Longtime local sports talk radio show host George Plaster broke down on the air while talking with former Vanderbilt basketball coach Kevin Stallings this past week.
It wasn’t that Plaster, a Vanderbilt graduate, was all that torn up about Stallings leaving for Pitt after 17 years with the Commodores. It was more poignant than that.
Plaster and Stallings had connected on an emotional level a few years back when Plaster’s mom was dealing with an illness that eventually led to her death, and saying goodbye conjured up those agonizing feelings.
“It was a tough deal because Kevin had helped me through a difficult time, and when we started saying our farewells on the air, it brought back some pretty painful memories,” said Plaster, who could not hold back his tears during 102.5-FM’s “Sports Night.”
“I felt like a fool when it was over. But I tried to at least acknowledge that I’m a wimp. I’ve just come to the understanding that God made some people very stoic, and God made some other people emotional. Unfortunately, I fit into the latter.”
Listeners benefited by hearing about a side of Stallings they might have missed during his time in Nashville.
“Kevin is not perfect, but he’s not the monster a lot of people in Nashville think he is,” Plaster said.
Plaster’s mother, Sophie, was recovering from a small stroke when he got word while doing his show at a David Price charity event one afternoon that she had relapsed and suffered a massive stroke. Plaster jumped in his car and headed to the hospital.
“I was breaking every speed law known to man when Kevin just happened to call,” Plaster said. “It was just kind of a ‘Hey, what’s going on?’ call. I told him what had happened to Mom and he said, ‘You’re not ready for this.’ He had had a family member who had passed away of a stroke and said, “You just need to be prepared that there’s a real chance that this is it.'”
That was the first time Plaster realized how potentially dire the situation could be.
“When I got there they didn’t let me see my mom for about four hours, so I knew Kevin was right,” Plaster said.
Sophie Plaster died four days later.
Not long after that, Plaster’s father, Tom, started experiencing symptoms from the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease.
Plaster tried to get his dad out of the funk by taking him to see some of his old friends at his favorite restaurant, then to the Kiwanis Club and then to where the “Sports Night” crew was doing the show that afternoon.
It didn’t help. Tom seemed disoriented, and that bothered Plaster.
Plaster shared his concerns with Stallings, who again pulled no punches when trying to console him.
“Kevin asked me to repeat everything I had Dad do that day,” Plaster said. “Then, as only Kevin could do it, said, ‘So you had him from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. going around, around and around, and how old is he?’ I said he’ll be 90 in a couple of months, and Kevin was like, ‘What in the hell are you thinking?’ He said, ‘George, you’ve got to get real about this. You’re trying to turn the clock back on him like he’s in his 50s and he’s not.’ In that respect, Kevin was a really good friend to me. I wish more people would have gotten to know him like I did.”
Later in the week, the tables were turned when Stallings choked up while being interviewed by Greg Pogue and Joe Dubin on WNSR.
“When he was talking about leaving Nashville, he had to stop and collect himself,” Pogue said. “You hate to have dead air, but he wasn’t saying anything and we weren’t saying anything. We knew he needed a moment.”
Fairvue pro to work Masters as rules officiator
Fairvue Plantation head pro Cary Collins will be a rules officiator at The Masters, which begins Thursday.
Collins has been a member of the PGA of America Rules Committee since 2002, and this will be his ninth major championship to work. He also worked The Masters in 2009.
Former Vandy golfer plays round with Jenner, Wambach
Former Vanderbilt golfer Marina Alex, now on the LPGA Tour, played in a pro-am tournament this past week with Caitlyn Jenner and Abby Wambach.
The 2011-12 SEC Golfer of the Year played the first nine holes with Jenner, a former Olympian, and Wambach, a retired American soccer player, at Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage, Calif., on Wednesday.
Jenner, in her first appearance at a tournament pro-am since transitioning to a female, holed out for an eagle on the first hole.
Memphis football team to practice at Father Ryan
The Memphis football team will have one of its spring practices at Father Ryan High School next Saturday. It will be open to the public.
The Tigers will scrimmage at 3:30 p.m. The intent is to give Memphis fans in the Midstate the opportunity to catch a practice.
Local basketball players coming and going
Lipscomb basketball players Talbott Denny and J.J. Butler, who are set to graduate but still have a year of eligibility, are transferring.
