I am a sportswriter. I’m proud of that fact. I’ve been fortunate to do so at the highest levels of the profession for more than three decades.
My goal is to continue as a sportswriter. That is no easy task, even for someone with my credentials, which I humbly feel are substantial. Taking the optimistic view, I still hope someone or some information group sees this and says, “Hey, let’s talk.”
I am a sportswriter, but saying so today is a little like saying I’m a milkman or a switchboard operator or a blacksmith who makes armor for jousting.
The headline on one internet story last week read, Is Sportswriting Dead? Two weeks ago, FOX Sports laid off all its writing staff. Last month, ESPN told over 100 writers and commentators to hit the road. Your services are no longer required.
Seeing the trend was a major factor in my decision to leave ESPN two years ago after a wonderful decade there covering sports _ first as a motorsports columnist and commentator and later as the NFL Nation writer and commentator during back-to-back Super Bowls seasons for the Seattle Seahawks.
I loved my time at ESPN, which came after more than two decades as a sports reporter for three Texas major-metro newspapers _ the Houston Post (extinct since 1995), the Houston Chronicle and the Dallas Morning News.
The decline of newspapers has been ongoing for more than 20 years. As a person who considers himself a newspaper man at heart, this saddens me greatly. A lot of great writers, many of whom I worked with over the years, have left the business. I’m going against the trend and want back in.
My goodness, the memorable events I’ve covered – good, bad, historic and just plain extraordinary. Super Bowls, World Series, NBA Finals, Finals Fours, Indy 500s, Daytona 500s, heavyweight boxing championships, college bowl games from the Rose Bowl to the Orange Bowl and many in between, etc.
I was there in 1994 when the Rockets finally gave Houston sports fans that elusive championship (Clutch City) they were craving. I was privileged to write the A1 story for the Chronicle on that historic night.
I wrote my take for ESPN.com on one of the most dominating defensive performances in Super Bowl history when the Seattle Seahawks defeated Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos 43-8 in Super Bowl XLVIII.
I witnessed the mother of all chokes on a frigid January day in Buffalo when the Houston Oilers blew a 35-3 playoff-game lead and lost 41-38 to the Bills. I remember our team of reporters for the Chronicle made our flight and hotel reservations to Pittsburgh at halftime. Big mistake.
I was sitting with my friend and legendary NFL reporter John Clayton in the press box when the Seahawks did the unthinkable at the goal line, throwing a pass instead of handing off to Marshawn Lynch. As the interception happened to save the Super Bowl for New England, John and I looked at each other in disbelief, with colorful words included in a “you’ve got to be kidding me” moment.
I covered what I still believe was the greatest baseball game ever played, a 7-6 victory in 16 drama-filled innings as the New York Mets prevailed over the Astros, sending New York to the 1986 World Series.
I wrote through my sadness the day the greatest racer of his generation lost his life in the 2001 Daytona 500. Dale Earnhardt was larger than life, in and out of the race car.
And I was angry, devastated and troubled while writing in Las Vegas the day Indy 500 winner Dan Wheldon was killed in the 2011 IndyCar season finale.
I was ringside in Houston to cover a young heavyweight boxer named Mike Tyson, who knocked Eddie Richardson across the ring with a left hook that ended the fight 38 seconds after it began. I asked Richardson afterward if he ever had been hit that hard. “Yes, he said. “I was hit by a bus once.’’
I spent many days in 1984 at the Houston gym of Bela Karolyi to report on his prize pupil, a tiny teenage dynamo named Mary Lou Retton, before and after she won the hearts of America as the Olympic gold medalist.
I spent an evening with Muhammad Ali at a friend’s home in Houston when Parkinson’s Disease was just starting to ravage his body. I asked him if he had any regrets, maybe wishing he had stopped fighting sooner?
He gently grabbed my arm, looked me in the eyes and said, “Terry, I wouldn’t change a thing. Not one thing.”
I covered young Astros Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio as they were just beginning their Hall of Fame careers and was privileged to cover Nolan Ryan in his flame-throwing greatness.
I’ve been fortunate to cover the best of the best over the years, athletes I respected as people even more than players or coaches _ Warren Moon, Richard Sherman, Clyde Drexler, Russell Wilson, Troy Aikman, Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Sr. and Jr., A.J. Foyt, Jimmie Johnson, Billie Jean King, Martina Navratilova, Bill Yeoman, Jack Pardee, Art Howe, Pete Carroll, John Force, Rudy Tomjanovich and many others.
I’ve worked with some of the best sports journalist of our time. I considered listing some of them here, but didn’t want to leave anyone out.
I was honored to win awards and accolades along the way, which never was a goal. I’ve loved every minute of it and I hope it continues, but this wonderful profession of mine is fading fast.
There still are top professional sportswriters providing insight that fans can’t find anywhere else, including some rising stars. My good friend Jayson Jenks of the Seattle Times is one of the most talented young writers in the country.
However, the options for top sportswriters are limited to say the least. Too many websites and blog sites use content for little or no compensation. And many of those people providing content are not journalists.
We live in a world of one-sentence Tweets and 30-second videos, and that’s OK as long as we still value actual storytelling and in-depth information.
Doing so has been my life’s work. I hope it continues. I guess I’m still optimistic enough to think someone with my credentials has value in the sports landscape.
In the grand scheme of things, it won’t change the world. It isn’t curing cancer and teaching school children. But I like to think I’ve added a little meaning and inside knowledge to events that brought people joy, sadness, excitement and disappointment.
Sometimes that was breaking news no one else had. Sometimes it was writing a column that provoked thought and added a perspective readers hadn’t considered.
And occasionally, I’ve rankled a few coaches, players and fans along the way. Every sportswriter has those moments.
The best moments are found elsewhere. One of the things I’ve always loved about sports was the chance to see someone accomplish something no one thought he or she could do. It’s inspiring to witness and chronicle those feats.
After all, isn’t that what we all want in our own life? We want to do more than others believe we can do.
I’ve written about those moments in sports for more than three decades. I want the opportunity to continue doing so. It’s my life.
I am a sportswriter. Of that fact, I’m truly proud.