since Saturday, and hope that not many people can tell.

Saturday was when Alabama secured its hold on the SEC West by holding off Texas A&M in College Station, 27-19. The Aggies still have never beaten the Tide at Kyle Field.

Clemson and Penn State beat teams that they should beat that day to stay in the national championship picture, but Oklahoma and Michigan didn’t. Georgia beat Vanderbilt again, strengthening its grip on the SEC East. Auburn beat Ole Miss again, solidifying its place as the Crimson Tide’s primary threat in the SEC West, at least for another week. I was in the press box at Jordan-Hare for that one, covering Auburn games as I always do for Lindy’s.

So in other words, nothing changed because I turned 70. It wasn’t earth shaking. Everything stayed pretty much the same.

Driving back to Birmingham after the game, listening to Miami and Florida State on XM Channel 81, there was time to think back over 70 years on the planet and 50 years on press row.

It’s interesting the names that came across my mind.

Mickey Gamble, my first editor. He was in charge of the 1965 Retrospect, the Hueytown High School yearbook, and he asked me to be his sports editor, primarily to write up Golden Gopher football games. Mick graduated from Alabama and has succeeded in the engineering construction field. I may have influenced him to at least consider being an Auburn student, but not sure that he would admit that now.

Jerry Brown, my first full-time editor at The Auburn Plainsman, later head of the Auburn Journalism department. A talented journalist and teacher, he has always been a wordsmith, a prolific writer with a homespun-type style. One of the best with whom it was ever my privilege to work. Even today, a positive word from Jerry Brown means a lot.

David Housel, my first sports editor. We were college freshmen when he gave me my first sports assignment, then accompanied me to Sewell Hall to talk with his former Gordo High School teammates, Don Randolph and Larry Blakeney. The most successful football coach in Troy University history, the field there is named after Larry. The most respected media relations director in the country while he served Auburn in that role, the press box there is named after David.

Elmore Hudgins, the diminutive first-ever sports information director for the Southeastern Conference. An unexpected persuasive call from “Scoop” in 1972 got me back into sports journalism after I had decided to head in a different direction.

All of those guys have experienced hitting 70. “Scoop” has been gone for 20 years, dying at the age of 79.

Much has changed in sports in the past seven decades. Back then, only a few homes even had a television. Now, only a few college football games can’t be seen live on television in almost every home in the country.

Unfortunately, many things in sports have changed for the worse. We long for the days when we could write about things happening on the field and on the court … not about things happening off the field and in the courts.

But the basics are still the same. We are able to work with sports, tell about the games, meet the coaches and players, and do it in the country where athletes are given the greatest opportunity for success in all the world.

Hopefully, those things won’t change regardless of how many birthdays we celebrate.

When George Burns died, he was reportedly worth $30 million. When I die, I won’t be.

He had been inducted into all sorts of Halls of Fame and had been given a lot of lifetime achievement awards. I won’t have those things, either.

But when my days are done, I will have had great memories, cherished friends, a family that I loved dearly and a lifetime of blessings that could never be counted. I thank God for that and there are a lot of people in this business who feel the same way.

I received another quote in a Facebook message from a longtime friend this past week, three nights before hitting that seven decade plateau.

“Seventy is Heavenly.” It came from longtime friend, Steve Price, who experienced that milestone birthday a few months ago.

We’ll see, Steve. I hope you’re right. It would be great to have a lot more birthdays.

But, I’ve got to stop for now.

Just noticed that my shoe is untied. I might be down there for a while.