Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Interview with legendary sports journalist Furman Bisher of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

On Thursday, May 31st I had the opportunity to interview one of the true legends in sports journalism - Furman Bisher.....Bisher is a sports columnist for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, where he once served as sports editor....he was born in 1918 in Denton, North Carolina, and is a 1938 graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill....Bisher was president of the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association from 1974 to 1976 and president of the Football Writers Association of America in 1959 - 1960....in 1961, Time magazine named him one of the nation's five best columnists...I want to thank Mr. Bisher for his time.....today is the first of a two part interview with the legendary Furman Bisher....

Q1. How long have you been covering sports?
FB: I've covered sports a long time. I've been a journalist since 1938. I didn't start in the sports department until after the war (World War II) after spending three years in the Navy.

Q2. What makes a good journalist?
FB: First place, you need to know a good story when you see one. You got to be able to handle a story, and you got to be able to write. Those are three pretty good requirements right there.

Q3. I did some research about you and came across a reunion that took place in 2004 with your sports staff from the 1960s. It sounded like you were a good sports editor but a tough sports editor. How would you describe yourself?
FB: (Laughing) A lot of people did not like working for me because I was tough. I expected them to do the best job they could do and some reporters didn't - and when they didn't, I got on their ass. That sports staff from the 60s was an outstanding and unusual sports staff considering the pay we used to make. Three of those reporters became novelists, another became a vice-president of a large newspaper chain, and another became the editor of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Another became a million dollar insurance salesman. I was the sports editor. I put them together. I got them convinced as they came in there they would learn something about the newspaper business. This was probably the greatest collection of sports writers based on their future contributions to society and so on.

Q4. In the early 1960s you wrote a piece about the brutality in college football and some of it was dealing with those Alabama teams led by Bear Bryant. What was it like dealing with Bear Bryant?
FB: Before that article he was very nice. I enjoyed talking to him. I interviewed him when he was at Kentucky and when he came to Alabama. But after that Saturday Evening Post thing, I never interviewed him again. Frankly I was not interested in interviewing him and he wasn't interested in being interviewed by me. He was okay though in dealing with a newspaperman.

Q5. Over the years of covering college sports, what are some of the best college football teams?
FB: Well, the 1980 Georgia team won a national championship and you have to surely consider them an outstanding football team. The 1952 Georgia Tech football team also won a national championship. I guess the best football teams I saw were those produced by (Georgia Tech head coach) Bobby Dodd in the 1950s and later on when Vince Dooley came to the University of Georgia. He restored respectability over there (at Georgia). Auburn in 1957 had a great football team too under Shug Jordan. Duke had some good football teams too but they were never the same after the war.

Q6. Switching gears, with you being from Atlanta with Hank Aaron, what are your views about Barry Bonds and The Record?
FB: (chuckling) Until somebody proves something, it looks like he is going to pass Aaron. Major League Baseball is the worst enforcer of its own so-called rules. It has the weakest pussycat for a commissioner that you could ever imagine. He does nothing. You have (Jason) Giambi here who has basically confessed to using drugs and he is accepted back. Then you have Palmeiro and McGwire who are pariahs. There is no consistency from the commissioner's office where the enforcement should start. It's just a pathetic situation. At times I wonder about Roger Clemens. I suspect Roger Clemens to tell you the truth. The man of his age and bulk – it's sorta questionable in my mind.

Q7. What was it like dealing with Hank Aaron?
FB: Hank is great. I wrote his book with him. We have a very good relationship. I like Hank - he is a very good citizen.

Tomorrow the second part of the interview when Bisher talks about Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus, and Adolph Rupp....

Today's links for the upcoming NBA Finals and about Michigan's upset of #1 ranked Vanderbilt in the College Baseball Regional Tournament....

The Plain Dealer’s Bill Livingston writes about how Cavs center Zydrunas Ilgauskas made it through foot injuries and criticism to be the core of the team....

  • Bill Livingston

  • San Antonio Express-News reporter Mike Finger spent a day in Cleveland and writes how much LeBron James means to the city....
  • Mike Finger

  • Express-News columnist Richard Oliver gets former Celtic great Bill Russell’s take on San Antonio and Tim Duncan....
  • Richard Oliver

  • Express-News columnist Mike Monrow writes how former NBA head coach and current Spurs assistant coach P.J. Carlesimo is waiting for another shot to coach an NBA team....
  • Mike Monroe

  • The Michigan Wolverines baseball team upset #1 ranked Vanderbilt in the College Baseball Regional Tournament....the Wolverines now head to the Super Regionals...
  • Ann Arbor News

    Newspaper Hack said...

    Yeah, writing a factually inaccurate hatchet job on a major coach may make said coach not want to talk to him.

    This guy's article about the supposed "fix" between Alabama and Georgia forced a suit that bankrupted the Saturday Evening Post.

    The fact that this guy is considered a legend in my industry is a total disgrace.

    Newspaper Hack said...

    Check that: a total fucking disgrace.