By Thomas Sellers Jr.
Food fuels athletes and those who attend the games.
Heck, in the South, we treat sporting events like a family reunion. You get to see old friends while enjoying some entertainment on the field. To boost that occasion, we like to cook up a variety of things to snack on during the contest.
Completing my 10th season of sports coverage in this area, I know all the savory selections, hot spots, refreshing treats and special spreads to feast upon.
Here is my annual look back at all the great fellowship meals I had during the 2012-13 sports season all over the Mid-South. And this year I added a 10th category of Best Food Moment. It just seemed appropriate.
Best Foreign Food
Another change to this year’s food column will be me featuring an honorable mention. I have to send a shout out to Bolton High School, great barbecue nachos, bologna sandwich and chicken sandwich. And Arlington High School gets an honorable mention for the great spreads at holiday basketball tournaments and at the Memphis Braggin’ Rights. I got to see Jabrai Parker, JaJuan Johnson, Johnathan Williams III and other talented basketball players while enjoying a wonderful spread in the AHS Library.
But Covington wins this year’s award. During the 2013 Covington Softball Tournament, the thick cut barbecue bologna sandwich won over my heart. With the addition of pickles, sweet relish, onions and light mayo, I had the perfect treat. The cheesesticks, burgers and other items on the menu were forces that weekend too.
Honorable mention in this category will be hot chocolate at any cold “spring” sporting event. Throughout March and April, the liquid heat from the soothing hot chocolate kept my body temperature over 90 degrees to cover freezing soccer, chilly softball and icy baseball. Love you hot chocolate.
But the winner for this year is the return of the snow cone at USA Stadium. I drink these during hot sporting events. It helps fight the sun and beat the heat. Plus this year the old favorite had a new twist. I combined flavors like orange and cherry, and bubble gum and strawberry.
The little red house at Brighton has to get some love. I enjoy my visits to Lady Cardinal Softball to Cardinal Baseball games. And keeping to the standards set years ago, the good people at Brighton have a combination to enjoy. My personal favorite is the grilled chicken sandwich with fries and soda. I always grab a Snickers too for those traditional three-hour Brighton Baseball games.
The 2013 winner of Best Variety goes to Millington Basketball. Under the guidance of the Booster Club, the Trojan parents have combined traditional hoops grub with some household favorites. Patrons could order barbecue items in the middle of winter or wait on the deep fryer to pop out chicken, cheese fries or even a hotdog. They did made-to-order items like my barbecue pulled-pork over cheese fries. That sinful meal gave them the award that night.
Trina Newsome, don’t be mad, but your sweet and spicy wings are the honorable mention this year. I guess eating a pan full in one sitting got me spoiled. But I still welcome them to the office at any time. Thanks in advance Ma’am.
But the winner for Creative Genius goes to the Waits Family Coca Cola Brownies. And this year I learned who was the creator of those pieces of chocolate Heaven, Ms. Tess. She’s the sister in the Waits Family, the little engine and the overseer of the boys. She is just as sweet as her brownies but has a strong personality to be respected like her parents and brothers. With her black and gold shining, she informed me I gave her mother credit for the brownies for years. The brownies were my 2009 winner and this is the second award for them giving recognition to their creator. With this mention in the paper, I’m hoping the brownies return in 2013-14 for another shot at No. 1.
And yes people, I just solicited two women for food in one category. I have no shame.
Best Tournament or Special Spread
This year we had a first thanks to Ms. Trina. At the signing of DeCarlos Holmes, El Paso Pitts and her son Jerick Newsome, Trina brought a spread to celebrate the trio heading to Alcorn State. It was the first Division I signing for Trojan Basketball since 2000, so it did call for a special display. The Millington Central High School Library was transformed into a buffet thanks to the rotel, spicy chicken wings, meatballs and other snacks. Despite all that greatness, sorry Ms. Trina you’re honorable mention again.
The winner for Best Tournament Spread goes to Munford and Brighton basketball. When I hear that a basketball tournament is going to be hosted in Tipton County, my stomach and wallet rejoice. With a guest pass from Coach Mike Huffman or Coach Cetrice Bounds, I know I’m going to have access to fried chicken, barbecue, pizza, club sandwiches, potato salad, coleslaw, fresh fruit (for those health nuts), and all kinds of desserts. Thanks to the District 13-3A Tournament and Region 7-3A Tournament I had two weeks of pure bliss. Note to TSSAA, keep all basketball tournaments in Tipton County. It’s not too far from all the schools and I get to eat like crazy.
The Waits Family Award is not going to the Waits this year. But they do get the honorable mention for their wonderful work at Millington Football games. What they do with a smoke sausage is art to my stomach. And the grillers will toss up some onions and bell peppers to top a burger – delicious.
But this year’s Best Grill goes to Millington Wrestling. During a tournament this year I was treated to great barbecue chicken. Tender and juicy, each chicken breast was the centerpiece of the plate I enjoyed on my way home.
