Having been born in Oxford, graduated from Lafayette High School and Ole Miss, and having had family all over the state, I am very proud of Mississippi and its people. Having been equipped with the skillset to go into TV news broadcasting thanks to my education at Ole Miss, I became a sports anchor at TV stations from Meridian, Mississippi to Bakersfield, California to New Orleans and on to South Bend. I saw many sports anchors in action at the local and national level and to this day I believe the best of them all was a Mississippian, Michael Rubenstein.
If you are from Jackson and much of the central part of the state then you probably watched him with family as WLBT TV in Jackson was where many tuned to for the evening news. My grandparents in Morgan City in the Mississippi Delta were loyal viewers to Woodie Assaf with the weather and the whole WLBT TV team. I visited their home countless times over the years and found myself so impressed with the way Rubenstein prepared and
delivered the sports. It was cerebral, extremely well written, and deeply focused on local stories. In my TV News days I probably produced and delivered several thousand sportscasts, so I know the drill, and I am here to tell you in my opinion Michael Rubenstein was the best in the country.
He was from Booneville, a town named after a relative of Daniel Boone, in Prentiss County. I would imagine his smart approach to building a sportscast came from being an honors graduate in history at Vanderbilt, because he struck me as being a very smart man. His sportscasts at WLBT went far beyond highlights and scores. If there was a news story in sports at Alcorn State or USM or anywhere, he was on it like white on rice. You got done watching his four minutes or however long it was, and you felt educated. In an interview he once said, “I am not a sportscaster. I am a reporter who covers sports.”
Boom, that nailed it. He also was a man who covered Mississippi Valley State, Jackson State and regional SWAC schools as much as the big SEC schools. That impacted me. When I started as Sports Director at WTOK TV in Meridian I went up to Itta Bena to cover the Delta Devils. I found myself wanting to build sportscasts that had significance, like Rubenstein’s.
This may be hearsay, but over the years I heard the big markets tried to lure him away from Jackson. I would hear Houston and Washington, D.C. put up the big bucks, but he never bit. He loved Mississippi. You could feel it. I never met the man, but he had a purpose to deliver a top level sportscast every night, and he did it. I must add that for years I saw his co-worker in sports Clay Hall bring it just like Rubenstein, and was
highly impressed with him as well. Hall is now a prominent sports anchor in Columbus, Ohio.
When people talk about big time sports anchors they often talk about the ESPN SportsCenter stars from years ago like Dan Patrick and Keith Olbermann. When I was sports anchor in Bakersfield, California from 1985 to 1988 I watched Olbermann’s nightly sportscast from KTLA TV in Los Angeles and it was incredibly impressive, but I will still stay the best I have seen was Michael Rubenstein’s at WLBT, a Mississippian and dang proud of it.
After his years of excellence at WLBT, he was a driving force behind the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame being built, established and directed. Rubenstein lived a life that was not just successful, but significant, and that is what it is all about. When I deliver motivational talks, I often say people like him “left their blood in the bricks.” It means they went above and beyond, by far!
When he died in 2011 I read a story WLBT did on him where they interviewed Jackson State’s Eddie Payton “You don’t want to put a legend tag on anybody but you know there’s Dizzy Dean, then there’s Archie Manning and there’s Walter (Payton) and then there’s Rubenstein” Payton told them at the time. “I mean he belongs in there with the great, unique individuals of this state.”
Our state has produced a lot of remarkably talented people. Michael Rubenstein was the the best sportscaster I’ve ever seen.
Charlie Adams was born in Oxford in 1962. He was a 1980 graduate of Lafayette High School and a 1985 graduate of Ole Miss. Following a television news career, Charlie has focused on delivering inspirational keynotes, seminars and writings. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.