Thursday, May 31, 2012

Where is the Kings Home Sweet Home?

As the NBA season wraps up, Josh and Matt discuss if Anaheim is the best landing spot for the Sacramento Kings ... and if not, which city in California would be best suited should the Kings ultimately leave Sacramento as they plan to?

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Sharpie Scribbles -- Chapter II, Pete Incaviglia vs. Cory Snyder

-- by Josh Suchon

Note to readers: The feedback on the “You Were Lucky, Hershiser” story was so positive, and triggered so many memories from a childhood where my playground was the Oakland Coliseum, I’ve decided to share more of these stories. I’m blatantly stealing this idea from “Cardboard Gods” author Josh Wilker, who used his baseball card collection to tell the story of his childhood in the 1970s. Wilker gave me his blessing, so I’m going to use my autograph collection to tell the story of my childhood in the 1980s.

This is the story of two outfielders who were first-round picks, made their major-league debuts in 1986, hit a lot of home runs, struck out a ridiculous number of times … and took drastically different approaches to signing autographs.

Cory Snyder signed his name like he’d been practicing it his entire life, and wanted to show off what he created.

Pete Incaviglia signed his name like a guy closing out his bar tab at 2 a.m., and wanted to dispute the charges the next day.

If you couldn’t get Snyder’s autograph, you were the worst autograph collector ever. If you obtained Incaviglia’s autograph, you wondered what was the whole point in collecting this stuff?

There’s at least 13 Snyder autographs in my collection. There’s probably a few more, but I got tired of pulling them out of the protective sleeves this afternoon to take these photos.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Sharpie Scribbles – Chapter I, Jose Canseco

-- by Josh Suchon

Note to readers: The feedback on the “You Were Lucky, Hershiser” story was so positive, and triggered so many memories from a childhood where my playground was the Oakland Coliseum, I’ve decided to share more of these stories. I’m blatantly stealing this idea from “Cardboard Gods” author Josh Wilker, who used his baseball card collection to tell the story of his childhood in the 1970s. Wilker gave me his blessing, so I’m going to use my autograph collection to tell the story of my childhood in the 1980s.
The last time I asked for an autograph was the spring of 1991, a couple months before I graduated from high school. In the 21 years that have passed, I’ve often wondered what the hell to do with all these Sharpie Scribbles.

When I made the switch from poorly-paid Major League Baseball newspaper reporter to barely-above-minimum-wage Minor League Baseball play-by-play announcer, in 2007, I briefly looked into selling the autograph collection because I needed money.

The biggest problem with selling these Sharpie Scribbles is that none are authenticated. The autographs were obtained in person inside ballparks, outside in the players parking lots, in hotel lobbies, by writing players in the mail, and from waiting in lines at baseball card shows.

There’s nothing I can do to prove they’re real, except explain the following:
·           *  Who would bother to forge Storm Davis’ autograph that many times?
·           *  Who else would try to get every card from the 1987 Topps Opening Day series autographed?
·           * There’s very little rhyme or reason for what I got signed, and why I chose that object.
·           * I didn’t have a girlfriend in high school.

Look at the Jose Canseco autographs in this post. An appraiser would see three different signatures and question the validity. I look at them, and reflect on the love-hate relationship that I experienced with my favorite athlete.

Canseco was a God in the late 1980s. He hit titanic bombs, dated the hottest chicks, and drove super fast in super expensive sports cars. What was not to worship as a teen-ager?

Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Perils of Being a Lakers Fan

- by Matt Hurst
It sucks being a Lakers fan.

Yeah, it feels weird to write and I doubt I'd ever actually say those words. You're probably thinking "Boo-hoo, Matt, you root for the Lakers. Why don't you just root for the government on tax day?" Some Golden State Warriors fan is looking at me and thinking "Really? Really?!"

Yes, it sucks being a Lakers fan.

I've been a loyal Lakers fan since I can remember. It's the blessing of growing up in Southern California where the Lakers are A-1 and everyone is interested and emotional about the team. There's always something to talk about with the Lakers.
And, that's the problem. The Lakers always make news. I don't care if it's for Lamar Odom's TMZ-type of episodes or what name and number Ron Artest is going to go with next year.

The issue is that when the Lakers aren't playing for a title - let alone winning one - something is wrong. The team needs to be blown up, changes need to be made, a new coach has to come in.

