Bradley’s Buzz: What came before SEC Media Days? Glad you asked

The 1977 SEC Sky Writers

Credit: Mark Bradley

Combined ShapeCaption
The 1977 SEC Sky Writers

Credit: Mark Bradley

SEC Media Days begin Monday at the College Football Hall of Fame. They run through Thursday. Imagine how long they’ll last when Texas and Oklahoma come aboard. Kevin Sumlin, formerly of Texas A&M, joked that the bloated event should extend into a second week. We mightn’t be far from a second month.

At some point the assembled coaches and players might get around to discussing football as it’s played, as opposed to football as it’s administered. As was suggested when we made our preseason picks last week, offseason discussions have had little to do with the sport itself. There’s NIL money. There’s the transfer portal. There’s realignment. There’s two months of fodder right there.

Having been part of the motley crew that was the 1977 SEC Sky Writers – Southern-based correspondents flown from campus to campus on an SEC-chartered plane of dubious reliability – I can report that topics then were rudimentary. “Who’s your quarterback, coach?” Or, “How many times will you play on TV? One? Two?” (In 1977, there was no ESPN.)

The issues that stoke college coverage 45 years later – players getting paid, players changing teams, teams changing leagues – were so far from reality as to be science fiction. Though, if memory serves, the big movie that summer began with the words, “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away …”

After winning a national championship at Pittsburgh, Johnny Majors had come marching home to Tennessee. Georgia, which lost to Pitt in the Sugar Bowl, had a big-time linebacker named Ben Zambiasi, whom Vince Dooley told us got so hyped he’d upchuck in the locker room.

This led Roy Exum of Chattanooga to ask: “Ben, is it true that before every game you, uh, lose your groceries?” This remains the greatest question ever.

Kentucky, which I was covering for The Cats’ Pause, had a defensive end named Art Still and quarterback named Derrick Ramsey, both from Camden, N.J. Those Wildcats would somehow go 10-1, winning at Penn State, LSU, Georgia and Florida. They’d have played in the Sugar Bowl had they not been on probation.

The Florida coach was Doug Dickey, who didn’t disguise his irritation with us. To be fair, Dickey was still trying to explain away his fourth-and-dumb moment against Georgia in Jacksonville. Auburn’s coach was Doug Barfield, though not for much longer.

I was 21. Parts of that whirlwind tour made me think, “Do I really want to do this for a living?” I still haven’t found a reason to say no.

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About the photo above

Auburn folks will recognize the late Jim Fyffe, who was from Paintsville, Ky., and knew my uncle Mike. (He’s standing 10th from left, hands on hips.) Phillip Marshall, who still covers Auburn, is just behind him.

Tennessee fans will note Bob Kesling, voice of the Vols. (He’s standing fifth from right, arms folded.) The aforementioned Exum is wearing a checked shirt and holding a beverage. The late Ed Shearer, the Associated Press’ legendary Southeastern Seer, is standing fifth from left.

I’m smack in the middle – dark shirt, arms folded, shades on. I was strategetically positioned by the SEC’s smallish Scoop Hudgins, who looked at me and said, “Bradley, you’re a giant of a man!”

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About the Braves and the All-Star Game

Dansby Swanson isn’t starting because Trea Turner is. Austin Riley didn’t make the National League squad, though he’s second in RBIs. Neither did Freddie Freeman, second in batting average.

There might have been a time when I would have been filled with righteous indignation over such indignities. That time is not now. Life, I say, is too short. It’s an All-Star Game. Nobody ever said it was fair.

If you bet, back in March, that William Contreras would make the NL roster and Riley and Freeman wouldn’t, you’re now a person of wealth. I believe Twitter is still available to buy.

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About the Hawks and offer sheets

It was believed that the Hawks had interest in the Suns’ center. We’ve just been reminded why restricted free agents are tricky. Deandre Ayton signed an offer sheet with the Pacers for $133 million over four seasons. Phoenix matched it, which means he’s still a Sun.

We recall the most famous offer sheet ever, signed by Jon Koncak with Detroit in the summer of 1989. Reports held that it was for $2.5M, which sounded so outlandish – he’d earned $625K the previous season – that yours truly called him seeking clarification.

MB, incredulous: “That’s for two years, right?”

JK, sounding positively giddy: “Dude, it’s for ONE.”

At this point both of us fainted.

The Hawks matched the offer, thereby keeping Koncak, who technically wasn’t a starter. For a few months, his annual salary was higher than Michael Jordan’s. During Dominique Wilkins’ charity game at The Omni that summer, John Salley - then of Detroit, previously of Georgia Tech – couldn’t stop reminding MJ of this. (Yours truly was “coaching” Jordan’s team, which also included Magic Johnson.)

We know from “The Last Dance” that Jordan used anything/everything as motivational fuel, but he didn’t seem miffed about having been passed, salary-wise, by the player suddenly known as Jon Contract. Fact is, MJ laughed as hard as the rest of us.