Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Corn Nation explores myth, reality of ’70 air crash

       Author's note: Here’s an item for your review. It’s an article entitled  "We Are Marshall” and “The Marshall Story” – Hollywood vs. Reality. You’ll find it in the archives of the Corn Nation website.
       Corn Nation editor Jon Johnston conducts a Q&A interview with Rick Nolte, one of the co-authors of The Marshall Story, a book  which takes a chronological look at Marshall University football from the late ‘60s through the program’s heydays of the 1990s and early 2000s. Nolte is one of four former staff writers who covered MU football for the Herald-Dispatch newspaper in Huntington, West Virginia where MU is located.
       In the interview, Nolte addresses the contents of The Marshall Story and the Warner Bros. film We Are Marshall, released in 2006. I’ve included excerpts from that interview (read below). 
       Nolte covered Marshall football for the Huntington newspaper as a sports writer (1978-85) and later as assistant sports editor and sports editor (1986-93). 
      He also served as writer/editor for two previously-written books about MU football Rolling Thunder and Won For All.

       CN: Anything in the movie that you personally didn't like or would have changed?
       Nolte: The first time I watched the movie, I was somewhat disappointed. The second and third times I saw it, I understood why. Because I had lived it all, I spent the first showing finding all the inaccuracies. I found out later, that was pretty typical of anyone who had a history with the story.
       When Ruffin and his teammate come out of the movie theater upon hearing the news of the crash, the fire trucks are heading east on the street. The airport was west of Huntington. The Ohio River doesn't run through Huntington, it forms the city's northern border with Ohio.
       None of the cheerleaders dated a star player. And when the star player's dad was alone in the deserted downtown, you wouldn't have been able to hear cheers from the stadium. It was almost four miles away and the crowd wasn't much over 10,000.
       The successive times I watched it, though, I was able to look at it differently. From those times I felt like it was a good movie.
       CN: Did funeral processions actually meet at intersections?
       Nolte: Yes. After all the bodies were identified and arrangements were finalized, mortuaries met to try to schedule funerals so times wouldn't conflict. They did the best they could, but they couldn't keep some from overlapping. I attended 13 funerals in a five-day period after the crash. Three of those came in one day.
       CN: In We Are Marshall, Red Dawson is painted as a very tragic figure. The movie mentions that he resigned after the 1971 season. Why was it that Dawson never returned to football?
       Nolte: The movie's portrayal of Red Dawson was rivaled only by that of its treatment of Ruffin. Outside of those who lost family members in the crash, nobody suffered more from the crash than Red. He left after one season because he honestly just couldn't be around the game any more.
       Just on the team, he'd lost young men who were like sons and colleagues who were like brothers, not to mention his connection to the team doctors and other local community leaders. When you look at it that way, nobody lost more than Red.
       We tried to talk with him for our first book, but he just couldn't do it. That book came out in the late fall of 1988 after Marshall had played Northeast Louisiana for the I-AA championship in 1987, but he still was hurting. He was glad we were doing the book, but he just couldn't talk about it.
       When they finally won the title in 1992, he was able to talk about it for the book that came out in ’93. It was the first time he'd talked at length about the crash and the following 20-some years. His grieving process seemed to end with that championship. The movie, I think, completed his healing.

 You can access the complete article by clicking here

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Memoir offers unique look at Marshall football

