Dave Boling

Dave Boling: The lessons from a life in the press box

The want ad in the Coeur d’Alene (Idaho) Press didn’t exactly promise wealth and acclaim: Entry level sportswriter, $120/week.

But it appealed a great deal to an out-of-work logger.

Decked out in my lone sports coat (corduroy), I passed the preliminary spelling and writing tests, and then met the managing editor. I avoided certain points, such as the fact that I had no newspaper experience and never took a single journalism class.

He was curiously interested, however, to see that I’d been a college football player. He hired me on the spot.

I later learned that the newspaper staff had an impending charity touch-football game with the local cops, and he thought I’d be the perfect ringer to bolster his side.

Thirty-seven years later, the newspaper business is in a time of transition and staff-tightening, and that makes it timely for me to make a transition, too.

I’m not just heading out to pasture. My second novel, “The Lost History of Stars,” launches at Elliott Bay Books on June 6 (other tour dates at www.daveboling.com).

I leave with nothing but love for the TNT, and for the colleagues over the past 21 years who have been so completely dedicated to quality journalism.

Traditionally, farewell columns list favorite events and the names of the most appreciated athletes. It usually comes off as self-indulgent, so I’ll spare you.

Besides, the stories I think of as significant aren’t of the great events or famed athletes, but of people who taught me lessons about heart, about the true nature of competition and the value of deeply embedded character.

▪ My first week with The News Tribune, I was sent to Chicago for the Bulls-Sonics NBA Finals. Like the Super Bowl, NBA Finals are scenes of excess and geared to the wealthy in the luxury boxes.

I drove into some of the tough neighborhoods that surround the United Center to gauge the disconnect between the NBA and the sport played by the kids on the nearby playgrounds.

One kid, an early teen, gladly outlined his visions of a future playing in college and then the NBA. He looked at me, knowing what I was going to say. “I know, I know, I have to do well in my classes,” he said.

I felt I should warn him this was more of a delusion than an attainable dream. But he preempted me by pointing out how Sonic Hersey Hawkins grew up playing on some of the courts in this very neighborhood.

“Now he’s playin’ over there,” he said, nodding his head toward the near horizon, where the United Center rose like a fairy tale castle. True enough, young man.

▪ A Steilacoom High student, Jason Vitullo, taught me about the power of determination. His mother was killed and he was profoundly injured when they were struck by a car while biking.

After countless surgeries and complications, his health issues made it hard for him get around, but he served as manager for the cross-country team. He worked so hard at training, though, he eventually was given a chance to compete in the junior varsity district race.

He finished last, by a long margin, but he finished — an inestimable achievement. And every other competitor stood at the finish to be there to cheer as he crossed the line.

I’ve never talked to anybody more inspirational who reflected the human desire to compete — against others, and against their own limitations.

▪ I was surprised when I got a call from former Seahawks running back Curt Warner.

I’d been recommended as an author who could help him write a book explaining why he and his wife, Ana, had largely withdrawn from the public eye for the last 20 years.

The Warners have been nearly sequestered in their home in Camas as they have devoted their lives to the care and treatment of a pair of twin sons on the lower-functioning end of the autism spectrum.

The boys are pure-hearted and innocent, but often were violent and destructive, and in 2008, one of them lit a fire in his bedroom that burned everything but the exterior walls of their home.

The boys are now 22, but still living at home and in need of special attention. At its heart, it’s a touching love story, how Curt and Ana have supported each other and remained united in the face of challenges that literally included fire.

Nothing Warner ever did on the football field came close to showing the commitment and dedication he’s given to his wife and family.

A feature story on the Warners’ book “Waiting for a Miracle,” is my last piece for the Trib. Keep an eye out for it; I think you’ll be as moved by it as I’ve been.

It’s no surprise that newspapers are changing, but the integrity that serves as the core of great journalism doesn’t have to. I believe the people who run The News Tribune believe this and will evolve in ways that will sustain it.

I’m moving on to tell other stories in other formats.

But not before thanking you for the privilege of sharing these pages with you the past 21 years.

Dave Boling: 253-597-8440, @DaveBoling

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