Its Official: Oh, the sports Ive watched

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 31, 2006

In the 4 1/2-year lifetime of this column, I have received many comments. A few have been critical, but most are complimentary.

A number of the compliments have come from surprising sources. Most dads become pretty knowledgeable about the rules governing the games played by their kids, but most (not all are quite savvy) moms limit their rules comments to the umpire being wrong when her kid is called out on strikes or at first base.

The column is directed to this kind of fan.

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Most know my athletic background is football. I was not a successful high school player and played only B-team football at Sewanee. My last year on active duty in the Air Force, I played running back/defensive back/punter with the base football team at Keesler Air Force Base. Following my separation from active duty, I began officiating high school football.

In 1967, I was taken into the SEC as a football official and was an active official until 1990, then spent 11 years as a technical advisor for the SEC. Since that time, I have written this column and, for the past two years, I have covered high school sports as a part-time sports writer.

I was reared in an athletic environment. My dad was a world-class half-miler and captain of the track team at Colgate while also lettering in football. After college, he took up golf and won numerous club and city championships.

My sister, Mina Stowers, was an anti-fan until she and her late husband Luther began following Mississippi State football. My younger brother, Chick, was a team football captain at Georgia Tech and played a year in the CFL. He had a long career coaching high school and college football.

As long as sports participation is balanced with sound academics, I feel participation at any level of athletics is beneficial to a kid. My late stepson-in-law, Danny West, was a starting offensive lineman at Mississippi State. My stepson, Jim DeFoe, played basketball on a MPSA championship team at Jackson Prep.

My oldest daughter Kathy was an outstanding basketball player at Cathedral and was a walk-on at Delta State. Daughter Sissy played basketball at Cathedral and was head cheerleader her senior year.

Son Ward was a two-year starter at quarterback for the Greenies and a four-year basketball starter. He spent a year as a walk-on for Coach Bear Bryant at Alabama.

Daughter Jane was a basketball and tennis letterman in high school. Son Tom was a three-year letterman in football and a four-year letterman in basketball, then played baseball his last two years at Cathedral before spending a year as a football walk-on at Delta State. Daughter Margaret was a five-year starter in basketball and the tennis team&8217;s singles player for five years.

Watching and doing has given me a healthy respect for sports rules and the people who enforce them.

And that&8217;s official.

Al Graning is a former SEC official and former Natchez resident. Reach him at