Meet the Republic and azcentral.com’s newest sports columnist, Greg Moore.
For my first words as the new sports columnist in town, it seems appropriate on Father’s Day to share stories and quotes from the many fathers who’ve helped shape me.
I hope they connect.
I hope they help you get to know me and understand my perspective as I try to tell stories, provoke thought and become a part of this community. We can talk about the Cardinals’ vertical passing attack and what the Suns should do on draft day. But I’d also like to know about the strength of mind possessed by wide receiver John Brown, one of the smallest players in an NFL filled with hulks, and whomever will become the newest Sun seeking to stand out in an NBA packed with giants.
The late Frank Deford once said, in explaining why his work in sports journalism was resonant, “It goes to humanity, rather than athletics.” That’s a powerful statement, and it’s something I’d like to keep in mind as I move forward. I’d like the stories and opinions I’m lucky enough to share to speak to ardent sports fans – and people who don’t care about competition but love a good story.
Here are four from my life.
‘Proper planning prevents poor performance’
My grandfather the retired Army major recited the Five Ps in every conversation, but they always floated by like a breeze. There. Then gone.
I was always rushing. Running behind. Doing things on the fly.
This wasn’t going to work. I was never going to write the sorts of books I spent so much time reading. I was never going to have a voice or leave a mark beyond my hometown, which felt smaller by the day.
To contribute – to matter – I had to get better, and doing that would mean listening to my father’s father, not just hearing him.
I learned to schedule my time to the half hour, arrive early and always have a plan.
I also learned to be brave and take risks, like my grandfather.
‘You can’t catch up if you don’t keep up’
My grandfather the musician was an entertainer whether he was on stage or not.
He was wrong, though. I could always catch up – at least until I couldn’t. Time to learn another lesson.
I had more dreams than ability and working 40-plus hours a week at a job that didn’t have anything to do with journalism wasn’t going to get me there.
So I quit – even though I couldn’t afford it.
To get where I wanted to be in life, I couldn’t waste any more time. Plus, coming of age, I spent most days on the corner of Greenfield and Outer Drive on Detroit’s west side. The people who ran the Lutheran church and school I attended there were upstanding, caring folks. But I never once heard anybody talking about second chances.
I set about building my resume. I had already interned for Mitch Albom and gotten a couple of clips from my student paper. But it was time to find a pace and stay there. I needed first to keep up with the fastest peers I could find, then try to edge them. If I couldn’t do it, fine. It wouldn’t be from lack of effort.
Time to freelance for every paper that would let me in the door, score a job as a sports copy desk aide at my hometown Detroit Free Press, take more classes, study, learn and grow.
I thought I could keep up, but I had to prove it.
‘Tell ’em where you’re from’
My father-in-law the retired autoworker is the quintessential Detroiter. He coordinates his clothes down to the socks, keeps his shoes polished and drives a nice car. A late-model Chrysler. Always.
He’s a good talker and has a line for every time, but he had no idea how complicated the advice he just gave me was.
My children are visiting him this Father’s Day, with my wife. I just spent time with them before coming back to Phoenix to start this chapter of my story. I miss them terribly, but family is essential, so this is a sacrifice I’m willing to make.
My father-in-law was excited. He had heard about my new job and wanted to congratulate me.
He reads the paper religiously and hates that the Free Press doesn’t home-deliver every day anymore. He wants me to send this to him after it runs.
“What should I write?” I ask.
“Tell ’em where you’re from,” he says before talking about the Bad Boy Pistons and ’84 Tigers. Give him long enough, and he’d have started talking about Emanuel Steward and Tommy Hearns.
I’ve lived in lots of places. Detroit. The suburbs. An Indiana town called Granger. Suburban Atlanta. Columbus, Georgia, “the geographic center of the Deep South.” Charlotte, North Carolina. Reno, Nevada. Nairobi, Kenya. Kansas City, Missouri. Kansas. Milwaukee. Phoenix.
Some of the stops lasted only months, others years.
I learned a great deal at each. (In Kansas City, I worked with a slew of sports journalists who’ve gone on to great things. In Milwaukee and Phoenix, I learned to write for a national audience – quickly.)
Now I want to be still awhile. I’ve found myself in a great place.
‘Do something you love, or something you get paid a whole lot of money to do’
My father tells this story of Notre Dame’s first black football coach, Ty Willingham:
Willingham was asked by a group of boosters whether Notre Dame was his dream job. The coach said no. He said that when he was coming up, he wasn’t allowed to have this dream. The implication was that a school such as Notre Dame would never hire a black coach. Willingham set his sights on more “realistic” goals.
Then he got the job.
Of course, the dream was snatched away before he had a chance to see his first recruiting class graduate. So maybe he was right all along.
My old man and Willingham are about the same age, and they share some experiences.
Dad said he, too, was encouraged to be practical. He got a job right out of high school and went to college at night. He was a salesman. A project manager.
It was a good life, but he always wondered. Could he have been a veterinarian? A writer?
He wanted different for me and my sisters.
“Do something you love,” he always says now, before taking a dramatic pause. “Or something you’re going to get paid a whole lot to do.”
He always laughs at that last line.
He wants me to chase dreams not dollars.
Lessons to pass on
I’m a father now, and I don’t have much to pass on to my children but stories.
I’m worried that I wasted too much time finding myself as a young man. I’m worried that the kids who knew by third grade that they wanted to go to Harvard or Stanford or MIT and had a support system to get them there will forever be in front of me.
It’s a horrible feeling, and I’ve learned to try to pack my days with work to compensate. It’s what I know.
Cardinals practice in the morning. Diamondbacks game in the evening. Audiobook in the car. Ask experienced people open-ended questions. Read smart writing. Read about smart writers. Practice. Practice. Practice.
I’m an everyday guy who’s been fortunate to have some extraordinary experiences. I didn’t come to this job through a traditional route, but what’s that even mean anymore? I’ve been on the desk. I’ve been in the field. I’ve covered politics. I’ve covered government.
But I love sports.
This topic, more than any other, gives me an opportunity to connect with you, to share the stories of people you identify with and people you don’t.
Some overcome. Some don’t. Some are noble. Others scoundrels.
But through these human stories, we can learn something about our world and each other – regardless of the differences that otherwise divide us.
At least that’s what I hope.
Reach Moore at [email protected] or 602-444-8394. Follow him on twitter.com/WritingMoore.