I’m not sure why football took over my life at a young age like it did.
Growing up in Alaska, football season was dreadfully short: three months — and that included two-a-days. And much of that was spent holding open the tiny window we called “summer” by fishing, hunting, camping, swimming or just enjoying the sun for a brief time.
Summer daylight near the Arctic Circle lasts almost 24 hours. The sun dips below the horizon, then almost immediately pops back up. (In the dead of winter, it’s the exact opposite, with Old Sol popping up out of the pitch darkness just long enough to lighten the sky for a few hours.) In Alaska, when the sun is shining, you tend to your garden, you stand on a riverbank, you sit on your porch sipping tea, you hang out with friends walking down gravel roads. And then, you go back to your cold, dark, sometimes dreary existence for eight or nine months and wait for next summer.
You don’t play football.
But I did. Joe Namath and Fran Tarkenton and Roger Staubach captured my attention, but it was Walter Payton who put it under lock and key. By the summer of 1981, I decided I would join them. I signed up for ninth-grade football, got a spot on the North Pole Oilers (I still have that Oiler Blue jersey and my Arctic Bowl trophy). My mom didn’t drive and my dad was gone a lot, so I would ride the city bus to practice every day and back, toting my pads and helmet in the seat next to me.
The Oilers lost only two games that year. We beat the Eielson Air Force Base team 66-0, and made similarly quick work of just about everyone else. The only team that had our number was the Fairbanks Steelers. We also lost the Arctic Bowl to the Eielson 10th grade team. It was played two weeks after the end of the season, probably mid-October, and the field was under two feet of snow. (I caught a pass near the sideline and got pile-drived, face-first, into the snowbank, packing my helmet with snow.)
In 1982 I moved to Ada to live with my big sister. Maybe you’ve heard of Ada. Nineteen state championships. State record, you know. Well, my class was at the time one of the few that didn’t win a state title. Still, it was one of life’s great highlights. In Ada, you could play football or do nothing, so I chose football. I’m pretty sure Ada football taught me how to work for something if I wanted it.
High school, quite by accident, led me to journalism. Hey, I found two things I enjoyed—writing and sports—and put them together. I haven’t needed a hobby since.
Thirty years later, I’ve left a remarkably fortunate career in the newspaper business to join Oklahoma’s fastest-growing sports talk radio family, The Franchise.
As I have for 3 ½ years now, I still contribute on Oklahoma City airwaves (I’m on mornings with Dylan and Todd), I’m now co-host (with Lauren Rew) of The Franchise Tulsa, and every weekday from noon to 3, Lauren and I break down the hottest hot-button topics for Tulsa listeners. The name of our show is “Further Review.” (We’re on fm107.9/am1270.)
My 24 years at the Tulsa World was an amazing time. I covered the Dallas Cowboys and Kansas City Chiefs for six years, covered Oklahoma State for two years and covered Oklahoma for eight years. The last four years, I had the privilege of being the World’s lead sports columnist.
Now, at TheFranchiseOK.com, I’ll still be covering games, still be going to press conferences, still be writing about all the big events in our state.
I’ll just be going on air and talking about them every day, too.