Having travelled a good deal throughout the Carolinas in my years as a sports reporter, I’ve built a pretty sizable t-shirt collection. It’s both a tradition of mine and a physical documentation of where sports have taken me…omitting the t-shirts of my old high schools’ hated rivals of course. Not sure if there’s an age limit on getting my head shoved in a toilet, but I don’t want to find out.
Anyways, while my fiance visited with family this past weekend, I took the opportunity to return to my old stomping grounds and visit some of my closest friends. The same friends who remember the 16 year-old me with 80 extra pounds tacked on and a preference for jeans that were way too baggy.
We’ve all grown up since then (thankfully), but when it came time for the inevitable ‘what have you been up to?’ questions, I opted to wear my answer. Adorned in my “Scots Baseball” t-shirt, I arrived at a local haunt and spent the next few hours rekindling the funniest and most embarrassing moments of our pasts (see above for an example).
But imagine my surprise when perfect strangers began to flag me down, three to be exact.
One was an older Rockingham native, and the other two were prep sports fans roughly my age. They had seen my Scots Baseball t-shirt, and after fielding their questions each conversation ended in a similar fashion.
“I heard their football and baseball teams are really good,” they said.
Granted, this wasn’t Nebraska, but in local sports lore there’s always a constant. If you win big and over the course of several years, you gain the widespread respect of other elite programs and their fans. And if my experience is any indication, Scotland County is on the fast track to being well-known throughout the Carolinas and beyond. Heck, it’s already well-known throughout North Carolina.
And the recognition is not just limited to the Fighting Scots.
After I told a good friend from New York about my current residence, he also had a question for me: “Isn’t that where St. Andrews is?”
You see, my friend’s family raises and shows horses professionally, traveling to points all over the United States to take part in top-tier events. When I told him about my move to Laurinburg, he immediately thought of the Knights equestrian program which has grown to become one of the most elite in the nation. Having been ignorant to the sport itself prior to arriving here, my friend went on to tell me that the reputation of St. Andrews has expanded tenfold in the horse show circuit over the years as his father has gotten him increasingly involved. He heard about the St. Andrews equestrian program years before I set foot here, strictly from word of mouth.
High praise indeed.
It’s a humbling feeling to know that your excellence in something can be noticed and appreciated outside of where you live. I’m certainly humbled to have the privilege of covering excellence, and I suppose I’ve done my part in spreading the word about Scotland sports myself. Friends, family, random bar patrons and anyone else that asks what I do for a living have gotten an earful since I started here, trust me.
With all that being said: Who’s next to extend their reach outside of Scotland because of their accomplishments? Will it be the Fighting Scots football team as they attempt to establish a yearly winning tradition? Will it be the Fighting Scots volleyball team, who has already cemented their winning tradition? Will its recent addition to the NAIA give St. Andrews’ sports programs the chance to shine like never before?
But one thing is for sure: I have a lot more t-shirts to collect.