Bobby Myers was a sportswriter from the old school, a gentle man who chronicled motorsports in award-winning fashion for the Charlotte News and Charlotte Observer for nearly three decades.
“My dad never used a computer to write,” Myers’ son Rev. Rich Myers said Tuesday. “He had one of those old steel typewriters, using just two fingers. He didn’t need all of them to type. He’d be banging away at that typewriter and we’d ask what he was doing, and he’d say ‘I’m racing! I’m racing!’ ”
Rich Myers’ words came at his father’s funeral service at Charlotte’s Newell Baptist Church, three days after Bobby Myers died at the age of 84.
Writing about racing was Myers’ passion and he covered the sport as few others could. A tenacious and talented reporter, Myers won the prestigious National Motorsports Association Press’ Henry McLemore Award in 1970.
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Born in Thomasville and a graduate of North Carolina, Myers began covering NASCAR and motorsports for the News in 1965, later joining the Observer when the newspapers merged in 1983.
Always a friendly and popular figure around press boxes and racetrack garages, he also also wrote for periodicals, including Stock Car Racing Magazine, Circle Track and AutoWeek. He “ghost wrote” columns for drivers such as Neil Bonnett, Davey Allison and Kyle Petty.
There was another side to Myers of which his newspaper audiences were never aware. Myers anonymously wrote the “Sad Sam” football prediction column in the News and the Observer, in which he teased area high school teams with a funny, light-hearted touch.
A sampling of a “Sad Sam” column from 1986 gives an indication of where Myers’ heart was. As usual, the column started with the signature salutation of “Greetings, millions!”
“While picking winners and maintaining my lofty standards (anything below 75 percent is unacceptable) are first priority, they must be achieved without offense or malice,” he wrote. “Numerous towns take their football teams seriously and with pride. But poking fun should be taken as that. You will quickly deduce that sometimes I don’t allow the facts to spoil a good story.
“I have no loyalties. I haven’t seen a high school game since 1965, because I don’t want to get too close to the subject. Ain’t ignorance bliss? I’m really in a no-win situation. Coaches of the teams I pick to win fear overconfidence as well as the psychological impact of fired-up opponents picked to lose. The presence of my column on locker-room bulletin boards is second only to its presence on bathroom floors. Conversely, I draw the fire of players and supporters for lack of confidence in teams I pick to lose.”
Sad Sam was convincing. Myers wrote once of a fictional player in the N.C. mountains whom he described as having talents of mythical proportions. The column caught the eye of an editor at Sports Illustrated, who called the Observer to ask how to contact the player. Alas, the player was real only in the eyes of Sad Sam.
Myers, who retired in 1990, finished his newspaper career running the “slot” on the sports desks of the News and of the Observer. His firm yet affable style earned him the nickname “Chief” among his newsroom co-workers.
A collection of Myers’ work and other material is housed at Appalachian State’s Belk Library.
Bobby Myers’ survivors include wife, Cladis Myers; sons, Robert Myers (Elizabeth) and Richard Myers (Nikki); three step-daughters in High Point; four granddaughters, Ashlee, Abigail, Rebekka and Sophie Myers; five step-grandchildren and three step-great grandchildren.
Memorials may be made to Hospice & Palliative Care of Cabarrus County, 5003 Hospice Lane, Kannapolis, N.C. 28081.
David Scott: @davidscott14