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Joe Biddle was in no mood to mince words.

It was the winter of 1990, at the height of the newspaper wars between Biddle's Nashville Banner and the rival Tennessean — as well as our town's own bitter rivalry between my employer, the Chattanooga News-Free Press, and the morning paper, the Times — and I had just committed an unforgivable sin in the eyes of "Bid," as many of us have long known him.

Having overheard me give a quote to a Tennessean writer that I'd just gotten inside the Vanderbilt locker room following a Southeastern Conference game at Memorial Gym, Biddle pounced.

"Weeds, you can't do that," he told me. "They're the enemy. You and I are afternoon papers. If you give a quote to the morning paper, everybody will think you got it from them. You've got to save the good stuff for your readers."

I never made that mistake again, but I always attempted to soak up as much of Bid's wit and wisdom as I could from that day forward.

Yet the gods of health and wellness made a much bigger mistake 18 months or so ago. They allowed Biddle to become stricken with Lewy body dementia, which according to a Mayo Clinic website, is "the second most common type of progressive dementia after Alzheimer's."

Because it has progressed at such a rapid rate, Joe and his wife Sharon are in need of much financial help with his suddenly considerable care. Those interested can go to the GoFundMe site "I Back Biddle" or reach out to his sister, Sally Heydel, on Facebook or her email at sallyheydel@comcast.net.

And since Biddle is a Vietnam Vet, any money raised in excess of the care he'll need will be donated to the Wounded Warriors Project.

For a lot of us ink-stained wretches, hearing of Bid's struggles in a year of outrageous struggles for us all is difficult to accept. To walk into any sports venue in the Southeast throughout the 1980s and much of the 1990s — including Augusta National in April — was to see Biddle in all his glory, from his glistening white hair to his signature sartorial splendor, which often included a heavy dose of pastel pink, green or blue.

He even earned the nickname "Prince of Pastel" for his clothing choices, as well as Spectacular Bid, for the great race horse.

But it wasn't just fashion sense that's always set him apart. There's the easy smile, the Southern accent, the laugh, the hand gestures.

There was even a time when no two sports writers from the same SEC state could take over a press box better than Biddle and my former boss at the News-Free Press, Roy Exum.

They both dressed impeccably — though Roy's always been more partial to neckties than Bid — were gregarious, knew everyone by their first names and were crazy good at their craft. That they both gave their Tennessee Sports Writer Hall of Fame speeches on the same night was only fitting.

How good a people person was Biddle in his prime? Knoxville News Sentinel Hall of Fame columnist John Adams recently wrote about how Joe knew the first names of almost every Augusta National dining room staff member.

And it wasn't just Augusta National dining he appreciated. Biddle never passed through Chattanooga that he didn't stop at Nikki's for the world's best onion rings.

How cool is Biddle? When he was growing up in Johnson City, Tenn., he and Steve Spurrier both wound up dating the same girl.

Said Bid of that experience: "She eventually ditched both of us. Wound up marrying some guy from Emory & Henry."

Nor did Bid make his mark in newspapers only. As Mike Keith, the Voice of the Tennessee Titans, wrote in a Monday email: "Joe was one of the first multi-media sportswriter stars. He wrote a great story about a game or a subject. Joe could make you think with an amazing column. But in an era when newspaper folks looked down at radio and TV, Joe would go on various shows and he was great. That's why he got his own radio show, long before most sportswriters did it."

Such versatility led to one of the great newspaper promotions of all-time: "I Beat Biddle." Bid would pick 20 college football games each week and if your picks beat his, the paper would send you an "I Beat Biddle" bumper sticker.

Said retired Tennesseean sports columnist Larry Woody of his dear friend Bid on Monday: "We kidded him that every car in Nashville had one."

Both Biddle and Woody served in Vietnam and though Woody said the two of them didn't discuss it much, Keith said it has made a lasting impact on all who've met him.

"You respected Joe Biddle as a writer," he wrote in his email. "As a reporter. As a columnist. As a talk show host. But what got everyone's attention when he wrote or spoke is that this man went to Vietnam."

Whenever his columns were finished and he'd pass me struggling to wrap up mine, Biddle would smile and say, "Make it sing, Weeds."

Throughout the South, but especially within the Music City, few have ever made a computer keyboard sing as well as the spectacular Joe Biddle.

Contact Mark Wiedmer at mwiedmer@timesfreepress.com.

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