Monday, July 14, 2008
Every year for the past 17, I have put aside a week of my annual vacation to attend the Louisiana Sports Writers Association's annual convention. I have gone from Baton Rouge to Natchitoches to Lafayette to Lake Charles to Monroe to Shreveport and back -- sometimes alone.
Over the years I have made wonderful friends. I have met many of the movers and shakers in Louisiana sports. I have toured towns, played softball, bowled, swam lakes and pounded shots with many of them. And I have learned to play Bouree with the best of them.
It's not all drunken debauchery, but we do have one hell of a good time. We eat good. We laugh. We play. Sometimes we even do some work. One year I came home with a cardboard kangaroo.
There is an annual writing contest as well. I've been Prep Writer of the Year twice and I've gotten a couple of second and thirds along the way. I've learned to act nonchalant when my name isn't called, and when it is.
And every year I have watched as one member of the group is singled out for the Mac Russo award.
Mac Russo was, by all accounts, an extraordinary man. A sports writer in Morgan City, he was beloved and respected by all. And the convention he once put together is legendary.
I did not know Mac Russo, but I know who and what he was and what he meant to the members of the LSWA. I know just because of what he has meant to the people whohave held a plaque with his name engraved on it -- and theirs.
In his memory, the LSWA gives an annual award to the person they think has contributed the most to the ideals of the organization. Really, it's a good-old-boy award. But it's so much more than that. It means appreciation
From a bunch of crusty old sports writers, it means, "We love you man."
The Mac Russo award winner is a more closely guarded secret than the best actor winner at the Oscars. There is no handicapping. It comes as a complete surprise, not only to the recipient, but often to the majority of the members.
Over the years I've seen grown men (and one woman) struggle to try -- in vain -- to express what receiving that plaque means to them. They couldn't. They couldn't find the words. They couldn't catch their breath. They couldn't make their brain work fast enough. They couldn't believe that this wonderful group of people chose them.
I know because, Friday night, they chose me.
I heard my friend Dan McDonald talk about the legendary Mac Russo and what a great man he was -- and that legendary convention in Morgan City. Then I heard him promise that the LSWA constitution would become gender neutral for "her." (I also just became the group's vice president).
Then I thought, "Oh! It's Robin."
But then he said my name.
And I simply could not believe it.
But Dan's hugging me, Jim's hugging me, Kent's hugging me and then they are giving me a plaque with Mac Russo's name on it
And I can't breathe. Or think. And I can't stop the tears. I am still a girl.
Then I try, like so many before me, to tell them what this means to me. What a momentous occasion this is for me. How special this is. How wonderful this is. How thankful I am to have all of these amazing people in my life, both professionally and personally.
But there is no way I can. Not even now.