Rick Cleveland and Michael Rubenstein shared one thing in common- a love for Mississippi sports history.
With Cleveland as sports writer for the Clarion-Ledger and Rubenstein as sports reporter and anchor for WLBT TV-3, both men saw their fair share of some of that history
“He was competition,” Cleveland told the MBJ in a video interview last week. “We were all trying to break the same stories and Michael was the best in the world at it.”
Off the field, there was probably not a fiercer or friendlier competition.
“Sometimes he’d buy me a beer when he beat me on a story and I’d buy him one when I beat him on a story,” Cleveland said.
Cleveland’s recent retirement and subsequent acceptance of a new job as director of the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame & Museum has been called a perfect fit by folks from around the state.
It’s a full circle moment for Cleveland, who will take over the position held by his former competitor Rubenstein, who died suddenly in December.
Cleveland shared some of those historic memories with MBJ from sitting in the pew at St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Dizzy Dean’s funeral to the first time he saw a 17-year-old Kiln quarterback named Brett Favre lace up for the Southern Miss Golden Eagles.
Cleveland believes young kids today don’t know or remember people like Jackson State and Chicago Bears legend Walter Payton. “I covered Payton when he was in high school at Columbia High,” Cleveland said. “I think we need to teach that important part of our history to this youngest generation and to every generation that follows.”
A newer mission at the Hall of Fame & Museum will be helping better promote health & wellness and physical fitness for school kids in Mississippi.
“I think its got a lot of attention- well I guess fortunately- that Mississippi is the fattest state in the union and our kids are overweight,” Cleveland said. “I’ve gotta believe that the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame & Museum can be a leader in trying to change that and put a focus on fitness and use some of our greatest athletes to come do clinics, to come speak to kids about how important it is to be fit not just if you’re an athlete but just if you want to live to be 75-years-old.”