Perks, Jelks, Perkins: There are a few perks in this business. One of the best deals I ever received was about 15 years ago. I was still a youngster then.
IBM contacted me and asked if I had attended the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta. Actually, I did. I went to events in basketball and gymnastics. I did not cover the games for the media though.
The corporate representative then asked if I, as a media member, would be interested in attending a conference in San Francisco regarding the '96 games. IBM would cover all expenses.
Of course I jumped at the chance. My newlywed, a youngster herself, made the trip as well. We had a ball with cable car rides and sightseeing at Alcatraz, Chinatown, Lombard Street and Pier 39.
My end of the deal was to attend a few sessions and answer questions about the Atlanta games. Remember, I didn't even cover the games. I just attended.
Still, I had a little knowledge of media coverage at sporting events. Most of the attendees were from other countries. In fact, I only remember one guy from the states.
Jon Nelson worked in television in Atlanta. He was there. He also spoke English.
Jon and I had fun keying in ridiculous responses and tagging them to our foreign friends displayed on a big screen.
I've kept up with Jon over the years. He's done well in the sports media world. He's even written a book.
Last week I had him on my radio program to talk about it. "Above Ground" is the title. It's about former Alabama football player Gene Jelks and how he's overcome not only being outcast by Bama fans but drug addiction and homelessness.
The faith based book includes Jelks account of his playing days and bitterness over the move to defensive back under Bill Curry, while Bobby Humphrey basked in the limelight.
Jelks explains a time of desperation and why he accepted money from Auburn boosters to claim he was compensated by Alabama while in Tuscaloosa.
"He was young and angry," Jon said. "His career didn't go where he thought it could have."
Jelks talks regularly these days with an ex-Auburn player that many would consider a villain, Eric Ramsey.
"Both of them with their rather large faith in God are looking to help others," Jon added.
The Jelks/Ramsey story would be an interesting documentary for ESPN.
Ray Perkins wrote the forward for the book. Perkins has been chipping in as an assistant coach for the same team in Mississippi where Brett Favre volunteered.
"Above Ground" is available through Amazon. I haven't been called back for a follow-up by IBM, nor has Jon. The World Games are coming to Birmingham. We'll see what develops in 2021.
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