Did you hear about the new team coming to Mobile in 2019? Of course you didn’t.
That’s because there is no movement whatsoever to get Mobile back in the major professional sports game. The BayBears will be leaving after this season and there is no plan to replace them, either with a new tenant at Hank Aaron Stadium or a new sports team to play in the city.
The Mobile sports year of 2018 will be forever remembered for the successful efforts to block progress in the city.
We lost the BayBears to another Alabama city willing to invest in the team and give their citizens a viable professional baseball option, even though baseball in an inferior stadium had failed in the recent past in the Huntsville area.
We lost the chance to attract the New Orleans Pelicans’ G-League team to a different Alabama city that was willing to give their citizens a professional basketball option, even though Birmingham has no connection to New Orleans the way Mobile does.
We lost a chance to solve the problems of what to do with Ladd-Peebles Stadium because we couldn’t get out of our own way long enough to view the big picture, instead fighting for our own self-interests.
We couldn’t settle on a plan for improving or imploding the Mobile Civic Center in order to have a roadmap for a successful future.
And we bickered to the point of madness over whether it was worthwhile to invest in an on-campus stadium at the University of South Alabama. Fortunately the leadership at USA was steadfast in their pursuit of the stadium and have figured out a way to proceed with what promises to be a fantastic stadium and one of the crown jewels of the Gulf Coast.
Despite all efforts to squash any progress on the sports scene, there were certainly some sports highlights in 2018.
The Dollar General Bowl, won by Troy over Buffalo, was one of the best games of the college football bowl season and the best overall I’ve experienced in 15 years at the Mobile bowl.
The Reese’s Senior Bowl is three weeks away and promises to be a success again. Local stars Deshaun Davis of Vigor High/Auburn and B.J. Autry of Blount High/Jacksonville State will join the top senior prospects in Mobile again this season. There’s no reason to believe it won’t be a repeat success.
There were also the following highlights of 2018, which I present without consideration for any further negative stories. After all, it’s still the holiday season and there are many accomplishments to celebrate. Here are the two positive stories from 2018 that I believe will most endure.
• Terry Curtis and UMS-Wright march toward another football state championship.
Curtis is now the greatest football coach in Alabama history. I know that’s a big statement, but the results justify it. Curtis has now led seven teams to state championships. No other coach in state history has more. Hoover’s Josh Niblett, who won in 2017, and Clay County’s Danny Horn, who won in 2018, also have seven. Curtis has led UMS-Wright to the last two state championships and has won 19 games in a row. No other state team has won the last two state championships or as many as 19 in a row, with the exception of Monroe Academy of the Alabama Independent Schools Association. But comparing teams from AISA with those in the Alabama High School Athletic Association is like comparing apples to hubcaps.
Curtis has now won 303 games in 30 season, which means his average wins per season will decrease if the Bulldogs win only 10 games next season. They are very likely to win more than 10 games, considering 18 of Curtis’ 20 teams at UMS-Wright have reached at least the state quarterfinals.
• Robert Brazile earns a spot in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Maybe there have been better football players than Brazile. But there has never been a better ambassador for Mobile, the Vigor High School community or football in general. Brazile, known as Dr. Doom during his playing career, was one of the greats of his era. Even before Lawrence Taylor, Brazile was the prototypical pass-rushing outside linebacker.
The fear was always that Brazile’s greatness would be overlooked because he played for the Houston Oilers, a team that no longer exists. But the Hall of Fame recognition finally came in 2018, and Brazile could not have been more appreciative or gracious.
After his awesome football career, Brazile returned to Mobile to teach special-needs children as a middle school teacher. He’s now embraced his role as a Senior Bowl Ambassador, and the game and the city are better for it.
Perhaps these two positive stories can set the stage for more progress in 2019.
Randy Kennedy writes a weekly column for Lagniappe and is co-host of “Sports Drive” every weekday from 3-6 p.m. on WNSP 105.5 FM, the country’s first all-sports FM station.
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