Those were all the suggestions following the Lakers' loss to Oklahoma City and why everyone is bitter that the Lake Show isn't starting the Western Conference Finals tonight.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Buying the Dodgers & Padres -- so similar, yet so different

At least five groups are interested in buying the Padres. Three of them tried to buy the Dodgers. What does this mean to a Dodgers-Padres rivalry that has always lagged behind the Dodgers-Giants rivalry? Matt and Josh discuss that, the influence of icons like Magic Johnson and Tony Gwynn, how similar these ownership sales are, and yet how different they are.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Wanna buy a baseball team? You need one of these icons

-- by Josh Suchon

It takes more than wads and wads of cash to buy a professional sports team these days. The newest trend is aligning yourself with an iconic former player of that team.

Nolan Ryan was part of the group that purchased the Texas Rangers, and now he’s the team president. Magic Johnson didn’t play baseball, but he’s such a Los Angeles icon, he was the ideal front man for the Guggenheim Baseball group that purchased the Dodgers.

Now comes word that Hollywood mogul ThomasTull has recruited Mr. Padre, Tony Gwynn, to assist his effort to buy the Padres. 

This got me thinking about who would be the icon for each baseball team. The list follows, after the criteria.

1. This should be incredibly obvious, but the former player needs to still be alive.

2. This should also be obvious, but you can’t have a current player as an owner.

3. It’s not just about what you did on the field. It’s your background, charisma, personality, ability to light up a room, and most important, ability to excite a fan base to buy tickets.

4. This shouldn’t just be a ceremonial position. You want the icon to actually work. Magic Johnson says he’s going to recruit free agents and be front-and-center dealing with fans. It doesn’t hurt if the player made a boatload of money during his career, so he can contribute some millions to the winning bid. This means that age will be a factor. The person has to want the job and all that comes with being in the spotlight again.

I’ll go through each team in alphabetical order.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Five Hot Topics

In the latest Out of Ink podcast, Josh Suchon and Matt Hurst discuss the best pitching performances they've ever seen in person, a #8 seed topping a #1 seed, a new website dedicated to Albert Pujols' struggles and much more, including the show's first "Big Prediction."

Friday, May 18, 2012

Time for Wolff, A's to get belligerent

-- by Josh Suchon

Lewis Wolff is a patient man, a calm man, a reasonable man. It’s not in his nature to make a scene or start a fight. But there comes a certain point in your life when you’re mad as hell, and you just can’t take the waiting any longer.

It’s time for Wolff, the managing partner of the Oakland Athletics, to channel his inner Howard Beale.

It’s time for Wolff to walk around the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum – the real name – when it’s quiet and empty, and all you can hear are the ghosts of championships past, and ask himself, “what would Al Davis do?”

You think Al Davis would wait over three years for the Commissioner of his sport to make a ruling on where his team can call home? You think George Steinbrenner would take matters into his own hands? You think Frank McCourt wouldn’t cherish the opportunity to take this situation into court?

When the Athletics and Giants open a three-game series tonight, it will be an astonishing 1,160 days since baseball commissioner Bud Selig appointed a blue-ribbon committee to study the prospect of the A’s moving to San Jose. The A’s are blocked from moving, right now, because the Giants own the territorial rights to that area.

I’ve intentionally used the phrase “blue ribbon” because I’m trying to make Wolff sick, and this is what Wolff said about the blue-ribbon committee in February.
If one more person calls it a blue-ribbon committee, I’m gonna throw up. It’s a committee. It’s not a blue-ribbon committee. The gentlemen on the committee are good guys but they are doing the bidding of the commissioner. Baseball’s gone from a $1 or $2 billion industry under Bud Selig to $7 or $8 billion. He’s a deliberative person. But that deliberation, when you view the balance sheet – he’s done such a fabulous job. We’re following the process. It’s excruciating. But I think we’re getting there. We have ways of being a belligerent owner. It’s just not in me to do that.

What would it take for Wolff to become a belligerent owner? When will it be in him to do that? Another month of waiting? Another baseball season? Another year? Two more years?

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

You Were Lucky, Hershiser

-- by Josh Suchon

“But the Bulldog in him came out when, after the Athletics were disposed of, he walked down the hallway to the interview room in the Oakland Coliseum and an A's fan yelled, “You were lucky, Hershiser.” A couple of dozen steps later, Hershiser blurted out, “Oh yeah – grab a bat.” He wasn't smiling. -- final paragraph in the October 31, 1988 edition of Sports Illustrated.

Orel Hershiser is back in Los Angeles tonight as the Dodgers honor him with a bobblehead, so it’s a good time to re-tell a story from my childhood that make me feel equal parts stupid and proud.

