Many years ago, on the last Tuesday in January, I walked into The Davis Enterprise to begin my new and terrifying job as the sports editor of this esteemed publication.
The year doesn’t really matter anymore because I’ve quit counting, but suffice it to say, it was so long ago that we hadn’t yet upgraded to the point where we capitalized the “The” in The Davis Enterprise.
The motto of The New York Times, which has always capitalized the “The,” was “All the News That’s Fit to Print.” Our motto was “All the News That Fits.”
Two weeks prior to achieving gainful employment, I had watched on my small black-and-white television as Kansas City drubbed the Minnesota Vikings in the Super Bowl, but despite my new and impressive journalistic title, covering the Super Bowl was not in my job description. Or my future.
No, the Enterprise sports department was first and foremost concerned with local sports and local athletes. Still is.
The day I started, Jim Sochor had yet to don a headset as head coach on the Aggie sideline. His first name was not yet “Legendary,” though his career as a standout quarterback at Aggie rival San Francisco State certainly fit that description.
I feel fortunate that even as my duties at this newspaper have changed over time, I was blessed to cover every game Jim Sochor coached at UC Davis, home and away, including the “Miracle Game” in Hayward in 1971 and the national championship game in McAllen, Texas, in 1982.
Dan Wolk was not even a twinkle in Bruce and Lois’ eyes and now he’s running for Congress or president or some such thing.
Linda Katehi was in junior high school. In Greece. A couple of chaps named Richard and Spiro were running the country, nobody played football on Monday night, first-class stamps were 6 cents apiece, gas was 36 cents a gallon at Al Hatton’s Chevron, you had to be 21 to vote in Davis city elections, and when “Midnight Cowboy” played at the Varsity Theater it was somehow considered to be an “X-rated” movie.
If a Davisite had to go to Woodland back then, it meant he or she was dealing with one of the five dreaded “D’s” — the Doctor, the Dentist, the DMV, the Draft Board or Divorce Court. Of course, if the Davisite were a “she,” there were only four dreaded “D’s.”
There was no toad tunnel, no Rec Hall, no Zipcar, no surface water project, no water meters, no Internet, no Sacramento Kings, no close-in parking for hybrid vehicles, no Gunrock, no Steve’s Pizza and no historic designation for the bathrooms at Central Park.
Aggie athletes still ran the 100-yard dash as God intended, there was no “further review” for disputed calls on the field of play, items at The Dollar Tree would have been considered expensive, and Mondavi was something you picked up at the liquor store on the edge of town.
One of my first assignments in my new job was to interview Bob Hamilton, the towel-chewing, chair-throwing, decibel-shattering head coach of the Aggie men’s basketball team.
I had watched him regularly as a devoted fan during my undergraduate days at UC Davis, and I was frankly terrified of him.
Little did I know how quickly I would come to revere this man for his complete devotion to the well-being of the young athletes in his care. He was a perfectionist, yes, but he had a heart of gold that many folks in the stands likely never saw.
I remember one game in the old and packed Hickey Gym — the best venue I’ve ever witnessed for a college basketball game — when I brought my 11-month-old son, Ted, with me and sat him on my lap in my usual seat along the press table between the two team benches.
Well, there was a tense point in the back-and-forth contest when the Aggie point guard overshot a wide-open teammate with a length-of-the-court pass that sailed wildly out of bounds.
Bob Hamilton jumped to his feet, ran along the sideline and slammed his wooden clipboard onto the solid metal press table directly in front of the seat where Ted and I were sitting. Ted responded by bursting into one of those piercing toddler shrieks that could be heard all the way to Dixon.
Seeing the havoc he had wrought, the good coach immediately called timeout and came over to issue a completely unnecessary apology and used the entire timeout not to talk to his team, but to soothe a young child’s terrifying experience.
It was just one of the many magic moments I’ve experienced in my 44 years on the job. There, I figured it out. Yes, it’s been 44 years since I first walked in the door and began pounding a typewriter.
If I can get 44 more years out of my agile fingertips, I may just call it a day.
To paraphrase that great line from “Field of Dreams,” is this heaven? No, it’s Davis.
— Reach Bob Dunning at firstname.lastname@example.org