Sometimes you find the finish line. Sometimes the finish line finds you.
This season for the Eagles would have been my 20th as a beat reporter. I had a vague and unclear plan to make this my last, before retiring next year at 66.
Then, as the new leadership of the sports department took the reins, I was fortunate enough to earn the same money I would have earned working until next spring, if I left this summer, instead.
So yeah they gon ‘pay me for do not write. I’m sure readers, players, coaches and GMs across the country wish someone had found this solution a long time ago, but better late than never, right?
And on my side, who doesn’t aspire to be Chase Daniel?
I came here 38 years and a month ago from The Charlotte Observer. No one asked me to come, but the managers ended up letting me hang around for a very long time, and I am grateful to them.
I was still going to Philly because my lovely and talented wife, whom I met at The Observer, got a job at The Inquirer. (She quit this job a long time ago and is now finishing a second career, as a teacher.) By the time we moved into an apartment with cockroaches at 20th and Green in Fairmount, I had managed to spawn. a path beyond the door to the Daily News, first as a summer replacement editor in the news bureau.
I tiptoed back to the sport while no one was watching, and after several years of editing, I returned to writing. Those mid-80s nights as an editor, absorbing how Stan Hochman, Mark Whicker, Ray Didinger, Rich Hofmann, Phil Jasner, Elmer Smith, Paul Hagen and a few others did it basically helped me forge the style that I finally tried to fool readers.
I started a 13-and-a-half-year-old run with the Flyers in 1989, although I did start to learn as much about hockey as one might expect for someone who grew up in North Carolina in the 60s and 70s. I cherish those years – for the work I had to do, the places I was able to go and for the people I was able to meet.
There was nothing better in daily journalism than being a sports reporter for the Daily News in the 90s. We traveled where we wanted, wrote what we wanted, most of the time using as many words as we thought. need. Yes, we had great resources, but we also had leaders who understood what was working.
When The Inquirer absorbed the staff of the Daily News a few years ago, I wondered if my style would suit, if the other side of the office hallway would be stuffy and stiff. But everyone has been wonderful. I was put at ease.
I can thank people by name in private without bothering you with it, and I’m pretty sure you don’t care about that story I wrote, or those stairs I ran up to respect a deadline, or that multi-day series of flights to a distant Olympiad many years ago.
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Glad to have been on the cover, in one way or another, of a bunch of Super Bowls – including LII – with a bunch of Stanley Cup Finals, a World Series, an NBA Finals, a Games Summer Olympics, and four Winter Olympics. Due to the drying up of resources in the industry, it’s a dance card that many younger and more talented writers will never have the chance to fill. I have led a privileged life as a writer, better than my skills have ever warranted.
The folks at what was then Comcast SportsNet sort of thought it was a good idea to teleport me to your unsuspecting living rooms once a week for about 20 years. They eventually woke up. I plan to spend part of my retirement sorting through a large collection of outdated ties acquired during this time. I am told that hobbies help with adjustment.
Perhaps this is the place to say hello to all the editors over the years who have wondered why I thought 4 for 7 was 50%, or who, when tasked with writing my headline, has must have figured out exactly what the heck I was trying to say.
But more than anything else what I want to do here is thank the audience. I’m sorry I never looked as good as I wanted, or as good as you deserved. I’ve never stopped trying to improve myself, and despite vast gaps, I think I’m more polite now than I was 10, 20, or 30 years ago.
That’s one of the reasons I stayed there for so long, the idea that I might one day do it right, like the thousands of monkeys that end up hitting Shakespeare.
I have never applied for a job in any other market. Maybe that betrays a lack of ambition. It certainly reflects my point of view that this is the place. There isn’t a big city in the country where sport matters more, where if you cover, say, the Eagles, you know people dissect every paragraph, read every word.
The trend in the industry for as long as I’ve been in it has been towards shorter and shorter stories, and I always nod pleasantly when publishers preach this gospel. But I also know if I were to write 2,000 words tomorrow about how Nick Sirianni chooses the Eagles-themed t-shirts he wears to practice, and if I were to miss a 1,967 typo. words, I would hear about it on Twitter and by e-mail.
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For me, sports writing has always been as much about writing as it is about sports. This prospect is becoming rare in the biz. Much of what seems to be trending today is foreign ground to me, and I don’t like that feeling, because I never wanted to write like “an old man.”
When I started out, sport was appealing because it encouraged a certain style of writing, more than reporting. You have been given the freedom to have a voice, to be freakish or sarcastic. I might have tested the limits of this freedom once or twice. Thank you for making me happy.
I’m probably still going to write a bit, somehow, somewhere. Maybe even here every now and then, if the stars align.
I hope we will meet again one day on another page.