First, the background. I grew up in Pleasanton, a suburb 20 miles east of Oakland, and was a rabid fan of the Oakland Athletics. I practically grew up at the Coliseum in those years.

My dad annually bought 20 games from a friend of his who had season tickets for all 81 games. The seats are amazing and I don’t need a seating chart to list the location -- Section 123, row 2, Seats 12 and 13 -- on the aisle, just to the left of the A’s dugout.

Even when we didn’t have those choice seats, I’d go to games with my friends. We’d take the bus to the Hayward BART station, ride it for three stops to the Coliseum, and walk across that bridge. We’d leave right after school, arriving to get autographs in the parking lot, chase down batting practice home runs, watch the game, and stay late for more autographs. We’d buy bleacher seats and third-deck seats, and think of creative ways to annoy the ushers by sneaking into seats that didn’t belong to us.

In 1987, I attended 41 games. In 1988, I attended 53 games. I know those numbers precisely. I’d save the ticket stubs from each game and keep them in my wallet, chronologically. If somebody at school didn’t believe me, I’d show the ticket stubs for proof. If there was a day game, we’d usually skip school to attend. (Sometimes, our parents knew. Usually, they didn’t.)

When the ’88 playoffs rolled around, my dad and I shared “the good seats” with his friends. We ended up with Game Five of the World Series.

For Game Three, I snuck into the Coliseum, without a ticket. It was actually miserable not having a seat and walking around the whole game looking for an empty seat. I barely saw Mark McGwire’s game-winning home run off Jay Howell. I watched Game Four at home, when the A’s fell behind 3-games-to-1, and was dreading the elimination game.

As usual, I took public transportation to the game with friends (who had seats elsewhere) and met my dad at “the good seats.” I remember getting Bobby McFerrin’s autograph before the game, and he wrote, “Don’t Worry Be Happy.” Still, I was very worried, and knew this night would end miserably for my beloved A’s.

Monday, May 14, 2012

LA Basketball Nirvana -- May 14, 2012

For the first time in the 42 years they’ve both been in the NBA, the Lakers and Clippers advanced to the second round of the NBA playoffs. In the latest Out of Ink Podcast, Matt and Josh discuss the ramifications for the teams and the city.

NFL in LA? Hope it stays away

-- by Josh Suchon

The Minnesota state Senate passed a bill this week that paves the way for a $975 million stadium that will keep the Vikings in town. No more relocation talk. Cross them off the list of franchises that will move to Los Angeles.

Thank goodness this won't happen.
This is good news. Great news, actually.

Count me as a Los Angeles resident who loves sports, works in sports, and doesn’t want any pro football team moving to my city.

This has nothing to do with a soapbox belief that a bankrupt state shouldn’t be spending public money to build a new stadium for millionaire players and billionaire owners (although that’s totally true).

No, we’re good in LA without the NFL – and I love the NFL. Trust me. It’s better. We’re not stuck with the NFL’s archaic blackout rule that would force us to watch the local team, no matter how mediocre they might be. We get the best games, every week, and frequently doubleheaders on each network.

We’ve got enough professional teams. Two baseball teams, two basketball teams, two hockey teams, a soccer team, a WNBA team, and some other fringe sports I’m probably forgetting.

If we need the NFL that bad, San Diego is a two-hour drive away and the Bay Area is a one-hour flight away.

With no NFL team in town, it makes USC football the de facto professional team. It makes the USC-UCLA game the most important football game of the year in town, even if the Bruins are awful, and this is coming from somebody who didn't attend either school.

Both schools play in historic legendary stadiums. We can still tailgate. We can still watch a game. We can still sit for hours in jammed parking lots afterward.

And we can get reminded what a hassle it is, how football is so much better on TV, and don’t feel some stupid obligation to support the local football team on Sunday’s.

A few college football teams share a big city with an NFL team, like the University of Miami, San Diego State University, the University of Minnesota, the University of Washington -- and I guess I should be including the irrelevant teams at Southern Methodist (in Dallas) and the University of Houston.

In all those cases, except for the Miami Hurricanes, the NFL team totally overshadows the college team.

Keep the NFL away, and it keeps USC and UCLA more important. It allows us to keep watching the best NFL games, for free, at home.

