There will always be many numbers associated with the legendary Bobby Bowden…..
377 career wins
2 National Championships
22 Bowl Victories
but for me, the number which symbolizes his legacy the best is, well, his Tallahassee phone number.
His phone number? Really?
Yes, stick with me here…….
Remarkably, when I was hired in Tallahassee as a local sportscaster back in 1995, one of the first things I learned was Bowden’s number wasn’t private—it was listed! Right there in alphabetical order….. Robert Bowden…….
This was when phone books were a thing— where anybody, any fan, any member of the media could call the Bowden residence and the great thing most of the time either he or his wife Ann would answer?
It says it all about this Seminole icon. He was the most accessible coach I have ever covered where he didn’t just open his doors, he consistently complemented his wide-open access with a big smile, a hearty laugh, and always a new set of stories or a fresh way to describe any situation. He treated everyone the same.
Hearing the recent news that Bowden is facing a terminal battle with cancer has many of us mourning yet remembering how unique a man the FSU Head Coach was to so many.
Everyone who covered him has their favorite Bowden stories, here are a few of mine:
*I remember picking my spots to call him but having to anchor the local news on many holidays, one year I called him on Thanksgiving and asked if we could come over knowing his son, and then Auburn coach Terry Bowden was in town prepping for the upcoming SEC Championship. Bobby didn’t hesitate where I and my videographer arrived and were made to feel quite at home. Bobby and Terry along with the rest of the Bowden clan were of course watching football and talking football–I was thankful that Thanksgiving they gave me a few minutes to fill that day’s sportscast with another Bowden exclusive.
*I remember how it was also easy to talk to Bowden during tough times. One day news broke one of his players was arrested after fleeing the scene of a crime. I called his secretary Sue and asked if I could get a comment from Bobby? She said to come right down. I walked into his office and he couldn’t have been more accommodating saying “Can you believe it?” We had a great discussion before he gave me a few candid comments on camera…so unusual even back then… but that was Bobby.
*Bowden’s access allowed us to spend lots of time in his office, something you never see these days. I remember one spring I and another reporter were interviewing him there when Randy Moss knocked on the door, Bowden said “Hey Randy how was your weekend?” Moss said “Great.” Bowden followed up, did you go to class this morning Randy?” Moss said “No” then Bowden said “you gotta go to class Randy” Often with Bowden, everything was on the table right in front of us—so rare. If you think he was going easy on Moss, the future Hall of Famer was booted off the team after only a few weeks.
*Outside of football, I once saw Bowden walking into a restaurant where I was sitting with a friend. He walked by the table with his wife Ann, looked at me, and said “I see you’re cooking tonight.” Classic.
Bowden was always the same whether it was after a tough loss or a monumental win. For those who didn’t know him and routinely saw him consistently dish out dadgummit’s—don’t let the innocent, aw-shucks demeanor fool you, he was smart, extremely tough, and knew what he was doing. He led one of the best turnarounds in the history of college football which transformed FSU from an also-ran to national power by taking all of the big boys on the road and never backing down from playing anyone…anywhere.
The sad part for me was Bowden deserved better, if a few kicks would have gone his way I think he would have won at least a few more national championships. I always thought the ironic part of his career was the fact FSU churned out so many great NFL kickers during his mediocre years (ie. future NFL talents Dustin Hopkins and Graham Gano) if only they would have had a few of those in the 1990s, Bobby seemingly could have won even more and endured less wide rights.
Sure he will be remembered as a winner but for me, Bowden was bigger than wins or losses. No coach in college football history was a better man and a better salesman of his program than Bobby Bowden. He personified class whether it was talking to the media or the fans. Bobby Bowden was simply a better person than a football coach …..and that’s surely saying something.
Saluting Bobby, the first stop in another drive around the Naborhood, as always thanks for stopping by.
COACH DEION: Bobby Bowden had a lot of great players over the years. Two Heisman Trophy winners in Charlie Ward and Chris Weinke but his best pupil was Deion Sanders. You could make a case he’s the best athlete in our country’s history and possibly the best NFL player of all time.
His coaching career hasn’t started so swimmingly…
At the recent SWAC Media Days, Jackson State Head Football Coach Deon Sanders took exception with a Mississippi reporter who asked a question by saying “Deion” instead of “Coach”
Deion initially told the reporter “If you call Nick (Saban), Nick, you’ll get cussed out on the spot, so don’t do that to me,” Sanders later added. “Treat me like Nick.”
