With loss of Jauss comes reminiscing
Some days some stories are more important than Lovie Smith's contract, the NHL lockout and the NFL's bounty suspensions.
Wednesday afternoon I was sitting at this very computer and trying to sort out which of those issues to pontificate about.
Then the phone rang.
"Jauss, huh?" the voice said.
He informed me that longtime Chicago sports writer Bill Jauss died at 81.
The news was sad but not surprising because word circulated through press boxes recently that Jauss was ill.
Reminiscing commenced over the phone about one of the sports writers we worshipped when we entered this business.
My friend remembered going with Jauss on Big Ten skywriters' tours that flew newspapermen from campus to campus in the 1970s to meet with football coaches like Woody Hayes.
I remembered respected sports figures respecting Jauss because he could talk X's and O's with them no matter the sport.
We both remembered Jauss' beloved wife, Kenny, going on trips with him as sort of an inspirational muse.
That was when Jauss was in his prime and we were kids wanting to be like him.
Our nostalgia drifted back to newspaper glory days when every major city had to have a Bill Jauss or a Bill Gleason or on news side a Mike Royko who spoke to and for the man on the street.
Gleason wasn't kidding when he said on the radio in the 1990s that New York Times columnist Dave Anderson was bigger than Michael Jordan.
To a newspaperman who appreciates other newspapermen, Anderson was more special than even the all-time greatest basketball player could be.
The news pie wasn't as divided back then as it is now. Newspapermen were where the news pretty much began and ended.
Bill Jauss was one of the best. He was comfortable covering any sport on any level and breaking down just about any event in uncomplicated terms for any reader.
Old-time sports writers like that have been falling like autumn leaves. Last month Associated Press legend Joe Mooshil died. In recent years Gleason and Jerome Holtzman left us and before them the likes of Dave Nightingale and Rick Talley did.
Anyone old enough who loves sports and loves newspapers can remember when those men brilliantly united the ballpark and the alphabet.
Some of the giants of sports journalism veered off into moonlighting in radio and television. Jauss, Gleason and Mooshil graced "The Sportswriters," first on radio and then on TV.
But no matter where or how far they strayed, each understood that professionally he never was more of anything than he was a newspaperman.
These guys welcomed younger sports writers into their circle, treated us like equals and taught us how to do what they did.
Back then sports writers didn't have earphones plugged into their ears and heads buried in tweets.
They talked sports. They talked newspapers. They told stories. They made plans to have drinks after deadline to tell more stories about sports and newspapers.
Nobody was too big for writers like Bill Jauss, and nobody was too small. They were people persons who interacted just as easily with club owners in box seats as with fans in the bleachers.
It truly is sad to see another great newspaperman leave us like Bill Jauss did Wednesday, but for their readers they won't ever be gone.
Memories of them will remain bigger than any coach's contract, any NHL work stoppage or any NFL scandal.
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