Published: Sep 04, 2012 11:00 PM
Modified: Sep 04, 2012 06:17 PM
A young reporter for the Daily Tar Heel, I was covering an out-of-town University of North Carolina football game for the first time when I met him.
Flying in a jet, renting a car and booking a hotel room were all new to me at the age of 19. There I was, standing in the middle of the mostly deserted airport outside New Orleans at midnight, trying to figure out how to get to the hotel and to get a few hours sleep before the next evenings UNC-Tulane game at the old Sugar Bowl venue.
The only familiar face I saw was Woody Durham. He was standing at the baggage carousel waiting to pick up his bags.
Woody had not been the play-by-play radio announcer all that long for the Tar Heels. For many people, he was still the North Carolina Triads leading sports broadcaster. Thats because he indeed still was the top man at WFMY television in Greensboro; he was splitting time between evening TV broadcasts and doing the radio broadcasts for the Tar Heels.
To me, he looked like a man who knew where he was going.
It made sense to me to seek his advice about how to get from here to there in New Orleans and back again. I was very young and green, but he couldnt have been nicer treating me like a fellow Tar Heel and not at all like a rookie who didnt deserve any attention from a seasoned veteran. He helped me get to the game on time.
That remains one of my most memorable trips as a sports reporter.
It must have been barely a blip to Woody Durham, who has many, many more memories than most people of a full life in sports. Most of that life centers on Chapel Hill.
everybody calls him Woody, almost never Durham) recounts many of those memories of Chapel Hill in his eponymous book: "Woody Durham A Tar Heel Voice" written in concert with Tar Heel Monthly publisher Adam Lucas.
Published by John F. Blair, Woody Durham is classified as an autobiography, but it is more of a memoir. Its highly anecdotal, not always chronological or even divided into clearly disparate chapters, leaping from topic to topic, story to story, personality and personality, back and forth between decades and between football and basketball.
But it is always interesting, unfailingly readable.
Most people under the age of 50, who wouldnt remember Woody as anything but the consummate Voice of the Tar Heels, would be surprised to discover his deep roots in Chapel Hill. He grew up in Albemarle, playing football under the legendary Toby Webb, but he is the grandson of a Franklin Street barber. He is a UNC grad, a Tar Heel born and bred, and has multiple stories of Chapel Hill in the days of angle parking and rotary dial phones.
"Woodys book is important on its own merits, because he played a vital role in Carolina athletics," Lucas said last week. "But I also enjoyed the fact that its 40 years of UNC history as told by the one person who was there to see all of it. "
Woody has lots of stories about great games and great players at the university. Still, its not a tell-all book, and that may be its only true flaw.
Honesty is not a problem for Woody. Hes willing to talk about the death of Billy Arnold and the controversy surrounding UNCs ongoing problems.
The problem for the reader is that one will be left with the feeling that theres much more to tell. The book is 238 pages, including his acknowledgments and those of Adam Lucas, plus an appendix that is a capsulated look at some of UNCs greatest players; its well worth its list price.
Yet, given the wealth of stories at Woodys fingertips, it could have been twice as long and still eminently absorbing.
Woody still has at least one more book left in him.Flyleaf Books (www.flyleafbooks.com) will host the launch party for "Woody Durham A Tar Heel Voice" at 7 p.m. Thursday.