When the reporter told Coach Sanders he routinely “called Saban Nick” and followed up with another “Deion”, Sanders immediately walked out of the presser.
This is wrong on so many levels.
First off, at the recent SEC Media Days, I watched Nick Saban’s presser reporters routinely said “Nick” when asking a question. He didn’t cuss anyone out.
Saban never cussed me out when I in the past have asked him a question by saying his first name. I have covered Sean Payton for 15 years in New Orleans and have always said Sean and have never said “Coach Payton.”
It’s not disrespect, it’s frankly a preference from reporters. Some like to say first names while others prefer to use titles.
It’s not about race, it’s just the way we choose to do our jobs.
Deion Sanders is a legend on the football field but it’s prime time he studies up on the history of the media in terms of coaching protocol. When it comes to the media, his antics at SWAC Media Day were overreactive. Hopefully “Coach Sanders” grows thicker skin in the coming years.
GLADWELL’S BOMBERS: My favorite author Malcolm Gladwell is at it again. I swear he could write about birdwatching or garbage pails and I would buy it. For my money, the most versatile writer out there routinely touches a plethora of topics and always delivers.
The latest is an interesting look at how our military handled the bombing of Japan at the end of World War II in a book titled “The Bomber Mafia.” Gladwell hones in on a group that attempted to use better technology with the goal of saving civilian lives by focusing on hitting strategic targets. It’s a quick read that gives you a great glimpse into the contrasting approaches within the United States Military along with an enlightening look at the many leaders and pilots during our country’s second world war.
While the Bomber Mafia had great intentions in the end their approach didn’t work and as we know the United States chose to napalm Tokyo in March of 1945. While those results ended the war and were successful, the loss of life was profound.
Gladwell in a revealing interview with CBS this morning summarized his latest release by saying “I don’t think this book is about deciding who was right, I want people to appreciate the impossibility of the choice.” But when asked why release this book now? His answer was as interesting as his many literary offerings, ” We’re pretty quick off the mark these days to judge others whose situations we don’t entirely understand. I think it would be useful to force people not to do that.”
BEST WORKPLACES: Love Gladwell’s books and also enjoy reading Inc. magazine which like Gladwell routinely delivers wide-ranging perspective. One of its recent articles spotlighted successful and admirable aspects of our country’s best workplaces during this crazy COVID year.
Here are some of the highlights:
*How about New York’s advertising startup, “TripleLift” where when employees hit their five year work anniversary they receive a 5,000 stipend and a one-month paid sabbatical—talk about a morale boost.
*You have Austin’s financial technology consulting firm, “Fourlane,” where all employees who have been with the company for at least 90 days receive up to 1,000 per week to cover child care tutoring for as long as they need it?
*Coupa, a business out of San Mateo, California provides a student-loan assistance program that gives employees money to pay down their loans with no lifetime maximum. This program also extends to spouses and children.
*Finally when COVID hit, Atlanta software firm Achieveit instituted a program called Summer Fridays which turned into Fall Fridays which then became well “Perpetual Fridays” —where now employees get every other Friday off, year-round. Will be interesting if this becomes a post COVID trend….??!
NOBODY ASKED ME, BUT.….I appreciate all the great strides our country has made during the past few years in terms of breaking down barriers and eliminating tired statues and in this case outdated sports nicknames. Gone are the Washington Redskins and now after this season..those Cleveland Indians. While I understand the Redskins name being offensive I wish the Indians cold have come to the same agreement with its resisters—as Florida State did with the Seminole tribe but it didn’t happen.
WIth that said how does an organization spend the better part of a year whittling down a list of potential names that was at nearly 1,200 just over a month ago, included 140 hours of interviews with fans, community leaders, front-office personnel along with a survey of 40,000 fans..and this was the result????
Cleveland’s new name was inspired by the large landmark stone edifices — referred to as traffic guardians — that flank both ends of the Hope Memorial Bridge, which connects downtown to Ohio City. As the team moved closer to making a final decision on the name, team owner Paul Dolan said he found himself looking closely at the huge art deco sculptures.
Sorry but for my money a better solution for the baseball team who lives in the home of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame…how about….the Cleveland”Rockers”….seems like that was a no-brainer??
EXTRA POINT: This summer Vegas defensive lineman Carl Nassib came out as the first openly gav NFL player and guess what…..nobody really seemed to care? Now that’s great progress……
UNTIL NEXT BLOG,
PHOTO CREDITS: Tampa Bay Times, Eric Shelton/Clarion Ledger, The Boston Globe, Forbes, Pushkin Industries & Business Wire