Ray Tanner at Rotary today

As president-elect of the Columbia Rotary Club, car dealer J.T. Gandolfo is responsible for lining up speakers for the club this year. And he is going all-out to make them the kinds of speakers who get everybody talking. So far we’ve had Nikki Haley, and the guy from FN, and Trey Gowdy. Next week, it’s Lindsey Graham, and the week after will be Jim DeMint.

But the biggest crowd so far was today, for Ray Tanner, coach of the back-to-back National Champion Gamecocks. We had to add tables, which has not happened in awhile. Someone remarked that there seemed to be more guests than members.

It’s interesting to watch how a crowd reacts to a guy who has had remarkable success in the sports arena. First, he got a standing ovation before he opened his mouth. That’s not unique — so did Leon Lott (it even happened to me once, but I had to get fired first) — but it’s rare.

Then, after extremely brief remarks — which were very well received, with enthusiastic laughter at anything that seemed remotely to have ambitions of being a joke (which made me jealous, I confess) — he went to Q&A with 38 minutes left in the hour-long meeting. Since the main speaker is the last thing on the agenda at Rotary, expected to fill out the rest of the time, that would seem a risky move. With another speaker, the questions could peter out. No chance of that here. The crowd would have asked him questions all day if allowed to.

And the questions were not of the sort that politicians get. There was no challenge in them, but rather a laudatory celebration in every word from the floor. It was like he’s an oracle, and everyone wants to be favored with his magic.

To Coach Tanner’s great credit, while I’m sure he gets it a lot, he doesn’t let this stuff go to his head. He gives the fans what they want, sharing anecdotes that feel like the inside dope, complete with self-deprecating remarks that everyone can chuckle at. He stays a regular guy, which is no mean feat considering the way the fans look at him.

The media was much in evidence, and Andy Shain from The State was Tweeting. A sample that illustrates what I said above:

Ray Tanner: C Robert Beary’s backhanded catch was his most memorable play of ’11 CWS. ‘I’d like to tell you that was coaching.’

That was typical of his perfect mix of inside perspective on cherished memories coupled with joshing humility. And it works because it’s genuine.

I doubt the club will be quite as charmed by Sen. Graham, but I’ll let you know how it goes…

21 thoughts on “Ray Tanner at Rotary today

  1. Bryan Caskey

    I think a big part of why Tanner is so humble is that baseball is a very humbling game. You can be one of the all-time greats, and you’re still going to fail to get a hit much more often than not.

    Also, he’s not a politician. He’s not trying to get you to vote for him or “buy into” what he’s selling. He’s just being himself, and nothing succeeds like success.

  2. Joanne

    I would like to shake Tanner’s hand one day. The closest I got was last year at a basketball game when Coach and the players were signing posters. I got all of their autographs not knowing the poster on my kitchen wall was the one signed by the future National Champions!

    My father would have particularly enjoyed these past two NCs. He was a huge baseball fan, played himself. So, I always think about him when I go to a game or watch one and hope he has a good seat where he is.

  3. Doug Ross


    “All those people sitting around wasting time during work hours…”

    That’s the definition of communitarianism. A lot of talking while other people get the work done.

  4. Brad

    Doug, I know about Steven, and that there’s no point in explaining to him.

    But surely you understand that this IS getting the work done. Showing up at gatherings like this is essential to being plugged in to the community and being connected to people.

    In fact, I was just thinking this morning that the best thing for ADCO and for the business development of this blog would be to minimize time spent in the office — to accept every invitation, and look for every opportunity to be out and about among other people whom I would not run into otherwise. People to whom I would not otherwise speak unless I made a cold call.

    It’s the same for journalism. I learned early on that to know what’s happening, you don’t sit in the office working the phone. Even as an editor, normally a desk-bound position, I looked for any excuse to get out there where the reporters go and experience events and interact with sources whenever possible.

    I learned that an hour spent at the Legislature during session — and I don’t mean listening to boring debates, but schmoozing in the lobby, finding out what everybody was buzzing about — was worth a week spent in the office, in terms of learning what was going on.

    It’s definitely true in the communications and marketing biz, where, as Woody Allen said, “Ninety percent of life is just showing up.”