Hold up, I’m getting a call at my desk.
You’re telling me the Waits Family was in charge of that grill that day?
So the Waits have won their own award again?
I can’t argue with greatness. Wow, those men can grill anything!
Best Hot Dog
The Rebel Dog at Tipton-Rosemark Academy is the standard. The large plump hot dog off the grill is addictive. And the good people at TRA only serve the best and make sure the dog is cook just right. Each bite taste like the first time.
But the Best Hot Dog this year goes to Millington Basketball. I realize smoked sausage gives a competitor an unfair advantage. But those things are not cheap. So when a concession stand goes the extra mile for my stomach, I’m going to show gratitude. And with that gratitude comes sweet relish, barbecue sauce or mustard.
The Millington Booster slow cook those bad boys on a portable grill and get that perfect burnt on them. I’ve eaten two during one game. And only my empty wallet stopped me from two more visits.
The Ruffin family from Brighton is special thanks to BHS graduates Jack and McCallie. But the addition of strawberry and carrot cakes help endear the family to me. That moist carrot cake with the ideal cream cheese icing is as sweet as a McCallie smile after a home run. But the beauty and generosity of the family wasn’t quite enough to beat out our Special Item winner for 2013.
This year’s winner is Mama Hale. The special item was a basket full of home cook love. Mama Hale is a devoted reader of The Millington Star. And she crossed over the story about local soccer standout Paul Langford’s signing to The University of Memphis. Langford mentioned her son Louis Hale for his influence on his soccer career.
Mama Hale felt in her heart that reference deserved some smooth homemade mashed potatoes with creamy gravy. With that delicious gravy nearby, I knew tender, flavor-filled roast was near. She didn’t disappoint. And the vegetable were the tasty compliment to the meal. Homemade yeast rolls and I was set for two days. Love is her key ingredient and it makes all her meals so special and dear to my heart, mind, body and especially my soul.
Best Food Moment
Let me introduce this new category. This award goes to a moment during the sports year that touched my heart and made me stop in my tracks for reflect on its greatness and impact on my life. Honorable mention in this first-time category is the familiar name of Trina Newsome. Her pasta dish at the Millington Basketball Senior Night Banquet was eaten three times by yours truly. I had a pregame snack, snatched up a bowl during the game and of course ate some with the rest of the party that night.
But the Food Moment that took me by surprise this year was at TRA during basketball season. I ordered some $5 barbecue nachos. I’ll explain why I mention the price later.
I noticed when the nachos were handed to me, my arm dropped a little. It looked like a plate full. The TRA traditional pepper cheese covered the pulled pork and chips. I added my sweet tangy barbecue sauce and I was all set.
After standing on the wall for a few minutes enjoying the well-seasoned pork and flavors from the cheese and sauce, I realized I still had plenty more to eat. The bowl was still full of meat, sauce and cheese.
The chips ran out first. Never had that happen to me before with a plate of barbecue nachos. So I headed back to the concession stands to address the staff.
“I feel like I owe you more money,” I said. “I’m almost full, had plenty of chips and they’re gone. And I still have all this great barbecue and cheese left.”
The concession workers laughed and thanked me for my style of compliment.
There are so many who deserved to be Best Overall this year from Mama Hale to Mama Tena. But this year’s winner has been a picture of consistency. She’s gone beyond the call of duty putting her money, time, dedication and heart into her efforts. She’s has cooked meals and dishes from banquets to signings. Her love of Millington and it’s student/athletes comes through her chicken wings, pasta, meatballs and any cheesy dish.
This year’s Best Overall is Trina Newsome. I know it seemed like I was picking on her for a minute but she had really been everywhere this past sports season lending her talents to special ocassions like Millington Basketball Senior Night, Alcorn State signing party and even graduation.
With the support of her husband Sgt. Vincent Newsome, Trina has been able to transform her car into a delivery van of hotdogs, nachos, pizza, sodas and much more. Then sons like Vincent Jr. and Jerick became hurlers and set-up guys. Thank heavens her daughter Jasmine was up at UT-Martin becoming the OVC Player of the Year and All-American in basketball.
Newsome has raised two Division I athletes, another son mentoring in the community and she married a distinguished, hard-working sports encyclopedia
(love a three-hour chat about sports with Sgt.).
And the baby Jerick has worked hard on the court, classroom and weight room to become a Division I point guard.
The backbone of the family is Trina. And the woman who has seasoned chicken falling off the bone has impressed me since the arrival of the family in 2006. Through time, conversations with Sgt., invitations to parties and mutual respect I’ve grown to love the entire her family. And her cooking has been additional gravy on our mashed potaotes of friendship.
Ms. Trina I hope your dedicated service to Millington Basketball didn’t graduate with Jerick. The cooking is only half the reason I hope you stay involved. Your dedication to the children, the coaches, the program and Flag City is the most important part.