CLINE: Memories of kind men and Friday nights of the past

Todd Cline

Todd Cline

It’s always fun hearing from voices from your past, even if that past is not so distant. I got a good chuckle from an email sent by Scot Ferguson late last year as the high school football season wound down.

Scot’s son Whit played at Collins Hill and Scot was part of the press box crew for the Eagles, a group that was always fun to be around when I was covering games. The email was succinct, quoting a line I had said many years earlier after Gwinnett had its way with Cobb County in the football playoffs:

“Cobb County football stinks,” the email read, attributing the comment to me when I first said it in 1999. The second line merely read: “14 years later …” referring to another round of Gwinnett taking down Cobb in the postseason.

It was a funny email and a kind gesture, a reminder of good times on Friday nights. But we learn as we get older that the good times don’t go on forever, and sometimes you hear a familiar name in a way you wish you never would.

That describes the most recent email I got from another member of that Collins Hill press box team. A little more than a week ago I received an email from Scott Desing. It too was succinct and a kind gesture, but this gesture was to reveal bad news. It said:

The Collins Hill Community lost their “Voice” and a true friend yesterday, when James Earl “Frosty” Plunkett passed away suddenly.

It was sad news, making for a solemn morning at work. It’s been nearly nine years since I moved from sports to news, but the memory of Frosty on those Friday nights still seems pretty fresh. He was a kind man, the ringleader of that Collins Hill press box and a proud Eagle to the core.

He was the only P.A. announcer the Collins Hill football program has ever known. He was preparing for his 21st season of calling games for the Eagles before a heart attack took his life while playing golf in South Carolina. He was just 62.

There’s no explaining things like this. Frosty was an avid runner who hadn’t eaten red meat in years. A man in the prime of his life enjoying a round of golf. And then … gone.

Frosty’s passing brings back memories of his friend, the late Alan Fahring, who started the Collins Hill football program and has the field named in his honor. Both Frosty and Fahring were Arkansas natives, as is Larry Sherrill, who succeeded Fahring as Collins Hill’s head coach.

Fahring was one of my favorite coaches to interview, mostly because I enjoyed shooting the breeze with him after the interview was over. Sherrill usually sat in on those bull sessions as well, and the talk would run the gamut from gossip to sports to sometimes something more poignant.

At a time when Fahring was at the onset of his cancer diagnosis, I told him and Sherrill that I was lucky that I didn’t know anyone really close to me who had the disease. They cautioned me that would change as I grew older. “You will,” they said.

I never thought it would be my own father. But a few years later Fahring was gone, and not too long after that so was my dad. He was just 63.

There’s no making sense of things like that, of good men going well before their time. Especially as we prepare for Father’s Day. The only thing you can do is hold onto the memories — of Friday nights in the press box, bull sessions after practice and of kind men like Frosty, Fahring and my father.

Email Todd Cline at todd.cline@gwinnettdailypost.com. His column appears on Wednesdays.