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I reached the finish line

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by ChrisLong, Jul 1, 2014.

  1. ChrisLong

    ChrisLong Well-Known Member

    I had gradually been preparing for this for about a year. Although it was a sudden decision, my preparation made it a more of a calculated move than an emotional response.
    On June 21, when I left the Orange County Register office, it marked the end of my 44-year newspaper career.
    OCR's current "business plan" resulted in buyouts. I accepted, so I am considering this my decision to leave the business without feeling that I was forced out.
    I graduated from Santa Monica High in 1970. The next September, at the urging of my good friend and fellow scribe Mike Martinez, I started stringing high school football games at the Santa Monica Evening Outlook. The first game I covered and got paid for was Culver City at Redondo. Culver won, I don't remember the score. I continued stringing during college -- two years at Santa Monica College (covered a state championship basketball team as sports editor of the school paper) and 2-1/2 years at USC (covered two national championship football teams, three Rose Bowls and three national championship baseball teams for the Daily Trojan).
    A few months after graduating from USC in 1975, I was hired full time by the Evening Outlook. By default, I got the Kings hockey beat, which I had on and off (mostly on) for the next 20 years, through the Rogie Vachon-Marcel Dionne years, to Charlie Simmer and the Playboy Playmate parade, to the Wayne Gretzky era, including the 1993 Stanley Cup Final.
    As a sidebar man, I saw Bobby Welch strike out Reggie Jackson. As a fill-in on the Dodgers beat on a Mother's Day, I was standing next to Paul Olden when he asked Tommy Lasorda what he thought of Kingman's performance. In fact, of all the Lasorda rants that make the rounds on the Internet, I personally witnessed at least half of them. Over the years I covered all the golf events that came through Southern California, and the folks at Riviera Country Club lowered their standards by always welcoming me at the club. I have covered a couple dozen Rose Bowls, and the assorted Aloha and Cotton with Troy Aikman, Sun and Freedom. I covered several Rams game, including the playoff game where the Vikings' Chuck Foreman embarrassed the Rams on a muddy Coliseum field, and the final Rams game of guard Tom Mack at Anaheim Stadium, where I also covered the Bo Jackson All-Star Game.
    At the Evening Outlook, I worked my way up and when Martinez left the paper to join the San Jose Mercury News (and later the New York Times), I stepped in to the Dodgers beat in 1981. That became my career highlight. The first year, I endured a labor dispute, Fernando-mania, and covered the winning team in the World Series, set up by the homer from my paper's hometown hero, Rick Monday. In the next couple of years, I covered the Steve Howe drug problems and the departures of Davey Lopes, Ron Cey and Steve Garvey.
    In 1983, the Evening Outlook merged with the Daily Breeze of Torrance and at midseason the Dodgers beat was taken from me, a cruel decision that I seriously resented. But I started covering colleges and discovered the joy of volleyball. I also was tabbed as our Olympics expert and wrote previews on every sport leading up to the 1984 L.A. Games. A particular favorite was on the men's volleyball team. Half of the players went to Palisades High. So I interviewed the Pali coach and asked the key question: Who is the best Palisades volleyball player? He laughed and said that answering would get him in trouble. Over the next 13 years, I covered UCLA football and college basketball throughout Southern California. Every year, at least one of the teams I covered -- UCLA, USC, Pepperdine, Loyola Marymount, Long Beach State -- reached the NCAA Tournament, so I was on the road a lot in March. I discovered that there were good stories at the mid-majors, too, and got some of my best clips from those schools ... including the biggest story of my career.
    March 4, 1990, I was sitting courtside at LMU's Gersten Pavilion. Hank Gathers raced down the right wing and Terrell Lowery fired a pass that I thought was going to hit the wall above the EXIT sign. But Gathers leaped, caught the ball, dribbled once and jammed. He circled back toward midcourt and collapsed. Coach Paul Westhead ran onto the court, turned to me and shouted, "Chris, call 911."
    The next three weeks were unimaginable, covering Gathers' funeral in the gym, Bo Kimble shooting a free throw left-handed each game and four incredible NCAA Tournament games. LMU's second-round victory over Michigan was the greatest game I have ever seen in any sport in any year.
    In 1995, there was change of sports editor for the Breeze/Outlook. The new guy didn't like me and pulled me off UCLA basketball in midseason, before the Bruins went on to win the national championship. Then one day he said, "You're not a writer anymore, you're a deskman." I surprised him by saying it was OK. I had recently married and had a child. Traveling was no longer enticing, getting phone calls day and night no longer tolerable. Regular hours, despite being at night, were fine with me. So I went to the Breeze desk for a little less than a year, when the dreaded "staff reduction" was implemented. I was laid off as Breeze management eliminated just about the entire Outlook staff in November 1995. What ensued was a three-month stretch in which I didn't have a job for the first time since I became a 16-year-old stock boy at Pep Boys.
    In the past few days, I've thought -- a lot -- about decisions made by others that affect my life. I was angry that some bosses decided I was no longer the Dodgers beat writer. However, had I still been covering them a couple of years later, I wouldn't have been at the party where I began my relationship with Susan. We were married in 1988 and she gave birth to Alexandra in 1992, events that trivialize all the sporting events I have ever written about. Also, if I had still been working in Santa Monica or Torrance, I would never have applied for and gotten the job at the Orange County Register, going from a good suburban to a better metro paper for more money. I worked on the OCR sports desk for five months, through the 1996 Olympics, then my "extended tryout" ended and I was terminated. But I left the OCR one day and started at the San Gabriel Valley Tribune the next day. I spent 14 months there. In 1997, the sports editor at the OCR was reassigned and the new ones initiated action to bring me back to the sports desk, where I worked until June 21.
    My roots are on the Westside of Los Angeles -- Santa Monica (my hometown), Brentwood, Palms, Mar Vista, Culver City. But in 2004, we decided that commuting from Culver City to Santa Ana was becoming too much of a strain, so we packed up and moved to Irvine. I'm an O.C. guy now, we're an O.C. family now. As I grew up with the Dodgers and Kings, my daughter is growing up with the Angels and Ducks. Again, decisions by others forced lifestyle changes, which might seem traumatic but sometimes work out just fine. This one has. And I'm confident that my decision to leave the newspaper world now will work out just fine.
    Thanks for reading this.
    -- Chris Long
  2. Versatile

