Futbol in ‘Bama?
For my newest piece in Birmingham Magazine, I caught up with John Killian and Julian Copes, a couple of young, civic-minded soccer fans in my hometown of Birmingham, Alabama. Along with a few other friends, 2013 they founded an organization called The Birmingham Hammers with one simple goal - to bring professional soccer to Birmingham.
If someone had mentioned this idea 20 years ago, they would have been laughed out of town. Birmingham is mostly thought of as an American football town, but that may be changing. While the Hammers may not by on the verge of getting MLS to come Birmingham, they have serious nibbles from other leagues. If I had to pony up a little moolah, I’d say these guys will land a team within the year.
Around the Block: Montevallo
My latest Around The Block piece published in the August issue of Birmingham Magazine is on the small college town of Montevallo, Alabama. Although I started college at UAB I earned my degree in English from the University of Montevallo in 1995 and did a little graduate work there as well. I even met my wife there waaaaayyyyy back in 1997.
The university is a small liberal arts college smack in the middle of rural Shelby County. Not surprisingly, the town is a bit quirky, but really cool. The city is also going through a bit of a renaissance recently, as well, and I had a chance to write about some of the places and happening that are giving Montevallo a little zing these days. Take a minute to read it and, if you’re in the area, be sure to visit some of these spots.
My newest piece in Birmingham Magazine is the inspirational story of young man named Thomas from the small town of Ashville, Alabama. Thomas was a seven-year-old little boy who, after being diagnosed with a rare form of cancer, became known to the entire community as Superman, but to one teenager in the town, he became much more.
Ethan Fuller, currently a senior on the Ashville Bulldogs football team, was chosen to carry Thomas out onto the field during a game last season. In the months that followed, Ethan became something of a big brother to Thomas, right up until “Superman” passed away last spring. Ethan remains a friend to Thomas’ family, even growing his hair long and donating several inches of it for a local cancer charity.
This fall the entire community, including Thomas’ beloved Ashville Bulldogs, are busy honoring their little Superman, hoping to raise awareness and money to help those dealing with childhood cancer.
I happened to know Ethan’s father, Jeff, personally - we were teammates on a bunch of soccer teams in high school and as young adults - and was honored when he asked me to write this story. Please take a few minutes to read and let me know your thoughts.
March has been a good month for me in terms of freelance writing, with four pieces in three different magazines. This one for Birmingham Magazine titled Birmingham Sportsville, U.S.A., is, without a doubt, the most comprehensive. A story I began working almost a year ago, I wanted to learn how, over the last decade and a half my hometown of Birmingham, Alabama, has become a go-to city for an array of special sporting events. Since the mid-1990s Birmingham has successfully the following:
The city is also preparing to open the new downtown baseball complex, Regions Field in the middle of downtown Birmingham. The stadium will be home to the AA Birmingham Barons, marking the first time the minor league club has been in the downtown area since it left Rickwood Field back in the mid 1980s. All of this is happening in a city that has called itself the Football Capital of the South for almost a century.
That phrase can still be seen painted on the side of Legion Field, an aging football stadium known around football circles as the Old Gray Lady - old being the operative term. The stadium which hosted decades of epic University of Alabama football games while Bear Bryant roamed the sidelines hasn’t hosted a Crimson Tide game in almost ten years. These days, Legion Field hosts UAB Blazers home games to tepid crowds, and lost the state high school championships which left for to Auburn and Tuscaloosa (alternating years). Meanwhile, Birmingham struggles to gain support for a multipurpose domed facility that city leaders have wanted to build for close to 20 years.
I had a chance to attend a some cool events, including the 2012 Honda IndyCar Grand Prix of Alabama, and I was able to interview some of great drivers including Charlie Kimball and Joao Barbosa for the story. Take a few minutes to read the story and drop me a line to let me know your thoughts.
Gear Head Getaway
Located just off Interstate 20 in Pell City, Alabama, the park’s founder, Alan McWilliams established Millcreek about 10 years ago and has quietly established the park as one of the southeast’s premiere tracks for Motocross racing. In the spring, for instance, Millcreek hosts the ATV Pro tour as well as the The American Motorcycle Association Spring Motocross Championship.
Alan’s son, Alex, just earned his pro card and is starting to make a name for himself on the tour as well. If you’re a fan of motorcycle racing and would like to check out some racing close to home, you should make the drive to to Pell City on a weekend to check things out.
Art In The Woods
Check out my newest piece in the October issue of Birmingham Magazine on the tree carvings a neat little park in the college town of Montevallo. This section of Orr Park is known for several dozen tree carvings by Terry Tingle, a rather interesting and eccentric local folk artist who also moonlights as a coal miner.
Tingle is also an author and a world-traveler, but most people in the tight-nit communities south of Birmingham know him as an incredible wood worker. Over the last 20 years, Tingle has carved dozens of faces, woodland creatures, and even a dragon into the dead cedar trees throughout the park. If you’re ever in the Birmingham area - Shelby County in particular - be sure to spend some time in Tinglewood.
A Tue Underdog
I have a cool little sports piece in the September issue of Birmingham Magazine on the return of Ramsay High School’s football team. One of Birmingham’s oldest public high schools, the Ramsay Rams High football program was shut down way back in 1976 as the school changed its focus to a magnate school for academically gifted students. However, after 35 long years, Ramsay is dusting off the shoulder pads and playing football again!
The school hired a well known and successful coach, Reuben Nelson, from nearby Midfield High School, and will play a B-team schedule this year. I had a chance to interview coach nelson as well as a few of the players for the piece and, needless to say, they’re excited and maybe a little nervous.
In my opinion, Ramsay is a school that should be held as an example for other schools to follow. For example, the high school’s assistant principal, Yancey Williams, established a boys and girls lacrosse program, one of the first inner-city, minority programs in the country, just four years ago. In that short amount of time, the programs has sent almost a dozen students to college on lacrosse scholarships.
Now football is back on Birmingham’s south side. Their schedule is still a little up in the air, but they hope to kick off their first season since the Gerald Ford administration around September 16. If you’re looking for an underdog to cheer on this year, I suggest Ramsay High School!
We All Scream For Ice Cream!
The second of my two articles published in the August issue of Birmingham Magazine, is a short, local travel piece about Miller’s Soda Shoppe, an old-fashioned ice cream shop in the small town of Oneonta, Alabama.
If you find yourself in the middle of Blount County on a hot, summer day, make it a point to stop by and get a milkshake or a hot, fudge sundae. They’re delicious and the owner, Chuck Morrison, is a fun guy to shoot the bull with.
Also, while you’re there, make sure you stop by the gift shop next door. I found a copy of Louis L’Amour’s Hondo there for 25 cents. Maybe I’ll actually read it soon.
Back To School!
There are a lot of really, really smart and accomplished kids featured here. They may make you realize you wasted four years of your life chasing chicks, crashing cars, and generally amounting to zilch. Or is that just me?