So the Vikings are no longer a candidate for LA. Good. Now we need to hear the same thing for the Chargers, Raiders, Rams, Bills and Jaguars.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

The SoCal Report -- May 13, 2012

Josh and Matt take a look around the Southern California sports scene in the latest Out of Ink podcast. Topics on the table are Matt Kemp's latest bold statement, Mike Trout's future, the Padres competition with Josh Hamilton, the countdown to USC's football season, and the Kings' growing fan base.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

LA Story

In the latest Out of Ink podcast, Josh and Matt discuss whether this is the Golden Age in sports in Los Angeles. After all, the Lakers, Clippers and Kings are in the playoffs, the Dodgers are in first place, the Angels signed Albert Pujols and USC football is being talked about as a national title contender.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The LA-SF rivalry -- Chapter 11

-- by Josh Suchon

The Giants and Dodgers wrap up their first three-game series of the 2012 season tonight in Los Angeles. Fittingly, the series is tied after two games, because as we look into the future, this rivalry has never been more even.

Chapter Eleven – A magical new era (2012-current)

Chapter 11 of the Dodgers-Giants rivalry starts when Frank McCourt’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy ends. Guggenheim Baseball paid $2.15 billion to buy the Dodgers from McCourt, and the group still must pay $14 million annually in rent for the parking lots.

From a Dodgers fan standpoint, all that matters is McCourt is gone. The face of the new ownership group, and a small minority partner, is LA icon Magic Johnson. The excitement for fans and players was evident from the time Guggenheim bought the team and palpable in their first home games this week.

The first thing the new ownership group did was lower parking from $15 to $10. The second thing (and third and fourth and so on) will be fascinating. They’ve talked a big game about improving Dodger Stadium, re-building the farm system, making the Dodgers an international force again, and going after the best free agent talent available.

A few days after Guggenheim bought the team, the Giants re-signed pitcher Matt Cain to a six-year contract extension. The Giants insisted it had nothing to do with deep pocketed owners taking over their biggest rival, and potentially signing Cain when he became a free agent this winter, but the timing sure was interesting.

It appears the Dodgers will spend plenty of money, and thereby force the Giants to spend more money to keep up.

Dodgers-Giants: First Memories

– By Matt Hurst 

October 3, 1993 is a date that shouldn’t register high with anyone, unless it was your birthday or anniversary or incarceration.

Really, in the scope of baseball, it wasn’t a memorable date. In the scope of the Dodgers and Giants rivalry, it barely registers a blip on the radar. Truth be told, I had to look it up online, so the date doesn’t really mean much to me.

Except that it does. It means a ton.

This date and this meaningless game, the last of the 1993 season, is the first Dodgers-Giants memory I have. It’s the best rivalry for us West Coasters and as it resumes this week, it’s always fun to throw out names and events like Juan Marichal, Johnny Roseboro, Bobby Thomson, Steve Finley and Brian Johnson.

The finale of a lost season meant that the Dodgers didn’t have much to play for – at least from their end. That’s how my dad was able to procure fifth-row seats just over the Dodgers’ third base dugout in a game that suddenly meant everything.

Everything enough that all but 1,600 seats were filled in 56,000-seat Dodger Stadium on that wonderful Sunday afternoon.

A win meant the Dodgers finished at .500. But more than that, a win meant that the 103-win Giants would miss the playoffs. It was payback in the best form. It was rivals battling on the last day of the season. We win, you’re out. You win, you rub it in our face and get to the postseason.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Is 'welcoming' a phenom really old school?

 -- by Josh Suchon

Cole Hamels admitted to intentionally hitting Bryce Harper on Sunday night. In his explanation, Hamels told reporters:

“I'm just trying to continue old baseball, because I think some people get away from it. I remember when I was a rookie, the strike zone was really, really small and you didn't say anything, because that's the way baseball is. But I think unfortunately sometimes the league is protecting certain players and making it not as that kind of old school, prestigious way of baseball."

Apparently, Hamels thinks that hitting a young phenom is old school, or a way of “welcoming” somebody to the big leagues.

Alright, let’s see how Harper’s first hit batsman compares to others. Harper was hit in his eight game, or 29th plate appearance.

In 2003, when Hamels was a 19 year old kid in the minors, Miguel Cabrera was a 20-year-old rookie. Cabrera was hit for the first time in the 62nd game of his career. Of course, Expos reliever Rocky Bibble also hit the previous batter, it was the seventh inning, his team was down 3-2, and those two hit batters led to two more runs.

