When I began working at the Deseret News as a 24-year-old many years ago, I remember reading a column by an old sportswriter. Seems like he was from Seattle and was in his 70s.
Anyway, the gist of his column was him looking back at his career and writing about how he had the greatest job in the world. It impressed me at the time how much he loved his job with all of the great experiences he had enjoyed. I never dreamed I would someday be in a similar situation (no I’m not in my 70s yet). Heck, I couldn’t imagine still being a sportswriter in my 30s.
But I recently concluded a 42-year career as a sportswriter and now I’m the old man looking back on a career that was every bit as enjoyable as the Seattle columnist described four decades ago.
First of all there were the games. I was able to see countless games and sporting events often with a front-row seat, not costing me a dime. I interviewed thousands of athletes and coaches, including some of the most famous in the world, and visited hundreds of places I never would have seen if not for my job. In all, I wrote close to 15,000 stories, perhaps as many as anyone in the history of the Deseret News.
While the vast majority of my stories covered sporting events along the Wasatch Front, I had the opportunity to travel extensively to cover sporting events.
For the record, I recently sat down and recounted all of the places I’ve been over the past four decades (hey, one thing I have plenty of now, is time). It wasn’t surprising to discover that I’d been to Las Vegas more than anywhere else with 45 visits. That’s because of annual trips to conference basketball tournaments along with regular-season football and basketball games with Utah and Utah State as well as a couple of golf tournaments. In recent years, I would sometimes cover three games in the same day at three different arenas — a WAC tournament game at The Orleans, a Mountain West game at the Thomas & Mack Center and a Pac-12 game at MGM or T-Mobile Arena. It made for some mad dashing around town, but I looked at it like an adventure.
Second on my list of travels was Los Angeles with 35, followed closely by Albuquerque, Fort Collins and San Diego. In all, I covered events in 35 states as well as Puerto Rico, Canada and Scotland.
I had the pleasure of covering every major golf tournament in the world, the Super Bowl, the Final Four and numerous bowl games. I covered every sport imaginable from squash to speed skating to windsurfing to beach volleyball.
I interviewed some of the greatest sports figures in history on a one-on-one basis from Jack Nicklaus to Arnold Palmer to Michael Jordan to Tiger Woods to a 6-year-old golf phenom named Gipper Finau. The latter interview led to a feature story that impressed Gipper’s older brother to start golfing and now Tony Finau is among the 15 top golfers in the world.
While I covered a couple of dozen different sports, my mainstays were football, basketball and golf. Favorite assignment? Had to be the Masters, which exceeds your expectations with its beauty at a place where the press is treated better than anywhere in the world with a first-class building that is beyond description. Second on the list was by the Maui Invitational, which I was able to cover three times.
One of the perks of the job was taking family members to numerous local games or on road trips. Often they would sit out in the stands while I was in the press box and my wife usually brought a book, for the waits after the games or if the game was exceptionally boring. I’ll always cherish the memories of being one-on-one with each of my children — flying kites in Puerto Rico. strolling the RIverwalk in San Antonio at the Final Four and experiencing the jazz culture of New Orleans. I must have taken my wife, Connie, on 50 trips, nearly half to San Diego, our favorite. Although I covered 23 events in Laramie, Wyoming, for some reason, I never brought a family member along.
While I loved seeing new places with family, the people I met along the way were a highlight. Besides the athletes and coaches, working with SIDs such as the late Bruce Woodbury was a pleasure and traveling alongside my D-News colleagues Dirk Facer and Brad Rock was always fun and I even enjoyed late-night dinners with fellow writers from competing publications,
Like any profession, the job had its down points — the stressful deadlines on West Coast football and basketball games, the breaking stories at inopportune times and having to miss an occasional dance recital or youth soccer game. I put up with some ill-mannered athletes and coaches and a handful of unpleasant bosses, but on the whole it was a wonderful way to make a living.
I could go on and on describing highlights of the past four decades. Instead, over the next few weeks, I plan to detail some of my bests and worsts, favorites and most memorables in this space.