Three decades of watching from the sidelines
It has been three decades since I stumbled wide-eyed into the old Austin American Statesman building on third street and was put to work by my mentor George Breazeale, covering high school football.
It was so long ago that we were still churning out our stories on a typewriter and sticking them in a basket to be collected by a “copy boy”.
Most of the guys I started with in this business have long since given it up. Myself, I still love my job.
So here is an elongated version of my weekly “The 5ive list” of some of the best (and worst) I’ve seen over the years.
Favorite year—Has to be 1995. Anderson and Reagan were ranked 1 and 2 in the basketball polls and all I did was cover those two teams all season. Anderson was led by the smooth as silk Kris Clack, while Reagan was led by the blue collar worker Chico Vasquez. They would later become teammates at Texas. I still talk to Chico.
Favorite event—By far, the boys state basketball tournament. I will attend my 40th straight next year. The only way I will miss the tourney is when I’m six feet under. Also enjoyed covering the Legends of Golf Tournament.
Favorite interview—I interviewed baseball Hall-of- Famer Gaylord Perry in 1984 and when he shook my hand, it was loaded with Vasolene. His trash-talking stories kept me in stitches.
Nicest guys—Nolan Ryan and Tom Kite.
Favorite moment—Sitting in a dugout with Nolan Ryan in total silence after he pitched against his son Reid in an exhibition at Disch-Falk Field.
Best girls basketball player—Hands down, Beverly Williams. She led Del Valle to a state title and Texas to a national title. She could have played with the boys—seriously.
Best boys basketball performance—Stanley Bonewicz’s effort in the 1995 state tournament was spectacular.
Worst memory—Covering the death of bull rider Brent Thurman at the 1994 National Finals Rodeo, who I had just done a feature on. I hope I never have to do anything like that again.
Least likely event I covered— The Austin Rodeo.
Best press box—The ladies in Hays set a beautiful buffet table.
Worst interview— Shaquille O’Neal. I interviewed him before San Antonio Cole won its state championship in 1989. He didn’t have a lot to say and I had a lot of holes in my story.
Favorite guilty pleasure— Covering Texas Longhorn baseball. I couldn’t believe I was getting paid to go to the ball park everyday.
Favorite field of play— Olsen Field at Texas A&M. Great place to watch a game and the atmosphere was even greater.
Funniest thing I ever saw—The killing of a bat in the Erwin Center at the 1988 state tournament after it had chased South Oak Cliff’s Alfredo Porter up in the stands with the ball in the middle of the game.
Best “before they were famous” interview—Interviewed this bike rider in 1994 who had just moved to Austin from Plano and was making a name for himself in Europe, name of Lance Armstrong.
Most unlikely star–Drew Brees. From where he was in high school (shy, skinny kid) to where he is now has been quite a journey.
Most enjoyable interview experience—Spoke to high school football legend Kenneth Hall in 1986 when he opened his barbecue place in Fredericksburg. Spent the whole day with him. Couldn’t have been a nicer guy. It’s closed now.