In 1989, Ken Griffey Jr. was a 19-year-old rookie playing for the Mariners. In his first at-bat, he doubled off a pitcher known for his death stare and intimidation, Dave Stewart. In his second at-bat, Stewart didn’t hit him. Stewart didn’t hit him all game. Griffey’s first hit by pitch came in the 87th game of his career by Toronto’s John Cerutti.

The LA-SF rivalry -- Chapters 9-10

-- by Josh Suchon 

The Dodgers and Giants renewed their historic rivalry last night in Los Angeles. New owner Magic Johnson escorted the widow of Jackie Robinson onto the field for a special ceremonial first pitch, and a new chapter in this rivalry was definitely underway.

Continuing our five-part series, here's a look back at Chapters 9 and 10 in this rivalry.

Chapter Nine – Return of the Dodgers (2004-2009)

Plenty of questions remained when Frank and Jamie McCourt purchased the Dodgers from Fox Entertainment in 2004. As his lawyer would later note, Frank didn’t spend a penny of his own money. It was such a highly leveraged purchase, it led to immediate questions on whether McCourt had the funds to afford the game’s top players.

Still, the McCourt era got off to a rousing start in 2004. Fox was out. A family owned the Dodgers once again. The team drew just under 3.5 million fans, their more since 1982.

The season culminated with yet another final weekend between the Giants and Dodgers, this time at Dodger Stadium. In the 161st game of the season, the Giants took a 3-0 lead into the ninth inning. If they could get three more outs, they would play the final game of the season the next day, with a chance to tie for the division.

Rookie shortstop Cody Ransom, inserted for defense, booted a groundball that opened the floodgates. The Dodgers tied the score at 3-all, then Steve Finley hit a grand slam walkoff to touch off a wild celebration in Los Angeles.

All was right in Los Angeles again. Frank and Jamie McCourt were happy, dancing on the field, as their team reached the playoffs. They lost in the first round, again, but at least won their first playoff game since 1988 as Jose Lima pitched a spine-chilling masterpiece in Los Angeles.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Baseball Chatter

In the inaugural "Out of Ink" podcast, Matt & Josh chat about a sport they know a little something about. As two former Major League Baseball beat writers, the duo break down the latest happenings and trends across the nation.

The LA-SF rivalry -- Chapters 7-8

-- by Josh Suchon

The Giants and Dodgers resume their rivalry tonight at Chavez Ravine, and another chapter in the rivalry begins as Guggenheim Baseball takes over as the Dodgers owner. We’re looking back at the different chapters in the rivalry’s rich history.

Chapter Seven – The Dodgers go corporate (1998-1999)

The Giants enjoyed moments of holding the upper-hand over their rivals through the first four decades since the team moved to California. But they never could sustain that advantage for very long.

That was finally changing. The Giants won the most recent battle on the field, and it was about to get better off the field. They’d secured financing for a new ballpark in downtown San Francisco, the countdown was on for leaving Candlestick, and they still had Barry Bonds.

Down south, Peter O’Malley looked into the future, and didn’t think family ownership was in that future. O’Malley became owner of the Dodgers in 1979, when his father Walter died, and continued running the club with the excellence of his father. Even if it was a little thing, like free ice cream for employees whenever the team was in first place, the organization exuded grace.

It was reported as an estate and tax planning move for the O’Malley family. Some believe that O’Malley knew that he’d eventually have to raise ticket and parking prices, he’d have to put advertisements all over the ballpark, that he’d have to add more luxury suites and other amenities to keep the payroll skyrocketing, and he didn’t want that on his legacy.

Whatever the case, the final straw was when L.A. city officials rejected a plan to bring an NFL franchise to Chavez Ravine, following the departures of the Rams and Raiders after the 1994 season. O’Malley scrapped plans for the football team, and put the cherished baseball club up for sale after 47 years of family ownership.

It was sold to Rupert Murdoch’s NewsCorp. The deal closed during the 1998 spring training.

Thirty-seven games into their ownership, Fox Entertainment traded Mike Piazza and Todd Zeile to the Florida Marlins for Bobby Bonilla, Charles Johnson, Gary Sheffield and Jim Eisenreich. General manager Fed Claire was blindsided by the trade. He was never consulted.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

The LA-SF rivalry -- Chapters 5-6

-- by Josh Suchon

The Giants and Dodgers renew their legendary rivalry tomorrow night at Chavez Ravine. A new Dodgers ownership group means a new chapter in this rivalry.

We've broken the rivalry up into 11 chapters, since the teams moved to California. Yesterday, the first four chapters were reviewed. Now that we hit the 1980s, when this blogger was alive and remembers vividly, more details get added.

