Dave Boling was Dave Boiling.
It was a dozen years or so ago. We were in the media workroom of the then-new Seahawks headquarters in Renton. I was Seattle’s sports writer for The Associated Press. I’d lazily swiped one of the weekly statistics books the team issues to beat writers on the weeks of games, because I couldn’t immediately find mine. The room had been mostly empty when I used the book to look up some arcane number.
Turns out, it was Dave Boling’s stats book.
Never miss a local story.
When he came into the room and checked his work area, he wasn’t entirely pleased his stats book was missing. And he let all in the room know that. I was banging out some story that had to be done in 5 minutes, AP style, and never looked up. I tastelessly and recklessly tossed the book over my shoulder in the direction of Dave’s area. The book thudded into his water bottle, splashing its contents all over his table and stuff.
I’ve never forgotten how rude I was that day to the wise, classy, sophisticated guy who, starting about eight years later, became my invaluable teammate covering the Seahawks for this newspaper and in this space.
I remembered it again Friday. That’s when Dave let everyone know this journalism industry that is swirling swiped my beat partner clear out of the business, after 37 years of enriching and informing all who read him and worked with him.
Dave’s not into fanfare or attention. So before his final columns are published, I humbly offer these sides I’m pretty sure he’s not going to trumpet.
If you and I only knew a fraction of all Dave knows about sports and life and raising a family and the finest parts of Spain and overcoming injuries and playing football at the big-time level and writing novels of historical fiction, we’d be, well, more like Dave Boling.
And we’re not.
Much of how I’ve watched this team and written about it daily for the last four years is at least somewhat related to what Dave’s advised or known. He was the first one to tell me during OTAs in the spring of 2015 to keep an eye on an undrafted kid from Central Michigan. He said he liked the guy’s toughness.
All Thomas Rawls did later that year was become the first undrafted rookie to lead the league in yards per carry, and emerge as Seattle’s replacement for Marshawn Lynch as the No. 1 running back.
“The Seahawks really, really needed Thomas Rawls to turn into what he has,” Boling wrote in November 2015, as Rawls was starring out of nowhere, and Lynch was going through a string of injuries that ultimately ended his Seahawks tenure.
His eye for offensive linemen was particularly keen.
He told me on the side of the field the first couple practices after free agent Jahri Evans signed with the Seahawks last summer that the four-time All-Pro and six-time Pro Bowl guard was done, had nothing left. I kept writing what a coup it was for Seattle to have signed Evans for its young line, how big of an influence he could have on it and thus the team in 2016. I had Evans on my projected 53-man roster coming out of the preseason, to at least mentor these young blockers if not start over them.
Dave wrote last August 24, point blank: “Can Jahri Evans still play?”
I should have listened more to Dave. The Seahawks cut Evans before the first game.
He was telling you and me what was going to happen, weeks before it did.
Dave told me during last preseason and regular season he didn’t like how passive Garry Gilliam seemed at right tackle, how he didn’t seem tough enough to play such a vital starting role for a line that got quarterback Russell Wilson mauled with major injuries twice in the first three games last September.
By early in the November 27 loss at Tampa Bay, the Seahawks benched Gilliam. Line coach Tom Cable then said Gilliam wasn’t being physical enough for the demands of blocking elite edge defenders.
Boling also foreshadowed last August how surprisingly effective Justin Britt was going to be as a first-time starting center after two, failed seasons as the right tackle and left guard. This is how he watched a preseason game, this one at the Chiefs last summer:
“Moving him to center, a job deemed more complex by the requirements of snapping the ball and making the blocking calls, seemed something of a desperate shot at finding him a place,” he wrote in August.
“But his play so far has caused coach Pete Carroll to wonder whether Britt should have been there all along.
“Against Kansas City, often in the face of 350-pound Pro Bowl nose tackle Dontari Poe, Britt looked sharp and strong. He generally fired out low and got a good push; his snaps were clean, and for the most part, the communication across the front seemed solid.”
