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Furman Bisher gives thanks

Oh, ho, thought you were rid of me, eh? Well, I can’t go away without our annual Thanksgiving visit. I’m in a state of what is known as “retirement,” but I’m not sure I’m a contented convert.

Retiring, I’ve come to realize, requires a certain talent that doesn’t come naturally in some cases, and I guess I’m one of those cases.

You can play just so much golf, catch just so many fish, get caught up on luncheons in a hurry — not that I’ve done a lot of any of them — and come to realize that one of your most valuable functions is getting the garbage out.

As you have surmised, I don’t know that I’ve retired very well.

I have come to appreciate an afternoon nap, but after that, what?

Best of all, there’s Lynda (“y” instead of “i”), and I know now why in Spanish her name translates to “pretty,” and thus my entree to the list of other gifts of life to be thankful for, some with tongue in cheek:

● That Matt Ryan came along before I drew the …

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Transcontinental memories of ’so many fun’ mark the end

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 …

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Two bad trades cost Braves this season

If you’re trying to place blame on when the Braves blew their shot at making the playoffs, it wasn’t when Matt Diaz was caught off base trying to score against the Florida Marlins. That would have made the score only 5-5, and the game could still have been won.

And it wasn’t when Frank Wren was slow to pull the trigger on John Smoltz, leaving him to hook up with the Red Sox. Nor when Tom Glavine was turned down, in essence making way for Tommy Hanson in the pitching rotation. Au contraire, a stroke of glowing luck.

No, it goes way back longer than that. (And with this, I promise never to bring it up again.) It was when the Braves traded Adam Wainwright — as if he wasn’t enough — and Jason Marquis to the Cardinals for J.D. Drew, the nomadic outfielder. (Eli Marrero, the mysterious Latin also came along, but he created more dilemma than offense.)

And, of course, more recently the disastrous deal that robbed the farm system of five high-grade prospects to Texas for Mark Teixeira, …

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Winning the Tour Championship should mean more

I’d say that, in the long run, Sean O’Hair said it more succinctly.

The Tour Championship was done. Phil Mickelson had not just won, he had blitzed the field. Eighteen holes with five birdies and nary a bogey, a round of 65, five strokes better than Tiger Woods, who finished second.

But in the winner’s circle there were two champions to crown.

O’Hair had spent the day partnering Mickelson — he shot 69 and finished third — and he was trying to answer questions about how the day had gone. You see, not a lot of us, including the players, have a clear idea of how the FedEx Cup competition works.

“Did Tiger make a par there?” he asked, speaking of the 17th hole.

Assured that Tiger had, he said, “So he won the FedEx Cup then.”

Yeah, Phil won the battle, but Tiger won the war, meaning that Mickelson had won the Tour Championship, but Tiger had won the oddly designed FedEx Cup, and the loot.

“I’d prefer, I think, to have the $10 million dollars in my pocket,” …

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Cox can’t walk away from richly stocked Braves

It comes to my attention that there has been widespread discussion on the matter of the Braves and just who might be their manager next season. Of course, isn’t that always the case when one guy had been in command long enough to have raised a family? Such may be said of Bobby Cox, who has managed the Braves since 1978, interrupted by four years across the Canadian border, then a return of five seasons preparing to resume the chair that Ted Turner had kept warm for him.

It was Turner himself, never given to shyness, who said at the press conference when Cox was being fired, that if he was hiring a manager to succeed Cox, it would be — well, Bobby Cox. So the two Rover Boys were reunited until Turner himself eventually took leave.

So it is that when a manager is of Social Security age, and his team has gone one October after another without a booking, people wonder. People talk. People wonder if he might not be ready for the farm. They forget that Casey Stengel managed …

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Tech’s Johnson ranks with the greatest

If I had to go to a football game — and I’ll say this with all honesty — I’d pick one in which Paul Johnson is coaching. This is not some overnight observation. This comes from a guy who has seen Neyland, Dodd, Blaik, Wade and Lombardi coach, not to mention having sat for hours with Bob Zuppke. You know, the guy who coached Red Grange at Illinois.