Chapter Five – Humm Baby Arrives (1986-92)

Bob Lurie saved the Giants from moving to Toronto when he bought the team in 1976. But a decade later, it was the lowest point in San Francisco history, and Lurie was trying everything he could to leave Candlestick Park.

Attendance was at an all-time low for the Giants. They drew 818,697 fans in 1985, an average of just 10,107. Candlestick was cold and miserable, and the baseball played there even worse.

In 1986, the Giants turned to a member of the Dodgers 1959 world championship team to resurrect their franchise. Roger Craig was hired as manager. His favorite expression, “Humm Baby” was used in marketing campaigns. He brought a positive outlook, installed rookies Will Clark and Robbie Thompson into the starting lineup, and taught the split-fingered fastball to all the pitchers on staff.

“Will the Thrill” homered off Nolan Ryan in his first at-bat, and the Giants were in first place for most of the year. On July 17, they led the Astros by two games. Then they hit the road and went 3-9 on a four-city roadtrip. The capper was a three-game Dodgers sweep in Los Angeles, and the Astros ran away with the division.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

The LA-SF rivalry -- Chapters 1-4

-- by Josh Suchon

A new chapter in the Dodgers-Giants rivalry starts Monday night at Dodger Stadium when the teams play for the first time in 2012. The transfer of power from thrifty Frank McCourt to the deep-pocketed Guggenheim Baseball ownership group ensures a new chapter in this historic rivalry.

Which chapter is it?

In my opinion, it’s the 11th chapter since the teams moved from New York to California. I’ll provide my unique perspective as somebody who covered the Giants for The Oakland Tribune from 2000-2003, then was the reporter for the Dodgers Radio Network and co-host of Post Game Dodger Talk from 2008-2011.

Since I’m only 38 years old, I won’t try to fake the early chapters with long poetic essays. After all, I wasn’t alive. But the more recent chapters, when I enjoyed a front-row seat, will get longer treatments. We’ll start today with Chapters 1-4, then continue the next few days.

Chapter One – Getting settled in California (1958-1962)

The move from New York to California brought the rivalry across the country. The hatred amongst the players remained, and the new fans bought into it immediately.

These were transition years. The Dodgers played the first four seasons at the LA Coliseum, before moving into Dodger Stadium. The Giants played their first two years at Seals Stadium, before the debut of Candlestick Park.

Each team enjoyed some success. The Dodgers won a World Series in 1959. The Giants beat the Dodgers in an epic three-game playoff to win the 1962 pennant, only to lose to the Yankees in game seven of the World Series.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Why suicide? You’ll never know

by Josh Suchon

The first time I bought a cell phone was 1999. I was 26 years old. It’s unfathomable to comprehend life without a cell phone. But at the time, it was actually a badge of honor that I held out for so long.

Two years earlier, I nearly bought a cell phone. It was late in the Summer of 1997. I’d just started covering prep sports for The Oakland Tribune, and went down to San Diego to see some college friends before the next school year began. Trying to meet these friends wasn’t as easy as it was when we all lived in the dorms or apartments close to campus. One day, I was at an outdoor mall, saw a cell phone stand, and nearly bought one on the spot. But I was really poor, living paycheck to paycheck, and figured I’d wait for my employer to buy me one.

When I returned to my apartment in the Bay Area suburb of San Ramon, I checked the messages on my answering machine – yes, an answering machine – and heard the frantic voices of my old high school friends.

“Soooosh, call me.”

“Soooosh, something is going on with Coully.”

“Soooosh, where are you? We need you.”

Coully was my high school friend named Jeff Coulthart.

Coully committed suicide when I was on vacation in San Diego.

I missed the whole damn thing. Missed the funeral, missed the burial, missed being a pallbearer, missed the tears, missed the consoling, missed the exchanging of stories, missed the laughs, and missed those discussions that start with “what the hell?” and “why the fuck?”

It would be cliché, and untrue, to say “I think about Coully every day.” He flashes through my mind at weird moments. Certain words or situations prompt an immediate flashback. Re-uniting with my high school buddies usually leads to reminiscing about him. Hearing his name always makes me smile. I’m smiling right now as I type this paragraph.

This week, Coully came to mind for a different reason. Junior Seau committed suicide, a devastating loss to his family, the city of San Diego that considered him an icon, and the entire National Football League.

Millions of beautiful words are being written about Seau. I’d like to share a couple thousand words about my friend Coully.