The big man next to me in the press box, peered over the top of his binoculars and observed, “I just don’t see that many people here anymore that I know.” It was their loss.
The press box just ain’t what it used to be. And it’s not going to be as much fun now without my friend Hubert Mizell, who at 76 succumbed after a long illness at his Gainesville home Thursday.
At 6 feet 4 and 300 pounds, Hubert was a bigger-than-life sports columnist in more ways than one. He wrote big and stood tall, often shielding his smaller writer pals like Dave Kindred in the post-game locker room media push. In football parlance, Hubert was Dave’s pulling left tackle for the locker room media scrum.
“I always joked that Hubert, a big man, led interference for me in crowded locker rooms,” the enormously gifted Kindred posted on Facebook upon the news of Mizell’s death. “True. The whole truth is I when we arrived, we’d be where the story was.”
Which is why Mizell was a booming voice in Tampa Bay’s emergence of big league sports for 27 years — eight times Florida Sports Writer of the Year. He grew up dirt poor in the red clay of Dublin, Ga., before his family moved to Jacksonville, where Hubert began his newspaper career as carrier for his hometown Florida Times-Union before landing a job in the sports department. His favorite assignment was writing a sidebar on the Florida-Georgia game, but he had always aspired to someday write the lead on the game.