By Brandon Keys
John Taylor's Grandson
In honor of the pressbox being named after him, I decided this was fitting. This was a
piece I had previously written for my sports journalism class from the fall of 2010. I'm proud of
you, Papaw. We love and miss you.
There is an old desk
that sits in the corner of a utility room. It's dirty and the color has faded from mahogany. Pure
dust now covers the desk once filled with stat sheets and scorebooks. Long ago a typewriter adorned
its surface, but not anymore. Now it's just a place to store papers and files that were important
at some point, but not now.
That's why sports writing can be a
difficult job. It's not easy; deadlines, angry parents, other readers and long road trips can make
a sane person crazy.
So why choose to cover sports at any level?
It's not for your health. But for one man it's simple: "I like it," said John Taylor, who had been
covering sports for more than 23 years.
Taylor wrote sports
for the same newspaper for over two decades now, The Advocate & Democrat, and wrote a Sunday
column in addition to his work in the local sports scene.
didn't always like his job though, and who can blame him. It's tough to cover teams night in and
night out in a small town. Small towns are very close, not only in their proximity individually to
one another, but to their high school athletics as well.
Unfortunately when Taylor started covering sports, girls' teams didn't receive the same
coverage as the boys did.
"There were two local newspapers
but coverage was slight. The one nearest the school showed almost no interest in girls' sports,"
Seeing a need for equal coverage of girls' sports
in his community and also the fact that his youngest daughter was now playing for Madisonville High
School, Taylor decided to apply for the newspaper job. He got it and it worked out so well he
started on football in the fall.
That was 1987 and he was still
at it until his last day.
"Though I took the job for selfish
reasons, I stayed for another; I like it," said Taylor.
decision, no matter how selfish it was, would lead him to a career that he loved all his life.
"It really is nice to get paid for something I would probably
do for nothing," said Taylor.
Doing his job for nothing was
basically what he did back in the day. Covering local sports meant you traveled locally. Not much
expense for mileage when the farthest you had to travel was to the school next door.
Living in Madisonville though did provide a unique opportunity to
Taylor. It offered him the chance to cover a junior college called Hiwassee College. In the late
80's and early 90's this was one of the premier junior college basketball teams in the country and
they were rewarded with a trip to the national tournament in Kansas.
As exciting as covering this team was, it also had its drawbacks. The 22-hour bus ride back
from a nine-day tournament in 1991 in which Hiwassee finished 8th, culminated in the bus breaking
down twice, but those are the "brakes."
Taylor said these were
memorable experiences, the ones you hold on to after the clocks expire and the books are closed.
Athletes grabbed food from hotel kitchens; they were always hungry; "6-10" guys would have a gallon
jug of milk tilted to their mouth and that was the norm. Taylor certainly enjoyed the time away to
get a different angle of the sports world.
While covering college
basketball had its perks, like spending two hours talking with Dale Brown, the high school scene
was his home.
After his youngest daughter had graduated and
moved on to play at the college level, Taylor still found an interest in Madisonville. It wasn't
hard for him to find a good story to cover as Madisonville's boys' team went all the way to state
that year. That squad was undefeated in their district and won district and regional tournament
titles and the sub-state as well. They lost eventually to a private school that had athletes on
scholarship; for academics of course. Taylor didn't buy that one.
Those are the ups and downs that came with covering sports for John Taylor. That same
Madisonville team went on a 19-game winning streak and with 20 on-the-line lost to a team they had
beaten by almost 30 the week before.
As they left the gym
after that game Taylor asked the coach, "You wouldn't lose a game, this one was meaningless if any
could be, just to fire up your team for the tourney would you?"
Never missing a stride the late coach Dwayne Farmer said, "John, what was the score of that
He brings up a good point.
In sports we're concerned like most aspects in life with the bottom
line, the final score. But for Taylor the scores never mattered to him all that much. It was the
experiences of the games, and the people involved that mattered to him. That's what made him
His connection and dedication to a town, newspaper
and community could be read within the lines of every game story. Kids that got to play for maybe
10 minutes would open the paper and find their name in black and white. Taylor always made sure to
include every player because to him they all deserve to be recognized, even if they didn't score
the game winning basket or hit the walk off home run.
remember most is the kids, and writing in a small town, ya know you gotta keep em' happy and still
tell the truth about what happens," said Taylor.
That desk in the
utility room will be cleaned out one day when someone takes the notion that they can use it for
something other than a place to stack boxes of computer paper and broken staplers.
When they open the desk drawer they'll find some newspaper clippings.
They'll find stories of big time players, and even bigger games.
They might not find the seldom used, role players on those teams, but they're there. John
always found them. In every game.