Sun Herald reporters get told a lot of interesting things, both on and off the record.
And let’s not even mention the phone calls their editors get.
So here are just some of the humorous, shocking and touching on-the-record quotes from 2017:
They grew up best friends, but had to go head-to-head in the Class 4A South State Title Game. East Central High School football head coach Seth Smith, known for his rousing pep talks, talked with sports reporter Patrick Magee about his former bestie, Poplarville head coach Jay Beech.
“Jay was always that guy who was good at everything and it didn’t matter the sport,” Smith said. “I think he was voted ‘most handsome’ every year in high school. Anytime you’re with him, you’re always the ugly duckling. Our goal Friday is to make sure we’re not the ugly duckling.”
East Central won the game but fell short in the state championship to Noxubee County.
To no one’s surprise, a story about people having sex outside on a deck overlooking the Jourdan River in Kiln was our second most clicked-on story of the year. The cherry on top was Sheriff Ricky Adam’s quote about the situation:
“Right there. In the middle of the day. In broad daylight. In front of God and everybody.”
The bold couple was arrested on a misdemeanor charge of indecent exposure.
Sun Herald music aficionado Jeff Clark interviews a lot of the big-name acts that come to the Coast. So when Tommy Chong — of the famously marijuana-friendly Cheech and Chong duo — came to town, he jumped at the chance to ask about the politics of pot. Specifically, he asked if Chong thinks President Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions will roll back marijuana laws.
“The genie is out of the bottle. They found out that all of that propaganda against marijuana is a lie — everything that Trump has done is a lie, so it’s just a matter of time before the lie eats itself, especially when you lie like that.”
In recent news, the Mississippi Gulf Coast Marathon wasn’t quite an official marathon. An error by the race director at a turn-around point on Interstate 110 changed the official distance to 25.905 miles instead of 26.2 miles. Those trying to qualify for the Boston Marathon were not pleased.
“It’s kind of like getting engaged and finding out he’s married — at the wedding, when you’re getting the ring on your finger. It’s that kind of gut-wrenching feeling.” Danny Bourgeois, marathon spokesman told Social Media Editor Justin Mitchell.
Where Weather Channel personality Jim Cantore goes, trouble follows. A couple days before Hurricane Nate made landfall in Biloxi, reporter Anita Lee got wind of a Cantore sighting at the Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport. Gulfport attorney Jim Simpson was on his way home from Atlanta said the forecaster sat near him on the plane.
“It’s funny,” he said. “Everybody looked at him and said, ‘Oh no, not you.’
Riding it out
Hurricane Nate hit during one of the biggest tourism weekends of the year, with both Cruisin’ The Coast and Gulfport Music Festival scheduled. Many visitors chose to ride it out in the hotels and casinos.
“We had 300 people in the hotel last night,” said Scott King, vice president of Golden Nugget Casino Biloxi. Some had never been through a hurricane before and he said, “they bonded.”
Pass Christian native Tig Notaro is known for a few things: She’s a famous comedian who made headlines this year for calling out Louis C.K.’s then-rumored history of sexual misconduct. She has an Amazon Prime show called “One Mississippi,” some of which was filmed here on the Coast. And she’s an out LGBTQ celebrity. She sat down with Justin Mitchell for his “Out Here in America” podcast to talk about why she wanted to get married in her hometown even though the state had passed a bill allowing discrimination against gay people.
“We took this trip to Jackson. We both felt scared, because we could be kicked out of a hotel. We could be kicked out of a restaurant. It was the first time I felt scared.”
But it didn’t change her feelings toward Mississippi.
“I have that hometown pride with the state, and I refuse to leave it behind and discard it,” she said.
Pigs can’t swim
There was a lot of back and forth over a proposed casino site in Diamondhead. The argument centered mainly on whether the marshy land in front of the site was legally part of the Bay of St. Louis or not. A video narrated by casino attorney Scott Andress brought laughs to the courtroom when it showed feral pigs romping on the marshland. He said pigs don’t have fins or gills, so “this is not the bay.”
Attorney Michael Cavanaugh countered: “The video is entertaining but that is not expert testimony.”
Debate over the state flag of Mississippi was a big issue throughout 2017. In May, tensions were high as a standing room-only crowd filled a Biloxi City Council meeting. One man was escorted out for an outburst. Another resident summed up the situation during citizens’ comments:
“There’s too much hatred in this room,” he said.
Sometimes drivers on U.S. 90 end up off-roading into the sand — sometimes voluntarily, sometimes involuntarily. In July, the driver of a Ryder rental truck had to make a quick decision and ended up with a truck hanging off the sidewalk.
“I was having a good day until that happened,” Jaron Moore said. “It was either hit the car or hit that pole.”
The picture by Robin Fitzgerald really captured the moment, too.
‘Stop with the hate’
A popular story with Sun Herald readers this year was Anita Lee’s interview with WLOX meteorologist Carrie Duncan, who spoke out after a reader’s rude, fat-shaming email.
Many Coastians came to Duncan’s defense on social media, and she said she appreciated the kindness everyone showed.
“There are some people who are seriously unhappy,” Duncan said in a Facebook post. “Ugly people always have something ugly to say. Please think about the people you are saying these things about and to.”
The life and death of 7-year-old Sophia Myers captured the hearts of people across the Coast and the country. Margaret Baker’s investigative series on the rare cancer that affected her and other children, called DIPG, was some of the Sun Herald’s best work of 2017.
There were many moving aspects to the stories of all the families affected, but mother Angel Myers’ steadfast faith in God was especially inspiring.
“Do not be angry at God for what is happening to Sophia,” Angel Myers said. “Instead, join me in glorifying Him for creating such a beautiful, perfect child.”