Sunday, December 23, 2012

One word: Retired

    "And so it has come to this. I am one of the lucky people in the world. I found something that I always wanted to do, and I have enjoyed every single minute of it."
     Borrowed the quote above from the last Tonight Show appearance by my favorite all-time television performer, Johnny Carson, in May 1993. Today it fits for me.
     My sportswriting career is finished. I am done.
     No more comebacks, even parttime ones. I thought I was done in May 2011, when I was part of the fifth layoff at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram in 3 1/2 years.
    I said then that my fulltime career was over. And it was.
     But because I wanted to cover high school football in the fall of 2011 and again this fall, and because there also was parttime work available inside -- on the desk, in newspaper parlance -- I worked four months at The Dallas Morning News and almost all this calendar year back at the Star-Telegram.
      One or two nights a week -- sometimes three nights -- wasn't a bad deal. Little pressure, and good people around. And the papers paid me.
     Covering high school football these past two seasons, at some fabulous facilities and some ordinary ones, was a blast. Texas high school football -- Friday Night Lights -- is as good it gets, if you love covering the preps ... and I always have.
      My last desk shift was last Monday, a tough five-hour grind right to the deadline. Edited my last story, wrote my last cutline, my last headline. Done. See you.
The last media credential
of my career.
      My last act, my last game, Saturday afternoon, the Class 5A Division II state championship game -- Cedar Hill vs. Katy -- at the fabulous Cowboys Stadium. Wow. What a finish. I wrote the story, and I checked out of a career.
       And I'm happy; I'm satisfied. There was a little sadness this past week, but not much. I've had enough.
      Several people the past few weeks have suggested I would be calling next fall asking to cover games again. Several have said I will miss working, will miss the newspaper business.
    No, no and no.
    I told Bea early this year that this would be my final year, my final set of games. I don't see as well, I don't hear as well, I don't sleep well after I work, I get tired more easily. 
     Covering high school football, as much fun as it was, is more difficult these days. The games are so fast-paced, the scores are so much higher, there are tweets to post, and stats to compile and enter into the computer, and there is -- always -- a deadline to meet. 
      I found I could still do it, and I still worked at it as hard as ever. Got there early, explored the stadiums and met people, and stayed late. Did two stories: (1) a version for the next day's newspaper; (2) a longer, more detailed -- with quotes -- for the paper's web site. Happy to do it. Loved the action.
       Glad to be done. Lots for which to be grateful. I'm certainly blessed.
       Can't say that I loved every single minute of my career; sounds good, but I don't believe that was true even for Johnny Carson. 
       In almost 50 years -- from the time I first walked into The Shreveport Times sports department when I had just turned 16 -- there were lots of tough times. Most were self-inflicted.
      I went from job to job because I got tired of some people and misbehaved, and they got tired of me. I was told to move on more times than I could have ever imagined. But if you believe that most everything happens for a good reason -- and Beatrice has convinced me this is true -- I found that change can be good.
       We went from Louisiana to Hawaii back to Louisiana, to Florida, to Tennessee and finally to Texas. I worked for seven daily newspapers, one college, and three pro baseball teams -- some great jobs ... and some jobs.
        I was never enamored with upper management in the newspaper field, never one to totally follow the rules. But I will say that upper management at the Shreveport Journal and The Honolulu Advertiser were the best and, with few exceptions, management in the sports departments where I worked was wonderful.
          Lots of people helped me along the way. Don't even want to start to name names; just too many people, and I don't want to slight anyone. Some people saved my career; I hope they know who they are. Most people enhanced it. I tried to learn something from everyone; I hope I passed on some knowledge/advice.
        I had some management roles; some were easier than others because I was working with great people. Shreveport Journal sports for much of the 1980s was the best group, the most fun; the Star-Telegram -- I arrived late in 2001 -- was the best section in which I was involved ... at least for the first half-dozen years. 
         There's lots of thanks all around, but the biggest thanks go to my home folks. My parents ... I miss them. Mostly, though, Beatrice -- who supported me through lots of great times and difficult ones; I can always say I married well -- and my incredible kids, Jason and Rachel, who put up with much more than they should have.
         There's more I want to express, and I'll do that in a couple of days. I've got time. I'm retired.         


  1. The 1980s at the Shreveport Journal sports department are days I will always treasure. It was so much fun to work there that it should have been illegal. An unbelievable combination and dedication to putting out the best sports section possible that will never come along again. Anywhere. Any time. But you were the behind-the-scenes ringleader of that circus and allowed everyone to be as good as they could be. Everyone should have a job that they love that much. Thanks for making that possible.

  2. From O.K. "Buddy" Davis: Billy [Ruston High School football coach Billy Laird] and now you. He mentioned that to me Thursday when i interviewed him about his retirement. Well, not get mushy, but love both of y'all and thanks for all of the times y'all have helped me in my sportswriting career. No, I'm not retiring -- ha, ha --- but sometimes folks don't tell each other that. I've said this many times to many people, but if all of the sports media was like you and approach the businesss in the right way with so much dedication, it would be an even better business.

  3. From Teddy Allen: I knew even as that [the Shreveport Journal sports department, mid-1980s] was happening that it would never be quite like
    that again, not quite that much fun and that much freedom, ever again. Would never be around that much talent and passion for the common cause. All the arguments had a purpose. Every day was like a game, with a clock and an opponent and rules. Every day on the way in I knew I would be challenged, and I knew I would laugh out loud at something. We have you to thank for that. We see ya. Good crank. Keep 'em coming.

