We can try to replace Steve Hummer, but it really will be impossible

Atlanta Journal-Constitution Sports reporter Steve Hummer is photographed by AJC’s photojournalists Curtis Compton and Bob Andres in downtown Indianapolis on Sunday, January 9, 2022. Coverage of Georgia's victory in the College Football Playoff championship game was the final assignment for Hummer before he retired after nearly 38 years at the AJC.  (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

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Atlanta Journal-Constitution Sports reporter Steve Hummer is photographed by AJC’s photojournalists Curtis Compton and Bob Andres in downtown Indianapolis on Sunday, January 9, 2022. Coverage of Georgia's victory in the College Football Playoff championship game was the final assignment for Hummer before he retired after nearly 38 years at the AJC. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

It is said that “old soldiers never die, they simply fade away.”

The same could be said about journalists. Their words live forever in one form or another. In Steve Hummer’s case, I say, thank goodness.

Oh, all those images he brought to life with his written words. All those turns of phrase that captured an exact moment or feeling. All those times he made you stop reading long enough to marvel at his ability to evoke emotion. All those snarky one-liners mixed in that also made you stop reading to make sure you had read that right. He could write a story that made you cry or laugh – or both. He recently described Georgia defensive lineman Jordan Davis as “the Bulldogs’ Alp with feet.” It’s one of my favorites.

Fear not, Steve is still among us. However, after a long and distinguished career, including nearly 38 years at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Steve has retired. He leaves a gigantic hole that we’ll try to fill in the days, months and years to come. However, you just know we’ll never completely succeed. That would be impossible.

Steve’s final assignment with us was last week. He postponed his retirement by two weeks to continue as part of the AJC’s coverage team for Georgia’s run to the College Football Playoff national championship. He walked out of the press box at Lucas Oil Stadium at about 2:30 a.m. following Georgia’s victory, having finished a story that would appear on our website, special print edition and book. Not even six hours later, he was at Georgia’s victory press conference. He filed one final story, checked out of his hotel and got in his car, with his wife, Rae, for the long drive from Indianapolis to Atlanta. Except for some final administrative work – one tedious final expense report to file – that was it.

I don’t know how Steve felt about it. For me, it just seemed anticlimactic. I don’t know what I was expecting, but it just seemed like there should be more fanfare to celebrate the talent, dedication, work ethic, flexibility, kindness and friendship of Steve.

Steve wrote news stories, features and columns for the AJC. We coined a phrase for his ability to write a story yet inject a little opinion when called for. When going over an assignment we’d tell him, just “Hummerize” it. He always will be a part of the AJC’s vernacular.

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Steve Hummer staying right to the very end to complete a story from the Masters.

Credit: Chris Vivlamore

Steve Hummer staying right to the very end to complete a story from the Masters.

Credit: Chris Vivlamore

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Steve Hummer staying right to the very end to complete a story from the Masters.

Credit: Chris Vivlamore

Credit: Chris Vivlamore

There was a lot to document over his career, which started in Florida before Atlanta became his home and the readers of the AJC the beneficiary of his talent. He has covered Olympics, Super Bowls, World Series, about 40 Masters and championship boxing matches. He even persuaded me to send him to Montana to go fly-fishing with Steve Bartkowski. The thing about Steve is that he took on every assignment with the same zeal. From one on high school football to the Braves’ World Series championship last year. He volunteered to go bowling after the world started opening back up after the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic.

One of the many things I will miss the most is every Monday morning he would pull up a chair next to my desk at the office. We would spend the next hour hashing out stories and columns that he would work on that week. He had ideas. I had ideas that he would quickly make better. He volunteered for assignments big and small. He even volunteered to cover the Falcons game in Buffalo earlier this month. I talked him out of that one.

Our conversations, in person and on the phone through any week, went beyond work. We often talked about life. He kept me up to date on his son. I kept him up to date on my daughter. We talked about dealing with the loss of a parent and about elderly care. We talked about politics. He even invited me to his twice-a-week basketball games. I still play long after his career ended with a torn Achilles several years ago. We talked about the big and the small. Spend a week together in a house in Augusta during Masters week and you really get to know a person. By the way, Steve is an incredible cook. I can attest to his Bolognese sauce. He will never forgive me for my desire for well-done steak.

Fear not, Steve won’t completely disappear from the pages and the website of the AJC. I have persuaded him to continue to be a part of our Masters coverage team. This year, Steve, I promise, I will finish that glass of scotch. I hope there are other assignments as well, like when Rae needs him out of the house.

It has been an honor to have worked alongside Steve and been a witness to his talent. I hope you, the reader, feel the same. It is a bigger honor to be his friend.

Chris Vivlamore is the sports editor at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

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