    It’s also true in lots of other businesses. I realize that’s probably not the case for what you do. But for a huge proportion of the rest of the world, it’s axiomatic. And correct.

  5. Doug Ross

    In my business, people have things that they need done and I do them.

    Sitting around listening to people tell jokes during the business hours isn’t work… unless you can point to specific revenue brought into ADCO as a result of those meetings.

    And spending an hour in the Legislature is not a good example of the value of getting outside the office. If you really want to watch people NOT get anything done, that would be the best place to be. Those debates over the state vegetable or the endless proclamations honoring Little League baseball teams can’t be called “work”.

    But that’s the way it has always been. There will always be the group of people sitting around talking about stuff while the rest of us are doing things.

  6. Brad

    Doug, let me ask you something, as nicely as I can…

    Have I ever said anything to disparage what YOU do for a living?

    The unfortunate truth is that the people who do all that talking are the ones who decide what work you and others will do, whether it’s in a boring board meeting or over cocktails at a reception. Some of us deal almost entirely in ideas. I always have. In the past, people thought they could measure the work I did by seeing the paper come out every day. And that WAS part of what I did, or participated in doing, or supervised (no one can put out a full-sized daily newspaper by himself, which might have something to do with my communitarianism that you deride). But even then, such a huge part of what I did was talking — and writing, and other means of communication — about ideas. (Even most of the editorials grew out of something I said in a meeting, and someone else wrote down.)

    I spent a summer digging ditches once — actually, digging foundations for houses, sometimes by hand. If I’d kept at it, I might be healthier today thanks to the exercise (barring severe injuries). But I found that I’m better at other stuff.

    I’m sorry that you hold what I do in contempt. But you know, if I didn’t do this, you wouldn’t be here on the blog.

  7. bud

    Some of my best work is done at out-of-state conferences or lunch/ dinner meetings. It’s critically important to most people in any field that requires creative thinking (which is just about everyone) to share thoughts with others. And that is best done outside the workplace. The brain works better sometimes when it’s only partially engaged in an activity.

  8. Doug Ross


    You are welcome to disparage my profession if you choose to. Bash away. I didn’t disparage your profession — I don’t know what you do for ADCO. I disparaged the notion that a bunch of people sitting around eating a meal, listening to politicians talk probably isn’t advancing society very much. It’s a social club.
    If you don’t come out of those meetings with any tangible action items or business for ADCO, then it’s no more than that.

    My job is solving business problems. It involves talking with customers about ideas that might solve the problem and then taking the next step to actually doing something to make it happen.

  9. Brad

    You’re task-oriented. I’m not. It just means we have different talents.

    And the problems I solve ARE about talk, and words, and ideas. Other people provide the deliverables.

    It’s sort of like working with Robert Ariail. I was pretty good at suggesting cartoon ideas to him. But there’s no way I could draw one.

  10. Steven Davis

    What would happen if Rotary were held at 5:30 pm? Would whatever you meet about change? To me it just seems like a way to get out of work for a couple hours each week.

  11. `Kathryn Fenner

    @ Doug– Some business is far less tangible than yours–and flows from having and making personal connections.

  12. `Kathryn Fenner

    @ Steven–there are breakfast meetings all over, and Vista Nights meets for drinks after work. Rotarians are not generally punching a time clock– you do your work whenever you need to, regardless, and usually take some home with you….

  13. Brad

    Yeah, but most Rotarians would rather be home with their families if they can at night — which is why the Columbia Rotary is much bigger than those morning and evening clubs. In the middle of the day, they have to be away from home, and they need to eat, so…

    Traditionally, I’ve conducted all the business I can over meals..

  14. Brad

    Not that I LIKE eating out all that much (although I’ve come to like it more than I used to — I used to see it as a huge chore, since my allergies mean a hassle and risk every time a stranger prepares me a meal). But if you have to eat, and you have to meet with somebody, or be available to the community and ready to schmooze — might as well do it at the same time, so you can concentrate on the more solitary work (writing, editing, etc.) the rest of the day.

  15. `Kathryn Fenner

    It’s a Rotary Club. They talk about raising money for charity (wiping out polio, say), what’s up with club members, and hear a speaker….who usually talks about something going on in the community.


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