    Versatile Active Member

    So did you quit concise wording before or after newspapers?
  3. trifectarich

    trifectarich Well-Known Member

    Chris: You've had the good fortune to witness some great stuff; that's awesome.

    Good luck, and enjoy retirement if that's what you're calling it.
  4. Boom_70

    Boom_70 Well-Known Member

    What a fantastic body of work. Thanks for sharing. Good
    luck in retirement or whatever your plans are. You've
    earned it.
  5. RecoveringJournalist

    RecoveringJournalist Well-Known Member

    Thanks for sharing. Congratulations of an amazing body of work and congratulations for lasting as long as you did. We should all be so lucky.

    Just reading about Gathers again gave me chills.
  6. RecoveringJournalist

    RecoveringJournalist Well-Known Member

    Are you really that much of a fucking asshole?

    Show some respect.
  7. micropolitan guy

    micropolitan guy Well-Known Member

    Congrats; 44 years is a long time. I'm slightly younger than you and made it 35 before changing fields. Enjoy your retirement and your family! As others have said, you earned it.
  8. Baron Scicluna

    Baron Scicluna Well-Known Member

    Congrats on an incredible career, Chris.

    One thought/question: when you were asked to call 911 for Gathers, did you ever think that you were becoming part of the story and did you ever get any flak from anyone for making the call?
  9. RecoveringJournalist

    RecoveringJournalist Well-Known Member

    Wow, I can't imagine even thinking like that. A player is having a seizure on the court and you're asked to call, how does it even enter your mind not to?
  10. ChrisLong

    ChrisLong Well-Known Member

    Truthfully, as a copyeditor, I considered eliminating extra words my specialty. Didn't bother considering that for a discussion post.
  11. ChrisLong

    ChrisLong Well-Known Member

    Just about everybody sitting courtside who had a phone in front of them reached for it to call. I would do that 100 times out of 100. I knew exactly what was happening because I also had witnessed Gathers collapse during a game in December.
    Never got one bit of flak for it. If I had, I might have dropped the guy.
  12. TigerVols

    TigerVols Well-Known Member

    You've gone out with a great read, Chris.

    Not a bad first post for a newbie.


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