Sports notebook

Commentary: Another tragedy mars what should be a joyous break

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Joe Williams

Joe has been a contributor at the Herald since 2006. He took over as Sports Editor in 2013 and helped launch our Live Streaming games in 2015. He has more than 20 years of experience broadcasting sports, including 10 years at WAKM-AM 950. Follow him on Twitter @whsports. 

 

I’m beginning to rather dislike the Christmas/winter break for schools.

Four years ago, we spent the time thinking about the families of Centennial athlete Nickell Whitson, cheerleader Anisah Bourriague and former classmate Adrian Williams, who were killed in a tragic traffic accident.

On Dec. 21, just two days shy of exactly four years later, two former BGA athletes, Clay Beathard and Paul Trapeni III were murdered and classmate A.J. Bethurum critically injured by a man with multiple convictions for violent crimes who was out on bond for another violent assault.

Williamson County is in a “bubble.” Tragedies such as these are not supposed to happen here, and when they do, their significance is magnified. Now, we, like those in dozens of communities across the nation, get to ask why?

Why was this guy even out of prison? The police did their jobs, the DAs did their jobs. Who didn’t?

Worst of all, at least six families will no longer think of the season as the most joyous of the year but rather as a painful anniversary.

Moving on

There is no bigger basketball story in the county so far this winter sports season than the one surrounding Centennial High’s Cougars.

After maneuvering through last year’s unexpected firing of Pete Froedden and the tremendous amount of contentious controversy (I even called it a “dumpster fire” at one point), Centennial’s boys team is one of only three teams still undefeated in a very balanced District 11-AAA.

With a new principal, the backing of a strong athletic director and other coaches, new head coach Tyler Hickman is proving himself to be a solid choice to lead the program. Hickman has stoked a new fire at Centennial, and the results are showing.

The other ‘Intimidator’

NASCAR lost a true legend earlier this month with the passing of Junior Johnson. He was the epitome of the roots of stock car racing, a bootlegger turned winning driver, turned master car owner/builder.

He won title after title in the ’70s and ’80s, including three with Franklin’s own Darrell Waltrip.

My favorite encounter with “Mister” Johnson (I would never call him anything else. I was awed and intimidated by the man) came in May of 1984. He was fielding two cars, one for Waltrip and one for the late Neil Bonnett and at Nashville’s Fairgrounds. In one of the wildest finishes in the sport, both of his drivers were claiming victory.

While trying to sort things out, NASCAR officials closed the gates to Victory Lane, where Mr. Johnson and I were. As the debate continued, he stood quietly and serene, with a little smile on his face.

Pulling up all my courage, I asked him, “Mr. Johnson, who do you think won this race?” His response was absolute gold.

“Hell, son, I don’t care. I win either way.”

Joe Williams is the sports editor of the Williamson Herald. He can be contacted at joe @williamsonherald.com.

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