Ron Higgins grew up around sports during his youth in Louisiana. He has spent time in several markets in the Swampland Footprint before finding himself in the great city of Memphis writing for the Commercial Appeal.
Ron's sense of history gives him a perspective that has made him a hot commodity with other national sports outlets like ESPN.COM, especially for his knowledge of the SEC. Swampland Sports is pleased that our audience has a chance to learn a little bit about Ron and his deep connection to Southern sports.
The Swampland Sports Interview
Where were you born? Where did you grow up?
I was born in Baton Rouge, La., the son of the late Ace Higgins, sports information director at LSU from about 1954-68. That's right -- he was the SID when LSU won the national championship in football in 1958 and when Billy Cannon won the Heisman in 1959.
What was your definition of "big time" sports as a kid?
Big-time sports when I was kid in the South was a full stadium on a colllege football Saturday. Back then in the South, there were no Saints, Falcons, Titans. The only NBA team was the Hawks. There wasn't any hockey. The Astros and the Braves were the major league teams of choice in the Deep South.
When did you decide you wanted to write about sports?
My Dad moonlighted in the summer at the Baton Rouge morning paper, The Advocate. I went there with him five nights a week in the summer, starting when I was 7 years old. I'd look over the shoulders of the writers to see how they would compose stories.
I taught myself how to hunt and peck (I still type that way, but now I call it run and gun). When I was 8, the sports editor of the Advocate, Bud Montet, asked me if I could write a few paragraphs on some local baseball games when the results and box scores were brought to our paper.
After I did that for four years, the prep editor asked me if I could cover high school football games on Friday nights. He asked if my Mom could drive me to a game, then pick me up and take me to the paper so I could write my story WITH MY BYLINE!
I remember walking into a dressing room after the first game I covered. The head coach took one look at me and said, "We need some clean towels." He thought I was the manager.
What writers inspired you to become a writer? Who are the writers that inspire you now?
My dad inspired me to write, But my favorite writers are Dan Jenkins, David Halberstam and Rick Reilly. Jenkins for his great storytelling and expansive characters, Halberstam for his painstaking detail and Reilly for his humor and ability to always keep you off-balance.
Can you compare the allure of pro vs college sports inside the markets you've covered?
I covered the NFL (Saints) in Mobile and I've covered the Grizzlies in Memphis. The passion for both put together doesn't equal college sports in the South, particularly college football.
As a sports columnist vs a beat writer, what do you see as your duty to the sports fans in your market (Memphis)?
As a columnist, it's my job to use my experience to give perspective and opinions to issues. As a beat writer, it's my job not to miss any news news on my beats.
Is there a rivalry between Memphis and Nashville that limits the appeal of the Tennessee Titans in Memphis?
There's a rivalry because Memphis felt it was used by Bud Adams, who had the team play one season in Memphis while the stadium in Nashville was being built. It's like Bud wiped his feet on Memphis, and moved on.
You’ve been in different sized Southern markets from Shreveport to Mobile to Baton Rouge to Memphis, each step was a move up in market size. Did the passion for sports increase as the market size increased?
Every situation was unique. In Shreveport, you had a college audience that also was in love with the Cowboys. Then, I went to Baton Rouge where it was all LSU and Saints. I went to Memphis, where we sit in the middle of half of the SEC, so there's a great mixture of things to cover. Then, I went to Mobile for two years where it's all about Alabama vs. Auburn. There's nothing else in that universe. When I went back to Memphis, we the city got an NBA team and the minor league AAA team moved into a new ballpark downtown. So there were some new things to write about.
Visit Ron Higgins at the Commercial Appeal's website