Editor’s note: This is Furman Bisher’s final column for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Read more:
–Past columns. His last one is below. Read his first one including his moving tribute to his late son and several others.
–Photos of his career. Even one where he’s playing football.
–Video: Bisher reflects on his very first column for the paper
It was April 15, income tax day, in 1950 that this all began. Usually, such a run as this rarely ever carries on this long. Perhaps my act has worn thin. Perhaps I have over-stayed my time. But to an old warrior such as I, it isn’t easy finding an appropriate ending place.
My mind wanders back to the Falcons’ first flirtation with glory. They led the Dallas Cowboys into the shadows of a Sunday afternoon in Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, 60,222 fans in a state of exhilaration, a division championship a breath away when the defense broke down. It was over and a city was left heartbroken.
It had been such a colossal event that even Red Smith, the scholarly columnist of the New York Times, had flown in to write of it. After the game, I gave him a lift back to his hotel, and as he collected his tools of trade, and opened the car door, he put a hand on my shoulder and said: “One more day in a cold, dreary press box — God, I love it.”
That said it for a lot of us.
Many a time that memory flashes across my mind, though the number of Sundays has dwindled down, as has the number of columns. Once I wrote six columns a week. I thought I was supposed to. Then five, then four, then three, then down to one. That means I have one day in seven in which to write something that stirs the blood, or something that misses the plate. A stinker. I don’t know that there is a graceful way to take leave. It doesn’t require a lot of space, I know that. (Cheers from the layout editor.)
I do know, as well, that it tugs at the heart. Ye gods, how many of these have I written? So many that many of the keys on this old Royal typing machine are worn thin. (And this column was first given a test run on the machine on which I wrote my first column in 1950.)
How many continents has it been, how many nations, how many flights, how many airports, how many sagging beds in bawdy rooming houses, and how many languages, with or without translation? Oh, and yes, and how many fellow travelers, wonderful friends on all those continents, and on the streets in this town and in my own land?
Then the Olympics, winter and summer, arousing memory of the most excruciating trip of them all, following the Winter Games in France. Catching a train in Notre Dame de Briancon to Chambery, to Geneva, to Frankfurt, to Atlanta, thence to Richmond, then Charlottesville to preside at a dinner. So much for that. I wouldn’t mind doing it again, but my body would disagree.
The Italian heavyweight of some six decades ago, Primo Carnera, known to some as “The Ambling Alp,” returned to the United States for some personal appearances long after he held the title — whose legitimacy was strongly questioned. Nevertheless, he had been the champ. He was a source of much interviewing, of course, during which he was asked what he remembered most pleasantly of his fighting days in this country. “Oh, much good time,” he said, in his fractured English, “so many fun.”
That says it for me in any language. “So many fun.”
Perhaps we shall see each other again at Thanksgiving, or the Masters, but I take my leave today with deep regret. Selah.