The barber shop on Detroit’s west side came alive on this Friday morning.
Two older black gentlemen discovered they grew up within a couple blocks of each other and the banter erupted into a sea of giggles, high fives and slaps on the back. I don’t know their names but let’s identify them as Talking Tommy and Giggling Greg.
“I bet we know the same people,” Tommy yelled.
“Do you remember Johnny B,” said Giggles with a chuckle. “Now he was a hell of an athlete. And that boy could fight. He would have kicked Tommy Hearns ass. But he went a little sideways. He could not leave them drugs alone.”
“Yeah,” Tommy replied. “I saw him kick six dudes ass in an alley all at once.”
I’ve noticed that when older black men talk about athletes they grew up with they are people we’ve never heard of, but they should all be in somebody’s sports Hall of Fame. They just get caught up in the streets and got a little side ways. And these dudes had the best names.
“Who was the best running back you ever saw,” Tommy demanded.
Now I am expecting a verbal battle between Barry Sanders and Jim Brown. How wrong could I be.
“Ol’ Musty Dusty Johnson,” said Giggles with another chuckle. “Nobody could hold a candle to that boy. If he made it to the NFL he would had run for 20,000 yards. But he never made it. He went a little side ways. He could not leave those women alone and fathered 19 kids by the time he was 17.”
“Oh yeah,” said Tommy. “I remember him. He ran for 400 yards against Catholic Central, but the school threw out the records of the game cause they were so embarrassed.”
“Did you know Jumping Johnny Jones? Boy could he hoop,” Tommy said. “He was better than Michael Jordan. He was a combination of Steph Curry and Wilt Chamberlain. He just went a little sideways and couldn’t stay out of jail.”
“Yeah I saw him play all the time,” Giggles said. “Mick McCabe from the Free Post kept writing about Antoine Joubert. But he never scored in double figures against Jumping Johnny. He was the Glove before there was a Glove.”
I know a number of you are saying that your boy T messed up. I meant to call the Free Post the Free Press. No. I got it right. Many black people did not read the Free Press and they called it the Free Post.
Even former Piston Oliver Miller called it the Free Post during a dressing room rant against former Free Press columnist Charlie Vincent. Vincent, who wrote a sports column, for the Morning Friendly called the Big O fat.
When reporters went into the Pistons dressing room before the game that night Miller asked every reporter: “Are you Charlie Vincent from the Free Post? I got to talk to Charlie Vincent from the Free Post. Ain’t nobody call me fat but my momma.”
Miller was 6-foot-9 and weighed more than 300 pounds during his career although teams listed him at 270 pounds. He eventually ate himself out of the league, ballooning to 380 pounds.
Sorry for going a little side ways, but I could not resist the story.