My tenure at the newspaper officially ends Friday. My career as a full-time newspaper man, a career that began on the second day of the year in 1991, is probably finished as well, though I’ll probably try to do some correspondence work in the future.
This week, I’ve been cleaning my desk and writing a resume for the first time in years. I had my exit interview with one of the big editors Wednesday and tons of people walked up to me afterward to wish me well. It took all I had not to get emotional. (I didn’t!)
It felt like I was at my own funeral and so I snuck out the back door to avoid the casket-jumpers.
I’m going to miss the newspaper business. I’ll miss the daily deadlines and the scoops. I’ll miss the hustle and bustle of the newsroom, especially when we were covering a big event, like the most recent presidential election, 9/11, a tornado, or the space shuttle tragedy.
I’m going to miss having a license to ask questions of some of the world’s biggest personalities, from Tiger Woods to Michael Jordan. And I’ll also miss conversations with everyday people and politicians whose decisions affected thousands of lives, people like chancellors and city councilmen; mayors and school board presidents; governors and senators.
I’m going to miss the competition with the Dallas Morning News, especially the times when I was the Cowboys beat writer. There were many mornings when I’d be awakened by the sound of their paper hitting my door at 5 a.m. I’d flip through the Sports Day section, wondering if they scooped me, if I scooped them, or if it was a tie.
I’m going to miss being THE person that non-newspaper people wanted to hang around at parties because they thought I had the coolest job around.
I’m also going to miss…
*The sound of the police scanner during my shifts as night city editor.
*Being a cheerleader for the reporters who I used to supervise, in sports and in the metro department.
*The helter-skelter pace of running Friday night football.
*Road trips to San Francisco, New York, San Diego, and Miami.
*Super Bowl week
*Sitting in a room with a bunch of editors and watching an idea go from infancy to a Page 1A spread
*The old Arlington Star-Telegram building on 1111 W. Abram Street
*The hundreds of reporters, editors, photographers, and graphic designers I worked with.
*The media relations people, the good ones, who made my job a lot easier.
If I could write a book on my career at the Star-Telegram, most of the chapters would center around my time as a sports writer. How can you not have good stories to tell when your job takes you to the corner of the Dallas Mavericks practice court, in front of Mark Cuban as he exercises on his stationary bike, sweat flying all over your notepad.
How can there not be good stories to tell when you find yourself in the passenger’s seat of Barry Switzer’s BMW, headed to his house for an interview because he’s got to be there right now to let the painters in.
How can there not be good stories to tell when Emmitt Smith beats you, regularly, in dominoes; when Michael Irvin frequently walks through the locker-room naked, no, make that butt-naked, bellowing from the top of his lungs that he is the best looking person that anybody within eyesight had ever seen; when you share a cocktail with Jerry Jones or Stephen Jones in the hospitality suite of the visiting team’s hotel the night before a game.
Here are three quick stories from my time as a sportswriter.
The first time I met Cowboys owner Jerry Jones: There was an NFL owners meeting in Irving. They were voting on whether or not to let the Rams move from Los Angeles to St. Louis. It was my first assignment as the new Cowboys writer and I wanted to introduce myself to the Cowboys owner. Sometime around lunch, Jones walks out of a meeting room and heads to the bathroom. I run after him, follow him to the bathroom, use the stall next to the one he is using and introduce myself. He nods his head, zips up his pants and says, “Nice to have you on board.”
The 1990s Cowboys: I started covering the team in 1995, which was the last year they won a Super Bowl. It was like writing about Hollywood, so many stars, so many soap operas. TroyAikman. Michael Irvin. Emmit Smith. And then later in the year, they added Deion Sanders. There was never a dull moment in that locker-room and its no surprise that each one of those guys does some kind of radio or television broadcasting. I’ve had personal, one-on-one moments with each of them. Here is my one-sentence summary of each of them.
Aikman: Quiet, reserved, but had an underrated sense of humor.
Irvin: If it was a slow news day, go ask Irvin a question and you’d have a story. Very quotable. Very funny.
Smith: Nicest celebrity in that locker-room. Would talk to anybody.
Sanders: Sometimes during training camp, he’d come to the sidelines and joke around with the sports writers covering the team.
Before they were stars: Before I covered the Cowboys, I wrote about high school sports in San Antonio, Texas and in Hartford Connecticut. I wrote about a lot of teenagers who would become millionaire athletes. Some of them included: Anthony “Priest” Holmes (Marshall High School in San Antonio and former NFL running back); MarcusCamby (Hartford Public High School and NBA basketball star); Demetria Sance (Jay High School and Olympic volleyball star); Jerome Young (Prince Tech High School in Connecticut and World track star); Nykesha Sales (Bloomfield High School in Connecticut and WNBA star); Amy Acuff (Corpus Christi Calallen High School and Olympic high jumper);
My next job? My next 14 years? Who knows where the road is going to turn. But I’m looking forward to the future and all it holds.