The Flyer was founded in February 1989. On the front cover of that inaugural edition, we put the words, "Our First Issue." Being nothing if not consistent and literal, we continued to proudly proclaim the issue number on each of the subsequent 999 issues. (There is an unverifiable story that the number didn't get updated one week in the 1990s and that there may in fact be two issues with the same number. But no one wants to go through all the back issues and confirm this.) At any rate, this one is number 1,000.
That's a lot of Tim Sampson columns.
Tim was the Flyer's first editor and did the heavy lifting during the early years, when the paper was struggling financially. His cynical sign-off for his "We Recommend" column ("I don't care what you do because I don't even know you") was no doubt born from having to endure weekly fist-pounding meetings with the publisher (the kindly, handsome, and easygoing Kenneth R. Neill).
The fist-pounding stopped after a couple years, when the Flyer started making a little money (and when Ken's watch exploded off his wrist after a particularly forceful pound). But the damage had been done and Tim hasn't been the same since. Poor man.
Dennis Freeland took over as editor in the early 1990s. He was a great fellow and a brilliant sportswriter as well. Under his leadership, and that of managing editor Susan Ellis, the Flyer blossomed and grew into something of a local institution. If you hadn't read John Branston's City Beat or Jackson Baker's Politics or Dennis' sports columns, you were out of the loop.
I began working here in 1993 as editorial director. I became editor on a "temporary" basis when Dennis fell ill with cancer. Following his sad and untimely death in 2002, I moved into the editor's office and never left. This is probably my 350th issue or so. But who's counting?
The people who do count are those who create your weekly Flyer — the writers, editors, art directors, ad sales folks, and others who make this publication possible. Do me a favor. Turn to page 6 and read the masthead, just this once. It'll make me feel 1,000 times better.
It's deep in a November night in Memphis, and I'm awakened by rain. It's coming down hard, sounding like a million pebbles hitting the roof. The gutter I've been meaning to clean is overflowing outside the bedroom window. A flash of lightning illuminates the room, and I do what I've done since I was a boy: count the seconds 'til the thunder rolls. I get almost to 10 before I hear a distant rumble. Two miles or so. Someone else's lightning ...
Exactly seven years ago this week, I wrote a column decrying a proposal by city engineers to turn the Overton Park Greensward into an 18-foot-deep "detention basin" designed to stop flooding in Midtown. The engineers claimed we'd hardly notice the football-field-sized bowl. "Except," I wrote then, "when it rains hard, at which time, users of Overton Park would probably notice a large, 18-foot-deep lake in the Greensward. Or afterward, a large, muddy, trash-filled depression."