Compared to other media projects, the memoir November Ever After takes a far different approach in its treatment of the November 14, 1970 plane crash that killed most of Marshall University’s varsity football team. The well-known story gained some national attention several years ago with the release of the movie We Are Marshall.
  • November Ever After delves into areas that the movie didn’t deal with. Defensive back Felix Jordan (ankle injury) and offensive lineman Ed Carter (death in the family) missed the trip and their lives were spared as a result. The memoir reveals the details of the hows and the whys for them not being on the ill-fated flight.
  • The true story about the tragedy and its aftermath is amazing in and of itself. But viewers would never know that by what they see in the movie. The memoir is chock-full of real-life recollections from those who were left behind. Readers are taken back in time to the night of the disaster when girlfriends shrieked in anguish after learning that their football-playing boyfriends had died. For those who have little or no familiarity with the story, it sounds too much like fiction – but it isn’t.
  • Football is the anchor for this story, but there’s so much more to it than football. The story line is provocative with all the requisite elements that make for compelling reading – romance, premonition, prophecy, denial, depression, relief and ecstasy.
       I give a tip of the hat to the movie and the previously-produced books and documentaries. But those projects are really appetizers. 
       By comparison, November Ever After is the full-course meal. It tells an old story with a twist that’s new and true.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Book offers new insights about Marshall plane crash

"Most people are amazed by what they discover from the movie and the documentaries about the Marshall tragedy.  As amazed as they are, they don't realize that what they've learned is only the tip of the iceberg."

Author Craig T. Greenlee discusses his memoir with The Chronicle newspaper in Winston-Salem, NC. Click on the "Media" tab at the top of this page to read the whole article.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Author featured in article about NSSA book signing

For Greenlee, telling the Marshall story never gets old.
       Editor’s Note: The recent book signing sponsored by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association attracted a lively crowd of inquisitive sports fans and avid readers. Noted writers such as Bob Ryan (Boston Globe and ESPN) and Leigh Montville (Sports Illustrated) were on hand to mix and mingle with other media and visitors during the association’s annual awards weekend held in Salisbury, NC.
       But there were others in that journalistic mix who had recollections of their own to share. Craig T. Greenlee was one of eight writers who accepted an invitation to participate in the event. The Salisbury Post newspaper ran an article about the book signing which included Greenlee, who is the author of November Ever After, a memoir about the Marshall plane crash and its aftermath (read below).

       Craig Greenlee played for the Marshall football team for two years before the plane crash that killed the majority of the 1970 team after a road game at East Carolina. It was one of the worst tragedies in sports history and Greenlee had been teammates with most of the players on board. Scottie Reese, a linebacker from Waco, Texas, was slated to be the best man at Greenlee’s wedding.
       Greenlee, a freelance writer who lives in Winston-Salem, wanted to give a first-hand account of the story. He said he was inspired to write his book after watching the movie We Are Marshall.
       “It’s not in the sense of being a movie hater,” Greenlee said. “It’s in the sense of there’s a lot of aspects of this story that have never really been addressed.”
       Greenlee recollects stories such as teammate Ed Carter’s. Carter’s mother called him 10 days before the crash and predicted the plane would go down and he didn’t need to be on it. Carter now has a global ministry that he’s led for decades.
       Greenlee claims a hostile racial conflict occurred after an intramural football game at the school the night before the plane went down. The crash obviously gave the students a newfound perspective.
       “I felt like we were on the verge of a race riot,” Greenlee said. “The plane went down and it’s almost like none of that happened. The hurt and shock was so deep it cut across all lines.”
- Ryan Bisesi
Salisbury Post (NC)