Of course, they’re all gone now, so I’m left with the new fella at Georgia Tech, like it or not. I bring this up after an evening of watching him on “white-out night” Thursday — and let me add, that I despise mid-week night football games. This may or may not appeal in the least to the present-day students in the stands.

(Though, did you notice that during the Georgia Tech-Clemson game, a synchronized cheer of “Fight, fight, fight” broke out in the quite intelligent home-team section? That’s old-time Ivy League stuff that you don’t hear any more, drowned out by that dreadful pregame ear-splitting stuff.)

On …

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Paul Johnson’s message is clear

Since the first time I had a conversation with Paul Johnson, seated in his office at Georgia Southern University, one thing sticks out in my mind: He never changes. He is comfortable with his life. My wife was with me, and he invited her to join us, which she did and soon joined in the fun herself.

A lot of coaches I know would have begun squirming about and looking for a way to bring this intrusion to an end. Not this coach. He has roamed the planet since he left Newland, N.C., (pop. 709), county seat of Avery County (pop. 17,167).

He played for a high school coach who left his mark on him as a lad. Western Carolina was his next move, but he never played football. He broke into coaching at his old high school, for the same coach he’d played for. Appalachian State was next, for a master’s degree, then the coaching whirligig began, at Lees-McRae, a junior college not far from his hometown.

From Lees-McRae to Georgia Southern to Hawaii to Navy, back to Georgia Southern, and …

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Olympics could take golf to new places

It’s not that this is golf’s first dance with the Olympic Games, and there are pros and there are cons. From his fishing boat in Wyoming, where the brown trout were striking, Billy Payne spoke enthusiastically.

“I’m excited about it. I’m an advocate of spreading the game around the world, and what better way than through the Olympic Games,” said Payne, the president of Augusta National, which one might describe as the heartbeat of golf in this country.

From his summer home in the Grand Tetons, Payne had hardly had time to digest the news from the IOC executive committee meeting in Berlin. And that Tiger Woods and Anika Sorenstam, among others, were among vigorous supporters. Exciting stuff to Payne, the man who had brought the Olympics to Atlanta in 1996.

Golf was on his hope list of events, and Augusta National would have been the site, although he was not yet a member of the club. But, opposition arose not only from Juan Antonio Samaranch, then president of the …

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After he left Atlanta the first time, Torre “grew up”

Joe Torre and the Dodgers were merely passing through our town, and Joe was not happy at all. “This is our only trip to Atlanta, three games against the Braves, then next week they come out to L.A. for four games.
“And that’s it. It’s not like we’re in the same league, like interleague play. Makes no sense, and it’s probably not going to change,” Torre said, resting behind the desk in the visiting manager’s office at Turner Field.

It’s coincidental that a record Torre holds should break into the news, that for hitting into four double plays in a game, when he was a New York Met. “I’d like to thank Felix Millan for making it possible,” he said impishly. “He singled four times in front of me.”

Torre has been carrying on a fractious relationship with this town since he was fat and l4, when he came to visit his brother, Frank, then the first baseman for the old Atlanta Crackers. Joe returned as the first Braves catcher when they relocated from Milwaukee …

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Note to Bud: Shoeless Joe is worthy of Hall of Fame

Out of Cooperstown the other day came a speculative story that Bud Selig might be softening on Pete Rose and his “lifetime” suspension from baseball. A Hall of Fame board of directors, including several former players — such as Henry Aaron, Frank Robinson and Joe Morgan — came out of the meeting in support.

On the other hand, the commissioner said he had nothing more in mind than “to review the matter.” And added, “I would remind you that he [Rose] voluntarily accepted a lifetime suspension” when Bart Giamatti laid the wood to him. Giamatti died nine days later, thus removing from the office the best man whoever held the title. Later, there was a report that Commissioner Selig was into his waffling act again, at which point I might suggest that while he’s waffling, he might reconsider the case of the most controversial victim of a commissioner’s sword, Shoeless Joe Jackson.

It is a case I know well and which still comes up often in my life. It was 60 years …

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