Lindsey Page called me last week with a proposition. Would I be interested, he asked, in attending a ceremony marking his induction in the North Carolina High School Athletic Association Hall of Fame?
My first thought was “why.” After all, I haven’t been a sports writer since around 1989, less than a year after Lindsey guided his Bartlett Yancey team to the state 3A title in 1988. That’s about 25 years ago, but who’s counting?
My second thought was this: “Absolutely.”
Indeed, I was stunned, flattered and ultimately honored by the invitation from a coach I had known so long ago. I was the prep sports writer for the Times-News in 1987 and ’88, when Lindsey had two of the best teams in his 34-year, 519-win career. We met before that, when I was a rookie sports writer for the Reidsville Review. Caswell was the next county over from Rockingham. Reidsville-Bartlett Yancey was a rockin’ rivalry.
But from 1986 to ’88 I covered dozens of Bucs games, first in the old gym folks called the “Crackerbox” and then the brand new and much larger facility people tabbed “The Lindsey Dome.” I also wrote features and columns about the new gym, his players and one long, in-depth profile of the coach himself. And I was at the Dean Smith Center in Chapel Hill the night Bartlett Yancey defeated North Surry for the only state title in Lindsey’s career. People like to joke that everyone in tiny Caswell County was in the Smith Center for the game. A thief could’ve made off with the entire county.
“You were my main man,” he told me last week. “People like you are part of the reason I’m (getting inducted).”
I thought that was stretching things a tad, but it made me proud anyway.
But publicity certainly didn’t hurt. Yanceyville isn’t an easy stop by an interstate. It’s not near a metropolitan area. Fact is, it’s rural and then some. Because I grew up in the country myself, it was easy to recognize the isolation folks feel out there when it comes to media coverage. But my home county (Stokes) is downright citified compared to Caswell.
“We always appreciated the writers who came out to cover us. Gary McCann over in Greensboro is a friend who did a good job,” Lindsey said. “In the early 1980s Steve (Mann) used to come over from your place. And Al Mealey in Danville did a great job covering us.”
Newspaper sports staffs also appreciate it when schools they cover meet them halfway. The truth is, it’s impossible to get to all the games, or even half. Coaches who call in who are professional, prepared and pleasant — well, that goes a long way toward building media relationships that last during good times and bad. There was never a complaint about coverage from Lindsey, or anyone else affiliated with Bartlett Yancey basketball. No snarky remarks about things in stories, either. Hey, politeness counts.
“I always believed in calling in our games,” Lindsey said, “I could never understand coaches that didn’t call in games. Do they think if they don’t call in a loss it doesn’t count? I don’t know.”
Is it any wonder I liked going there?
I was reminded just how much at the induction ceremony. It was wonderful to see Lindsey with his wife Myra, they celebrated their 53-year wedding anniversary on Wednesday by the way. Sons Barry and Steve were there as well as daughter Lesley. I watched Steve Page, a standout basketball player at Elon himself, stand with arms folded as he chatted with friends. He looked like his dad from years gone by.
Lindsey called marrying Myra “probably the best decision I ever made. We have four kids, 15 grandkids and a great-grandkid coming this summer. Our family’s not decreasing, it’s ballooning.
And I was delighted to sit at a table for the induction dinner with a Caswell County contingent of administrators or coaches past and present. They shared stories about Lindsey, or about wild times at Bartlett Yancey High School. Who knew things could get so crazy in a place so small?
It was Lindsey who summed things up best.
“I love the county. Yanceyville is a small city but we’re basically rural. I just love the people here,” he said.
Thanks for the memories, coach.