RIP David McCollum

I was not blessed with athletic ability.  Or coordination.  But I am very competitive.

My lack of skill did not stop me from dragging my parents to four years of soccer and a concurrent six years of basketball.

McCollum_David_400x400Because of my lack of talents on the field, and my interest in competition, I have found myself drawn to sports journalism and sports history.  Which, being in Central Arkansas, lead me to the writing of David McCollum.

Disclosure, for several years I attended church with him and his family.  My parents and sister still do.  But he was such an unassuming gentleman, my interest in his writing sprung not from familiarity with him. It came from what and how he wrote.

With a career of over 50 years, David entered the newspaper business as it was starting the transition from hot lead and pecking out a story on typewriters into the world of computers and electronic filing.  Likewise the field of sports journalism was transitioning from the era of colorful, hyperbolic language (which might not always be 100% accurate) into a time of bare facts crammed into increasingly shrinking column inches.

David did not try to be a colorful sportswriter. He was not trying to have the spotlight shown on him through his writing.  In his stories, David sought to serve the sports. But he brought to his writing a sense of history and style that hearkened back to bygone days without sacrificing the facts that he knew his readers wanted.  In serving his sports, he also served his readers.

While often the smartest guy in the room, especially when it came to Conway sports, David never acted like it.  In his prose, he shows his expertise without lording it over the reader.  He used his knowledge to let his readers be more informed. He was like that favorite teacher we all had at least once in high school or college. He wanted to bring us along on the journey.

For a sportswriter, working in Conway must have been a dream job.  Both UCA and Hendrix have active athletic programs.  And the Wampus Cats of Conway have long been dominant. In addition, during his career, David was able to see towns like Vilonia, Mayflower, and Greenbrier grow and develop into powerhouses in their own high school sports classifications.

Over the years, as I’ve been seeking to learn more about a sports topic, I’ve often gone back to his writing on a player, an event, a game.  Whether it was a story or an interview, his trademark understated and engaging prose was on display.  Earlier this year, I was needing background on a Little Rock Touchdown Club scholarship because we were honoring a recipient at Little Rock City Hall.

There it was.

In a column David wrote a few years ago, there were not just the facts, but the emotions. In writing about how some Texas Longhorns had created a scholarship in Little Rock to pay tribute to the memory of one of their own, David touched on the sentiment without being maudlin.  He did not pile on the irony of Longhorns who beat the Hogs in the 1969 shootout creating a scholarship here. He let the story speak for itself.  The kinship the two teams feel for each other now came through in David’s prose.

As David’s son Gavin said in making the announcement his father had died, “there were more stories for him to write.”  Yes, there were.  I feel sorry for future athletes in Faulkner County that they won’t get to be interviewed by him.  I feel sorry for the readers who won’t get his take on a future game.

David had seen enough games to know that the outcome does not always go your way.  As much as he would probably be uncomfortable with the outpouring of emotions that are now going on, I think he would understand we need to do this.  We need to express our sadness.  It helps us to move on to the next challenge.  And part of that challenge is a world without him.  I know he would be very pleased to see, just as a team rallies together, people are rallying together to support his wife and son.

So thank you, David McCollum. For your life and your commitment to excellence.  Though it has fallen out of usage these days, I’m old school enough to pay tribute to your life and career with an old journalism and PR tool to indicate the end.

David McCollum -30-

Second Friday Cinema – September 30, 1955

OSH MovieTonight at the Old State House’s “Second Friday Cinema” September 30, 1955.  The screening starts at 5pm.

Starring Richard Thomas and future Oscar winner Lisa Blount, the film is about an Arkansas teen’s fascination with his film idol James Dean, and his reaction to the news of Dean’s death in a car wreck. The movie, set in 1950s small-town Arkansas, was written and directed by Arkansan James Bridges.  It was filmed in and around Conway.  At the time much of downtown Conway and the campus of UCA were largely unchanged since the 1950s.

September 30, 1955 is one of Bridges’s more personal films and is in contrast with his more well-known films which include The China Syndrome, Urban Cowboy and Bright Lights, Big City.  The tagline sums it up with: In twenty-four hours, a nice college kid named Jimmy J. robbed a liquor store, got drunk, held a séance, crawled through a cemetery, raided lovers’ lane, dropped the Homecoming Queen, and went to jail. It happened on September 30, 1955, the day that shook up a generation!

Others in the cast include future Oscar nominees Tom Hulce (before Animal House), Susan Tyrrell and Dennis Quaid.  Tom Bonner’s voice is heard as a radio announcer.

Ben Fry, general manager of KLRE/KUAR and coordinator of the film minor at UALR, will introduce the film and lead a discussion after the screening.


As the Thanksgiving weekend approaches and people travel the highways and byways Arkansas and the South, it is a good time to think about the Oxford American magazine.

The Oxford American celebrates great writing, great food, great music and the great people of the South.  With a broad definition of “great” it takes time to highlight not only the renowned but also the hidden treasures. By focusing on the South, the Oxford American shines the spotlight on things that unique to the South, but also shows that there is much that is universal.

Founded in 1992 by Marc Smirnoff in Oxford, Mississippi, the Oxford American has been located in Conway, Arkansas, on the campus of the University of Central Arkansas since 2004.  The magazine is led by Smirnoff and publisher Warwick Sabin.

The magazine has won many awards and received much recognition.  The music issue will be released in December and is the most popular issue each year.  It will be discussed in a future entry here.  The current issue focuses on education.

If you are a passenger on a road trip this weekend, the Oxford American is a great way to spend the time. Or if you are having a family and turkey overload — it makes a great getaway.