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Our view: Grumpy old men




A special screening of the film "Grumpiest Old Men" was held Wednesday at the Lowndes County Courthouse before a captive audience. 


The third installment of the "Grumpy Old Men" trilogy is a break from the 1990s films featuring Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon in stories that revolved around the pair's romantic interest in the same woman. The updated version features Harry Sanders and Leroy Brooks in the lead roles (the working title of "When Harry Met Leroy" did not test well). The romantic storyline was dropped because -- let's face it -- absolutely nobody wants to see that. Instead, the story focuses on the Lowndes County Board of Supervisors and the hilarious antics of board president Sanders and his chief antagonist, District 5 supervisor Brooks. 


The reviews are in: 


"Unbelievable!" proclaimed District 2 Supervisor Bill Brigham. 


"Spell-binding!" offered District 4 Supervisor Jeff Smith. 


"If you see only one movie this year about two politicians bickering incessantly over a couple hundred dollars, this is the one!" raved District 3 Supervisor John Holliman. 


Wednesday's melodrama was the first real dust-up between Sanders and Brooks in some time. While almost every board meeting features the requisite sniping between the two, the confrontation lacked the emotional energy of previous clashes such as the June 2012 battle over Brook's rude treatment of county administrator Ralph Billingsley when the latter refused to sign off on a new iPhone for Brooks, a disagreement that Sanders gleefully interjected himself into. Certainly, Wednesday's skirmish didn't feature the action sequences of the March 2009 episode when Brooks and Sanders squared off -- quite literally -- over whether Brooks had the right to post a flier on the door of the Trotter Center. 


As you can see, when these men collide it is always over a matter of grave importance to the people of Lowndes County, issues so vital that a wrong outcome could mean the ruin of the county. 


From fliers to cellphone and, now, travel reimbursements. 


The back story of our drama began at the Mississippi Municipal League conference in June. The conference, a five-day affair that features workshops, speakers, etc., began on a Monday afternoon. Brooks, however, arrived the day before. When he turned in his expenses for the trip, his expenses included hotel and per diem expenses for that Sunday, a move that the ever-vigilant Sanders strenuously objected to during Wednesday's board meeting. Sanders said Brooks should pay the Sunday expenses, which amounted to $199. Brooks said that since Billingsley had already signed off on his expenses, he shouldn't be required to reimburse the county for the $199. He said he would go so far to fight it in court. 


And so it started.  


For 45 minutes, Brooks and Sanders tore into each other like two wolves tearing into a $2 steak. Film buffs can listen to the exchange by going to: 


It became so heated that Brooks said that if Sanders had embarrassed him in public like this 20 years ago, he would have invited Sanders to step outside and handle it man-to-man. (We suspect that Brooks didn't need to go back that far, though, given what happened in 2009.). Much to the disappointment of the audience, the two didn't take it to the parking lot, though. They just beat each other senseless rhetorically. 


Sanders said he didn't see Brooks at any of the workshops he attended and wondered how Brooks had really spent his time there. 


Brooks said he was surprised that Sanders cared so deeply about his where-abouts, raising the specter of "Help! I'm being stalked by a creepy old white dude!"  


There is no way of knowing what workshops and sessions either of the two attended, although we are fairly certain that both men missed the session, "How to Conduct a Board Meeting in a Mature, Dignified, Effective Manner." 


Brooks told Sanders that while Sanders was not one of his favorite people -- an admission that didn't exactly move Sanders to tears -- he was spiritually required to love Sanders.  


On this point, there is finally agreement between the two. There's is, indeed, a love-hate relationship: They love to hate each other. 


And, yes, there will be a sequel.



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