With the SEC Network on the horizon, Phil Scoggins takes us back to a time when television sports was not a 24-hour proposition, stations were too cheap to cover it properly and reporters would drive all night to get a story.
Phil was a young sports director at Channel 38 and Herschel Walker was a young tailback at the University of Georgia. The unbeaten Bulldogs were on their way to the 1981 Sugar Bowl and he asked his boss at WYEA about doing a one-hour special on the big game.
The GM liked his idea, but Phil reminded him that it would require a trip to South Bend, Ind.
"Fine," his boss said, "but we can't spring for any motel rooms."
The station was cheap and Phil was naïve. He agreed to an 804-mile trip that would not include a Holiday Inn.
With a photographer riding shotgun, they left around 8 p.m., for naturally Phil had to do the 6 o'clock sports. Up the road they ran into snow.
They arrived at Notre Dame in time for an afternoon press conference but found it had been delayed because of the weather.
The head coach of the Irish was Dan Devine, who was not known for being nice to reporters. But after the media event he stayed around for a long interview. Afterward, Phil started his drive home enjoying coffee instead of a king-sized bed.
In an era when ESPN spends millions to get the SEC Network on the air, this story doesn't ring true. The idea of Brent Musburger braving icy interstates without sleep is as likely as Paul Finebaum with hair.
Phil shared the punch line to this story last week when he introduced former Georgia coach Vince Dooley, who came to town to sell books at the Rotary Club.
Among his interviews was Tommy Nix, a local player who was the long snapper for the Bulldogs. Phil called Nix's mother to let her know when the story would air. She was shocked to find out he wouldn't be at the game in New Orleans.
She called back with two tickets.
"I was able to take my father to the Sugar Bowl on his 50th birthday. He got to see Georgia win the National Championship," the WRBL-TV anchor said.
Hope they were able to get a room.
Richard Hyatt is an independent correspondent. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org