I’ve asked a lot of coaches a lot of questions over my 45 years as a journalist. Most of those questions, along with their partnered answers, have long been forgotten — save for one.
As a young sports editor in his late 20s, I was full of drive and passion, thinking about nothing else but covering more games, writing more stories, and having a better sports section than anybody else. Nothing else mattered.
When I moved to Meridian to become sports editor in the summer of 1984 my goals were pretty simple — build as good a sports section as I possibly could, then move on to the next assignment. That led to a lot of long hours, tons of frustration, and many ups and downs.
But sports was my life, and I was good with that.
Then I met the third coach in my “Tale of Three coaches” that I began weaving several weeks ago. And while the first coach in the story — former Louisville High School football coach Art Nester — left a story ingrained in my memory that I still chuckle about today, and the second one, former Meridian Community College men’s basketball coach Jim Redgate, pointed me in the direction of my eventual career path, the third one changed my life forever.
I honestly can’t remember the first time I met Barbara Lee Satcher, but she loves to tell about our first date, when I took her to watch a college baseball game (that I was covering of course) in freezing temperatures and had to borrow her car to get there.
At the time she was coaching the women’s basketball team at Meridian Community College and I was sports editor of the Meridian Star. I had developed a set of rules for myself and my reporters and one of those was that we could not date the athletes or coaches we were covering.
Well, the good thing about being the boss is that you can change the rules.
Barbara and I both had been divorced for a couple years and really weren’t sure where that part of our personal life was going.
Personally, I had “discovered” that love wasn’t real and was all a facade. It had become evident to me that nobody or nothing could ever make those “firecrackers go off” for me again. I suppose cynical would be a good word to describe my frame of mind.
With a failed marriage in the rearview mirror, it seemed much easier to just be betrothed to my work.
Let’s fast forward to 2021. This coming Monday, Barbara and I will be celebrating 34 years of marriage. We have two sons — Ryan, who was born to Barbara and Jimmy Satcher in January of 1983, and Bradley, who was born two years after our marriage — two grandchildren, a daughter-in-law and lots of journeys, adventures and memories together.
Until I met Barbara, an adventure to me was going to a ball game. She introduced me to the Smoky Mountains, the beach, the Rocky Mountains, and the overall beauty of nature. Her love and patience opened doors in my life that I didn’t even know were there.
Sure, there were a few bumps along the way, but when our lives truly became about following Christ and more about family and helping others than anything else, things just blossomed in ways that couldn’t be imagined.
There are many people, perhaps some reading this, that feel like their future is hopeless - that they are doomed to loneliness or are consumed by despair. To those I would say have faith, keep plugging on, never give up, and give your hopes and dreams to the Creator. His solutions are much better than your plans — guaranteed.
In case you were wondering, the one answered question that I asked a coach that I will never forget took place on August 27, 1986, when I asked Barbara to marry me and she said “yes.”
And by the way, those never-ending “firecrackers” are still going off deep in my soul.
Happy Anniversary, Barb! You have made me a better person and changed my life forever.
Austin Bishop, AKA The Old Sports Dude, has been covering high school, college, amateur and professional sports since 1975. He will be retiring from the journalism business at the conclusion of 2021. He is currently pastor of Great Commission Assembly of God in Philadelphia, Miss. He may be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.