Funny, but every year during the National Championship basketball game, I think of Gary Dobbs.
For those familiar with the Huntsville television market in the 1980s and 90’s, you’ll remember Gary Dobbs as the sometimes wacky weatherman at WAAY-TV31 in Huntsville. Sometimes Gary wore some pretty loud looking sportcoats that were always accompanied with a bright smile. Some loved Gary’s delivery of the forecast. Some were annoyed.
I think of Gary because of something that happened following a late-night newscast just after a Championship game.
I was anchoring the 10pm news for WHNT, the CBS affiliate. Our news followed the ballgame so once our newscast ended it was well past midnight. Maybe it was 1995 or ’96. Could have been ’97. I had finished the newscast and was driving home.
Once I turned off the four-lane Hwy 72 and toward Maysville, I saw it. A car had left the road and was sitting in a ditch, the headlights were still on and a man was struggling to get out of the driver’s side door. i stopped and asked if he was okay.
“yeah…I’m okay”, he said and started slurring some attempt at conversation. It became very clear that the man was drunk off his butt and had swerved too far to the shoulder and wound up in the ditch.
This was before cellphones were common enough for me to own one so I tried to engage the guy in a conversation long enough for someone else, hopefully a cop, would stop.
A couple minutes later another driver stopped to check on things and I walked over to see if he had a cellphone. “Sure do”, he said. I told him to call 9-1-1 as the drunk driver was back in his car, suddenly aware that he might go to jail for DUI. As the second driver called 9-1-1 I walked back over to the drunk and tried to get him back out of his car before he somehow could get it back on the road.
“You’re not going to call the cops are you?”. Me? Noooo. “Cause if you call the cops on me you’re really going to piss me off. I ain’t drunk you know.” No, I told him…we’ll help him get a buddy to come pick him up if he’d just calm down.
To distract him, I started asking him about the basketball game. “Yeah I saw it. How ’bout them Wildcats?!”. We slapped high-fives as I looked over my shoulder for blue-lights. And then he said it: “Hey…I know who you are. You’re on tv.”
“oh, come on…” I said. “Yeah…you’re on tv. What’s your name?”. “Oh, I’m not on tv. You must think I’m somebody else.”
“No…you’re on tv. What’s your name?” he asked.
Knowing that this guy was likely going to sober up in a few hours behind bars, I said the first thing that came to mind. “I’m Gary Dobbs”.