By now many of you, our readers, have noticed a big part of our prep coverage this season is missing.
That part being one of our most senior sports writers, Larry Fleming. Before I go on, let me tell you that Larry needs all our prayers right now. He’s in the hospital and not doing all that well.
Right after last year’s Spring Fling, Larry had hip replacement surgery. I honestly don’t know how he made it through the rigors of covering sports all year long and then the run-and-shoot coverage of the TSSAA spring championships. But, being the tough old guy he is, he did it.
He recovered well from the surgery, but, as in many cases, developed secondary problems. In his case it was a chronic cough that would not get better.
The doctors thought at one point it might’ve been pneumonia, but tests have seemingly ruled that out. Meanwhile, Larry ended up on oxygen to go with, in his words, “several Cadillac drugs.”
His waning strength has not allowed him to cover games, save but one volleyball game early in the season at East Hamilton.
Just this morning, Larry’s beautiful wife Donna informed me that an arteriogram had come back such that the results ruled out that his chronic heart disease was playing a role in this medical malady.
The next steps will be to do a full body scan to check for cancer and dementia, neither one a desired outcome.
Friends, I miss working alongside my pal Larry, as we would team up to bring you coverage of an exciting prep game or match. Larry is the consummate sports scribe, having covered the pros to preps.
He was the Tennessee beat writer for the old Chattanooga Times when we had two papers in town. He was there when the Vols stormed back to beat Notre Dame at South Bend and there in Tempe, Arizona when they won the National Championship.
Larry, a multi-Hall of Fame enshrine, covered Tennessee basketball when Ray Mears wore his brilliant orange sports coat and games were played at Stokely Arena. He interviewed Ernie and Bernie. He was quite comfortable talking to stellar college athletes.
Yet, Larry can make a high school player feel and sound just as special. He always makes sure to interview the players, because, as he says, “They always give you the best quotes.” Young, would be sports journalists should take a lesson.
He can spin a lead better than anyone in the business, grabbing the attention of the reader right out of the starting gate. He will then go on to grab and hold their attention right through the stats at the end of the story.
I miss working with Larry because he always makes my job as a photographer easier, making sure I have the lineups or rosters, along with a list of players he might want to run with his story.
Most of all, though, I miss Larry’s presence on the sidelines because he is my friend, no, the big brother I never had. I love listening to his stories of Tennessee athletics, Bud Ford, Johnny Majors, Phillip Fulmer, Peyton Manning, and the list goes on.
Folks, I know many of you love and miss Larry as much as I do. Please join me in praying for Larry and Donna. Pray for his comfort and peace and the Good Lord willing, healing and quick return to the sidelines. Remember also his son, Dusty and wife Liz and Larry’s beloved grandkids, Austin and Maddie. This is a wonderful family I’m talking about.
I know the Lord is listening.
If any one of you would like to leave Larry a message, send it to me at email@example.com and I’ll make sure it gets to him.
(Dennis Norwood is the Assistant Sports Editor and a photographer for The Chattanoogan.com. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him on Twitter at @DennisENorwood)