Friday, June 8, 2012

Eager to share memories about Marshall football

       Author Craig T. Greenlee gets a welcomed opportunity to talk about his time as a college jock at Marshall University at an upcoming book signing. On November 14, 1970, MU lost most of its football team in a horrible plane crash. Seventy-five people died and there were no survivors.
       Last fall, Greenlee published his first book – November Ever After – which provides a first-person perspective about what life was really like in the aftermath of the worst aviation disaster in the history of American sports.
       Greenlee will be on hand to sign copies of his book on Sunday (June 10) as part of the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Associations Awards Weekend in Salisbury, North Carolina. The book signing will take place at the Literary Bookpost from 2-4 p.m.
       As a Marshall U. defensive back in the late ‘60s/early ‘70s, Greenlee knows a few things about that time period. Most of the players who were on that ill-fated flight were former teammates. He played two seasons, but left the team for personal reasons the year before the crash.
       “After the tragedy, I decided to return to the team and help in the rebuilding effort,” Greenlee said. “At that time, it never dawned on me that all of us who came out for spring football in 1971 (a few months after the crash) would wind up being part of history.
       “There are many aspects of the Marshall crash story that has never been dealt with. In writing my book, one of my goals is give readers a clearer understanding of how so many people were affected on so many different levels. November Ever After is truly a story whose time has finally come.”  
       Here’s a listing of the other authors who will participate in the book signing:
  •  Leigh Montville -- Ted Williams: An American Hero. Montville is an NSSA Hall of Famer (2009)and former writer for the Boston Globe and Sports Illustrated. He has authored eight books, including biographies of Babe Ruth, Dale Earnhardt, Manute Bol and Evel Knievel.
  • Duke University radio play-by-play announcer Bob Harris – From the Cotton Mill to the Crow’s Nest.
  • Alabama Sportswriter of the Year Doug Segrest -- A Storm Came Up is a non-sports novel set in Alabama in the 1960s.
  • Dave Ungrady -- Born Ready: The Mixed Legacy of Len Bias
  • Herb Appenzeller -- Ethics in Sport
  • Mark Johnson -- Argyle Armada: Behind the Scenes of the Pro Cycling Life
  • Andrew Derr -- Life of Dreams, a book about NSSA Hall of Fame member Fred Russell.
       In conjunction with the book signing, Jostens will also display their twenty-eight Super Bowl championship rings. This event is free and open to the public.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Encouragement in the wake of Marshall plane crash

NOVEMBER 15, 1970
       It’s a very somber Sunday and it’s also the day after the Marshall plane crash.  The stark reality that nobody wanted to face began to settle in people’s minds. Shock, dismay and bewilderment overwhelmed the university and the city of Huntington, West Virginia.
       On a dreary Saturday night, Marshall University lost most of its football team in a horrible crash as the team’s DC-9 jet attempted to land at Tri-State Airport. The Thundering Herd was making its return trip from a road game against East Carolina University.
       Thirty-seven football players, most of the coaching staff, several school administrators and a host of MU boosters lost their lives. There were no survivors among the seventy-five passengers on board.
       A memorial service was held on Sunday night at Memorial Fieldhouse, the off-campus arena where Marshall played its home basketball games. Dr. Donald Dedmon, who had become Marshall’s acting president at that time, addressed a close-to-capacity crowd of about 7,000 people who attended that service.
       The impact of what happened on the night of November 14, 1970 was devastating. Looking back on this in retrospect, it’s clear that Dr. Dedmon faced a difficult task in attempting to provide some sense of solace for a school and a community in deep mourning.
       Even to this day, the Marshall plane crash is still considered to be the worst aviation disaster in the history of sports in America.
       Dr. Dedmon gave the audience much to ponder as he spoke. What I still find to be so noteworthy about what said that night was a reference he made to why he believed in immortality.
       Here’s an excerpt from what Dr. Dedmon said.
       “Belief in God and in immortality thus gives us the moral strength and the ethical guidance we need for virtually every action in our daily lives. In our modern world many people seem to feel that science has somehow made such ‘religious ideas’ untimely or old-fashioned.
       But I think science has a real surprise for the skeptics. Science, for instance, tells us that nothing in nature, not even the tiniest particle, can disappear without a trace. Think about that for a moment. Once you do, your thoughts about life will never be the same.
       Science has found that nothing can disappear without a trace. Nature does not know extinction. All it knows is transformation!
       Now, if God applies this fundamental principle to the most minute and insignificant parts of His universe, doesn't it make sense to assume that He applies it also to the masterpiece of His creation – the human soul? I think it does.
      And everything science has taught me – and continues to teach me – strengthens my belief in the continuity of our spiritual existence after death. Nothing disappears without a trace.”