Tommy Tomlinson

Columnist and host of SouthBound

Credit JEFF CRAVOTTA

Tommy Tomlinson has written for publications including Esquire, ESPN the Magazine, Sports Illustrated, Forbes, Garden & Gun, and many others. He spent 23 years as a reporter and local columnist for the Charlotte Observer, where he was a finalist for the 2005 Pulitzer Prize in commentary. His stories have been chosen twice for the “Best American Sports Writing” series (2012 and 2015) and he also appears in the anthology “America’s Best Newspaper Writing.”

He teaches magazine writing at Wake Forest University and has also taught at the University of Georgia, Queens University of Charlotte and the Poynter Institute. He has been a speaker at workshops and conferences across the country.

His book “The Elephant In the Room,” a memoir about life as an overweight man in a growing America, will be published soon by Simon & Schuster.

He’s a graduate of the University of Georgia and was a 2008-09 Nieman Fellow at Harvard University.

Tommy and his wife, Alix Felsing, live in Charlotte.

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Magicians base most of their tricks on misdirection. They get you to stare at one closed fist while the other hand slips the vanished coin into the magician’s pocket. A good trick depends on the audience looking at the wrong thing.

The magicians in the North Carolina legislature have gotten us to pay a whole lot of attention to voter fraud. But it turns out we should’ve been spending our time paying attention to election fraud.

The city of Charlotte turns 250 years old today. If our city was a person, you might say, yeah, they’ve had a lot of work done. In fact, there’s not much left that anybody who was alive in 1768 might recognize.

There’s the Hezekiah Alexander House, which was built in 1774. There’s a couple of log cabins at Rural Hill and Latta Plantation. There’s the Old Settlers’ Cemetery uptown, which has gravesites that go back as far as 1776. That’s about it.

Sometimes a stranger’s death is a one-day story, not just in the news but in our minds. You can’t live a healthy life if you let too much death cling to you. But the death of Patrick Braxton-Andrew has stuck with me. Not so much for how he died, but for what his family said about it.

In the year 536, a volcano in Iceland erupted with such force that the ash darkened the skies over most of the earth for 18 months. It snowed in China that summer. They ran out of bread in Ireland. It was the beginning of the coldest decade in 2,000 years.

We are not living in the year 536. So there’s something to be thankful for.

Allen Farst Photography

You might not know the name Chuck Leavell. But if you know much about rock 'n' roll at all, you've heard his work. 

Thank you for your service.

We’ll say those words a lot in observance of Veterans Day. It’s the least we can do, and by that I mean it’s the least we can do. They’re not empty words, exactly. Most of us really are grateful for the sacrifices veterans made on our behalf. But it’s sort of like offering thoughts and prayers to people who have just been through a disaster. The words do more good for the giver than the receiver.

The other night, at dinner with a bunch of friends, we were talking politics, because these days it’s impossible to get through five minutes of any conversation without talking about politics. One friend talked about his hopes for the midterm elections. What he said was: “God, I’m just hoping for gridlock.”

The late,  great Molly Ivins once said that voting whitens your teeth, freshens your breath and perks up your sex life. All those things are true. It’s just science.

I’ll just add a couple of things. Voting makes you more interesting at parties, increases your chance of winning the lottery, and entitles you to the last piece of chicken in the box.

You also get that little I Voted sticker, which is as close as you can get as a grownup to one of those gold stars the teachers give out in kindergarten.

Maybe we should build a wall.

Not the wall at the border. I’m thinking more along the lines of the wall at the Vietnam Memorial. A big hunk of granite, a long list of names. All the people who have died from gun violence in America.

Imagine if Amazon or Wal-Mart filed bankruptcy? It seems unthinkable, but the same could have been said about Sears for much of the 20th Century. But last week, Sears filed for bankruptcy. By the time it happened, it wasn’t a huge surprise. Still, the news has WFAE’s Tommy Tomlinson feeling a bit nostalgic.

There is no shortage of news. That’s a common refrain in the news business. News is easy to access. But WFAE’s Tommy Tomlinson says it’s also important to take a break from all the craziness and controversy

When it comes to civilized discourse, Twitter probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. But a recent experience on Twitter gives WFAE’s Tommy Tomlinson some cautious optimism.

The other day, I did something dumb on Twitter. Sometimes I think the whole purpose of Twitter is for people to go on there and commit the verbal equivalent of stepping on a rake. I have certainly stepped on more than one rake on Twitter. But this time, what interested me is how my dumb thing ended up playing out.

The Carolina Panthers made a big move last week that may have gotten lost amid coverage of U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. But its significance did not go unnoticed by WFAE’s Tommy Tomlinson.

The Carolina Panthers made a strong statement in Sunday’s victory over Cincinnati. Another strong statement was recently made by the Panthers’ new owner that stood out to WFAE’s Tommy Tomlinson for several reasons.

Jeff Cravotta

Two years ago Thursday, Keith Lamont Scott was shot and killed by a Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officer. That shooting and the days of protests after his death, are seared into Charlotte’s collective memory. Or are they? 

Tommy Tomlinson
JEFF CRAVOTTA

As North Carolina deals with the fallout from Hurricane-turned-Tropical Storm Florence, WFAE’s Tommy Tomlinson has his own ideas on how to deal with the storm – and how to treat one another, stormy days or not.

Rae Carruth, the former Carolina Panthers wide receiver convicted in 2001 of conspiring to murder his pregnant girlfriend, now has a different story about the night Cherica Adams was fatally shot in south Charlotte. WFAE’s Tommy Tomlinson says Carruth’s new version of what happened comes at a time that’s a little too convenient.

You could say that suburban towns in Mecklenburg County and the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board are at a crossroads following last week’s approval of a controversial policy. WFAE’s Tommy Tomlinson has some other thoughts on the situation in this commentary.

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg school system is stuck in what I think of as the car repair conundrum.

If you’ve ever been to one of those old-school places to get your car fixed, you might’ve seen some version of this sign: “Our service is good, fast and cheap. You can pick any two.”

There’s been a lot debate over Confederate monuments. One in downtown Salisbury was recently vandalized. Last week, the state Historical Commission voted to keep Confederate monuments on the state Capitol grounds, but to add signs that put them in context and erect memorials to African Americans. And there was the toppling of Silent Sam at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill.

WFAE’s Tommy Tomlinson says maybe it’s time to start over when it comes to monuments.

Maybe the way to start is by taking down ALL the statues.

The state of North Carolina is still trying to modify the contract it signed four years ago with a Spanish company to add toll lanes to I-77 from north Charlotte to Mooresville. State officials met last week without coming up with any solutions. Meanwhile, the construction drags on and traffic backs up. WFAE’s Tommy Tomlinson says the whole deal was based on a flawed premise.

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