NSSA Weekend: Sports took a backseat for McCarter

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 14, 2011

SALISBURY — Recently, the Huntsville Times’ Mark McCarter was given a three-day vacation from sports writing.
It was unwanted.
Tornados ripped through Alabama, devastating Huntsville with its worst storm in 35 years.
Sports? No one was really thinking about who was playing who in the early part of May.
“We essentially didn’t have a sports section for three days,” said McCarter, in town this weekend for the NSSA festivities as Alabama Sportswriter of the Year.
The storms hit right about the time the NFL Draft was on the air, promoting Auburn’s favorite son, Cam Newton, as the No. 1 pick.
“It was really odd,” McCarter said. It was one of the biggest pieces of news. We had one sports page to get the draft in there.”

Known for his popular “McCarter’s Musings,” sports stories were not what McCarter was banging out as April turned into May.
“I wrote columns all week on the tornados,” he said. “About all of the space was devoted to the tornados.”
Eight people were killed in the Huntsville area. McCarter remembers writing about a family who did make it, but just barely.
A man, three miles from his home, decided to check up on his mom, and found her taking a nap. They were following the storm on the radio when he grabbed his mother and yelled, “Mom, get down.”
McCarter still shudders about the story.
“Thirty seconds later, there was nothing there but a little bit of the bedroom and the hallway they were lying in,” McCarter said.
McCarter and his wife, Patricia, who accompanied him to Salisbury, weren’t hit as hard as others. But their power was still out for four days.
“We were some of the lucky ones,” McCarter said.

Mark and Patricia live 21/2 hours from Tuscaloosa and 31/2 hours from Auburn. Patricia is an Auburn follower and both she and Mark enjoyed Auburn and Alabama working together.
“I think there’s a lot more cohesiveness between the students,” Patricia said.
There was proof of that when someone poisoned 130-year-old oak trees at Toomer’s Corner at Auburn.
People from Tuscaloosa started “Tuscaloosa for Toomer’s.”
Auburn paid Alabama back when the storms hit Tuscaloosa.
McCarter spoke of “Toomer’s for Tuscaloosa,” where people from Auburn loaded up trucks with supplies and clothes for their rival.

Now, if for only a weekend, McCarter puts it all on the backburner and celebrates a long career in the business.
“I started when I was 17,” he said. “It’s 13 years at Huntsville.”
It’s a special weekend, not just because of the NSSA, but due to the date.
“This is my third time to win,” McCarter said.
Looking over at Patricia, he announced, “The second time I won it was a week before we got married.”
Today is the McCarters’ anniversary.

Even with the tornados, there was still interest in Carolina’s No. 1 draft pick. Auburn fans treat Newton like a god. McCarter admits there’s something different about him.
“I’ve been around few guys who have more charisma on and off the field,” he said, also referring to that famous Cam Newton smile. “We sit there and watch Tebow for four years and go, ‘Gosh, there will never be anybody like Tim Tebow in college football ever again.’ And a year later, somebody’s better.”
It was easy to tell McCarter was much more comfortable talking sports than talking tornados.

Contact Ronnie Gallagher at 704-797-4287 or rgallagher@salisburypost.com.