Neither has said where he plans to go. Both missed this past season with injuries.
Denny, a 6-foot-6 guard, started in 17 games in 2014-15 and averaged 5.9 points per game. Butler, a 6-2 guard, started four games in 2013-14 and averaged 2.2 points and 1.3 assists.
Tennessee Tech, meanwhile, picked up Curtis Phillips, a transfer from Campbell who is originally from Memphis (White Station).
Phillips, a 6-5 sophomore guard, started in seven of Campbell’s first eight games this past season and averaged 8.1 points and 4.1 rebounds. In 2014-15, he made the Big South Conference all-freshman team.
Phillips sat out the second half of the season so he will become eligible at Tech after the fall semester.
Many in Midstate tune in to watch MTSU basketball
Local television ratings for Middle Tennessee State’s two NCAA Tournament men’s basketball games were very good.
The Blue Raiders’ first-round upset win over Michigan State on CBS (WTVF-5 locally) posted a 5.7 local rating, meaning 56,441 Nashville households tuned it.
The second-round loss to Syracuse on TNT earned an even more impressive 7.9, which equaled 78,226 households.
That was the highest-rated local game on cable (TNT, TBS and truTV) in the first four days of the tournament. The second-highest was North Carolina-Providence at 3.5.
The Vanderbilt-Wichita State play-in game earned a 4.0.
Former Ensworth star Swett is Navy’s top defender
Justice Swett, a junior on the Navy women’s basketball team from Ensworth, was named the Patriot League Defensive Player of the Year.
Swett helped Navy rank 20th nationally (54.9 ppg.) in scoring defense. She is tied for 69th nationally in steals per game (2.27)
Her career average (2.05 steals) is fifth in Navy history and her 68 steals this season tied for ninth.
She is the granddaughter of DavidSwett Sr., who owns Swett’s Restaurant.
Former Belmont star helping Warriors’ historic run
Former Belmont star Ian Clark is part of the historic season the Golden State Warriors are having in the NBA.
Clark, in his first season at Golden State, came off the bench Wednesday and helped the Warriors beat Utah 103-96 in overtime.
He played nine minutes in the fourth quarter and scored five points, helping Golden State come from behind and tie the score at the end of regulation.
Clark is averaging 3.9 point per game.
The Warriors (68-8) are within striking distance of the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls’ record of 72-10, which is the all-time best.
Hendersonville golfer wins AJGA in Florida
Hendersonville’s Bryce Lewis won the boys 12-15 age division of the American Junior Golf Association Preview at Innisbrook Resort and Golf Club in Palm Harbor, Fla., last weekend.
Lewis posted a two-round total of 141 (71 and 70). He made three birdies in each round.
Lewis’ father, Trey, is one of the area’s top amateur golfers.
Titans cheerleading tryouts coming up
Preliminary auditions for Titans cheerleaders are scheduled for 9:30 a.m. next Saturday at Nissan Stadium.
You must be at least 18, a high school graduate, available for all Titans home games and OK with spending a week this summer in Florida for the swimsuit calendar photo shoot.
It costs $25 to try out. For more information, call 615-565-4172 or visit titansonline.com.
Former Titans line coach lands at Northern Illinois
Former Titans offensive line coach Bob Bostad has been hired as tight ends coach at Northern Illinois, according to Sports Illustrated.
Bostad spent two seasons with the Titans but was not retained by new coach Mike Mularkey.
Before joining the Titans, Bostad spent 2012-13 with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the 22 years before that on the college level.
If you have an item for Midstate Chatter, reach Mike Organ at 615-259-8021 or on Twitter @MikeOrganWriter.
SPORTS ON NASHVILLE TV
The top five local ratings for sporting events on television for March 21-27:
T1. NCAA Elite 8: North Carolina-Notre Dame, 9.9 rating
T1. NCAA Elite 8: Villanova-Kansas, 9.9 rating
3. NCAA Sweet 16: Syracuse-Gonzaga, 7.2 rating
4. NCAA Sweet 16: Kansas-Maryland, 6.5 rating
5. NCAA Sweet 16: Virginia-Iowa State, 6.3 rating
SEC Network ratings not available. Each rating point is equal to 9,902 Nashville homes.
Source: Mark Binda, WTVF-5 programming & research director