Let’s start with an old joke.
On a plane trip home after a football game, Buck Buchanan, a massive lineman for the Kansas City Chiefs, was sitting next to a sports writer. Buck had the aisle seat. The sports writer was by the window.
Dinner came, and they ate.
Soon Buck fell asleep.
The flight got very bumpy. The sports writer, who had a weak stomach, began to feel queasy. He wanted to get out to the aisle, but he didn’t dare disturb Buck’s sleep. So he stayed put.
Finally, it was too much. The sports writer leaned over to grab the air-sickness bag. Instead — to his shock — he got sick all over Buck’s lap.
The big football player stirred, opened his eyes, saw the mess and mumbled, “Grmphuh?”
The sports writer looked up innocently.
“Feeling better, Buck?” he asked.
We have a lot in common
You need reflexes like that in this business. Challenging moments always arise.
Like starting your column in a new newspaper, which is what I’m doing today.
Writing for a new audience can strum your nerves a bit. But not for long. I don’t know you yet, but I do know sports. And so do you.
The way I figure it, with sports being as monstrously big as they are, we already have a lot more in common than not.
Besides, sports have a way of bridging gaps between people. Like when Casey Stengel caught a pitcher sneaking back at 4 a.m. from the tavern.
“Drunk again,” Stengel scolded.
“Me, too,” the pitcher said.
We’ll get along just fine.
As for my background, I figure too many details here would bore you. Let’s just say I’ve worked for a number of newspapers and magazines, some very big, some very obscure.
I’ve lived in American League cities, National League cities, been on assignment in Boise, Boston and Berlin, and I still find that just when you figure you’ve seen everything in sports, along comes pro wrestling.
I once worked in a city where the baseball team came back from 14 games out to win the pennant and the World Series. Take heart, Tigers fans.
But most sports writers don’t get too caught up in time or place. It’s the nature of the beast.
I knew of a New York writer who was fired from his job. Then, 11 years later, he was rehired by the same newspaper. In his first column back, he wrote:
“As I was saying when I was so rudely interrupted 11 years ago . . . ”
Read, old sport, then write
So what can you expect from this space four times a week?
Some opinion, some heart, some frankness. Some laughs.
Some out of the ordinary. There’s a side of the sports leaf that rarely gets turned over, a human side that I like to peek at now and then.
Otherwise, it’s hard to predict. Except that, whether my tone be scolding or sympathetic, I try to be honest. That doesn’t change.
This is not always a pretty job. Sometimes you have to write that the good guys lost, or that somebody’s favorite baseball hero in the whole world just checked into the rehab clinic.
Still, sports are the only show in town where no matter how many times you go back, you never know the ending. That’s special.
And, for the most part, sports are fun. Even the silly things can be worth reading about.
So in the end, that’s all I ask.
You may not always agree with what I write, and I may not care for the shredded copies of my column you send back in an unmarked envelope.
That’s OK. A column is just one person’s view. Read it before your coffee, or after your coffee. You can dunk it in your coffee if you like, though I suggest you read it first.
The only thing I’d resent is if you didn’t bother to read it at all.
I’ll always try to make it worthwhile.
One other thing. Some people apparently look at a new job in Detroit as something to be endured or tolerated.
Well, maybe that’s right for them. I, for one, am thrilled to be here. For sports, they don’t make towns any better than this one.
Enough said. Starting tomorrow, I ask your attention, your reaction, your letters, your laughter and, once in a while, the benefit of the doubt.
After all, even Buck Buchanan let that sports writer live. I think.