Britt became Seattle’s best offensive linemen last regular season.
Boling’s acumen on linemen traces to his time as one. He was that plus a long snapper for coach Lee Corso on his nationally ranked University of Louisville teams of the early 1970s -- not that he talked much about that around me or anyone around the Seahawks. His top-level playing experience made him uniquely more qualified than, oh, 97 percent of the people covering NFL offensive linemen today.
Boling first met Corso when he was 17 years old in the Chicago suburb of Glenwood, Illinois, and Corso was recruiting him to come south.
He never bragged about his time as a letterman for Corso’s teams, in a bowl game and a teammate of another eventual ESPN football analyst, Tom Jackson. He almost reluctantly wrote this great feature on Corso last fall; I ribbed Dave for not including more about himself in there.
“He was an evangelist, a ringmaster, heck, maybe even a bit of a hypnotist, making me a little dizzy with his whirlwind pitch of hopes and visions of success,” Boling wrote last November of Corso the recruiter.
“Yes, yes, yes, hallelujah, where do I sign?”
I will miss his sighs and eye rolls each time I asked him to take a picture with me from the press box at the Super Bowl for the blog, or do another video at the end of a long training-camp day of reporting and writing -- and then how he nailed the analysis each time. I will miss the conversational banter that made those videos different and more insightful, the market-leading, 40-plus years of combined experience covering the NFL condensed and delivered in clips at a time.
Dave saw journalism changing and became dedicated to making those videos work. I value putting you there, in the stadium, on the field, with those videos. Dave did, too.
That led to this: We still laugh over him rummaging through garbage cans behind the team bench at the Superdome to find used tape that wasn’t bloody, so I could fasten my phone to a railing to shoot the postgame video of us from the field in New Orleans.
Dave wasn’t thrilled that I’d forgotten the tripod on that trip.
I still hear Dave barking at me to “get in the CAR!” in the snow at 2:30 a.m. Wisconsin time in the parking lot of Lambeau Field following the Seahawks’ game there against the Packers last winter. We had a three-hour drive ahead of us to Chicago for a dawn flight home, and Dave didn’t want his driver wasting time shooting video of the wintry scene and historic stadium from the outside.
I’ll always remember us laughing in that rental car at 4 a.m. or whatever it was on that drive back to Chicago. We were in an empty, snow-covered parking lot of a mall in Sheboygan, scarfing down burritos we’d gotten at the drive-thru of Taco Bell. Hey, everyone thing else was closed and we were starving.
Yeah, Dave sure is leaving behind a glamorous life.
My favorite eye roll came when I asked him to shoot a video with me in Terminal C of SeaTac Airport past midnight this past New Year’s Night. That was after a boomerang day on which we decided to steal New Year’s Eve at home with our wives and kids, take a 6 a.m. New Year’s Day flight to San Francisco, rent a weird, two-seater pickup truck, drive to Santa Clara to cover the Seahawks’ win over the 49ers in the regular-season finale -- and then learn as we were boarding the return flight home that night that Detroit had lost to Green Bay and would be coming to Seattle the following weekend for the playoff opener.
He nailed that one, too.
“This seems like a pretty good path for them” to start the preseason, Boling said that night/early morning in the airport -- as fellow weary holiday travelers were trudging past us in the terminal pelting us with odd looks.
Of course the following weekend, the Seahawks boat-raced the Lions in the playoff opener.
What I’m trying to say in too many words is I’ll miss Dave as a teammate, a colleague, an expert and a friend.
But we are all excited for the next chapter in your life. Literally.
Let’s all be at The Elliott Bay Book Company at 1521 10th Avenue on Seattle’s Capitol Hill on June 6. Dave will be speaking there on the release day of his latest novel, The Lost History of Stars.
I promise I won’t ask him to shoot a video about it.
Or maybe, for the sake of one, final eye roll, I will.