  4. From Helaine Nierman Braunig: Enjoyed that blog post very much. I wish you lots of relaxing days and good health with your very special wife. You two are quite inspiring -- you both remind me of the things in life that are really important -- and the stuff that is not.

  5. From Carolyn Lindsay Blaikie Love Bea's spirit! "Behind every successful man.." ... just sayin ... Somebody helped those children have the "right" perspective on their daddy's necessary absences and saw her own time alone as opportunity to grow and develop her own independence and strengths. Nice to see a family who have all been there for each other and all of us have benefitted from it. Thank you to Bea and Nico. Enjoy your retirement; cherish every day!

  6. From Lois Norder When I first met Nico in Shreveport, I was totally intimidated. But then I discovered he would do anything to help out a green reporter. And that for all the sports talk, he was a fine writer. Congrats on retirement.

  7. From Stan Tiner: As a longtime friend and colleague, I too am proud of his fine career, but Nico's best work was in persuading Bea to be his bride. Great team.

  8. From Maxie Hays: Awesome career, Nico. Thanks for your service in the sports world. The coaches and players will forever be grateful and appreciative of the ink.

  9. From Joan Fiser: Congratulations, Nico! I know my father [Jack Fiser] would love to have sat down with you to hear about your long career in sports writing. Happy retirement!

  10. Nico:

    I'm proud to have worked with you and proud to have been part of those great sections at the Star-Telegram. The newspaper business was a better place because of you and is decidedly less so now that you're out of it. Enjoy your retirement. You surely deserve to.

  11. From Amy Williams Watson: Congratulations on your retirement! Please try to enjoy life with only self-imposed deadlines, or perhaps, finally, Bea-imposed deadlines. I miss your parents, too -- can still hear the sound of their voices. I hate to do this to you, but I turn 50 in September. I always hesitate to tell "Woodlawn people" who I am when I recognize them. My appearance never matched their memory and it always made us all feel old. I feel old reading of your retirement, but I am thrilled to celebrate it with you. I look forward to reading what angle your writing takes. I know it will be as insightful and inspiring as ever, but with a great new twist on subject matter. Revel in it.

  12. From Clyde Mizumoto (Honolulu):
    Hey guy, just read your latest blog. Congrats! Long overdue. I'm reminded of Sen. Harry Reid's eulogy on our esteemed Sen. Dan Inouye. Reid related that Inouye taught his fellow legislators how the word aloha -- which was Inouye's final penned word -- can have many meanings. It can mean more than just hello or good-bye, as Reid said, it can also mean love. And, so, to you on behalf of your friends and former co-workers from The Advertiser, I bid you aloha. Enjoy your retirement!

  13. From John Sturbin: Congratulations on a career well-traveled-and-spent; hope you and Bea enjoy your Golden Years in good health. Working with you at the Star-Telegram, mostly on Wednesday nights when I finished up my Motorsports Report, always was a blast. Somehow we got our work done in -- between Yankees games either on TV or on the web, not to mention Three Stooges imitations. And yes, for several years the S-T's Sports section was among the top-10 in the nation thanks to talented people inside and outside of 400 W. Seventh St. That was about camaraderie. As for the current state of the newspaper industry, here is an observation from Michael Smerconish, progressive radio talk show host and MSNBC contributor, that is to the point: "The 'media' is everyone in PJs ... and some of them have feet in them." Enough said, buddy.

  14. From Jim Pruett: Enjoyed your blog. I get it. Funny, but I do not feel any different than I did when I "retired" 2 years ago. No different. None. Except ... I am just flat more and more grateful as the days pass. And, I am aware at some deep level pretty much all the time that I don't have to do anything work-wise today, don't have to meet any deadlines today, don't have to get up early today, don't have to attend another pointless meeting today, don't have to drive in rush hour traffic this morning, don't have to ... well, you get my drift. Yes, I too feel very fortunate, very lucky to have gotten to do some things I was well-suited for and to have worked with and for some neat people (forget the turkeys...), very lucky to have survived with good health, very lucky to have married well, to have great kids, etc. Anyway, thanks for putting it in words for us.

  15. From Ken Sins:
    Five months ago, I walked away from the sportswriting business after 40 years in the press box. And I haven't had a single regret. I covered just about every event I had on my to-do list: a dozen Super Bowls, four World Series, three NBA Finals, two Stanley Cup Finals, big bowl games, thousands of MLB and NBA and NHL and NFL regular-season games. I worked with some great people, and some real morons. All in all, it was a great ride. But it was time to quit. I grew to dread the deadlines and the long drives to the sports venues and dealing with some of the arrogant people in sports. So far, I haven't been bored for even a minute. And neither will you.

  16. From Butch Williams: I did want to respond to your latest blog about your retirement.It was a big decision for me to make, and I really didn't think I would be happy, but I can say with no reservations that I have loved every minute of it. More time for wife,children,and especially grandchildren. Enjoy it, Nico, because you have earned it.

  17. From Jimmy Russell: You have had an interesting life and in my opinion have been most productive. ... One thing I will always remember about you is that you were your own man and you did not worry about what someone thought. You let the chips fall where they may.

  18. Nico,
    Just wanted to pass along a word of thanks to you, my friend, for the good times we shared at the Star-Telegram. You made many a night much more bearable simply by being you. Rock-solid steady and a calming influence amid the storm of too much to do and not enough time to do it. Thanks for all you taught me.

    1. This is Dano, by the way. :)