Sunday, March 9, 2014

A final goodbye to a friendly rival

Gonna let you in on a little trade secret:
Not all journalists at competing newspapers hate each other.
We don't swap secrets and we don't swap scoops, and we always try to get the story before the other guy.
But we see each other as much or sometimes more than we do our own families. Why can't we all just get along?
So that's why my heart sank Saturday night when I learned of the passing of Phil Denis, aka Boomer, who was a longtime sports correspondent for another area newspaper.
I'd be stretching the truth a bit by calling Boomer a close friend of mine - the only time I saw him was when we paired together on an assignment. But no matter what we were covering, be it an all-day wrestling tournament or a district golf meet, spending time with Boomer was always an enjoyable experience.
I knew him for about eight years, and as I sit here writing this, I can't think of a time when Boomer wasn't smiling. That includes the time he saw a picture of Eliza Dushku that was doubling as my laptop's wallpaper - I was single at the time, so it was OK - one day while covering the state baseball tournament at Ed Smith Stadium.
"Who is that?," he asked, his eyes growing as big as a catcher's mitt.
"Eliza Dushku. She's an actress."
From that point on, every time I walked into a press box, Boomer made a beeline right to where I was sitting, waiting for me to fire up my computer.
"Let me see my girl, Lemmy! Let me see my girl!"
I'm going to miss covering Bradenton Marauders games while Boomer served as the official scorer.
Between innings, while he was keeping tabs on pitching changes and defensive replacements, he'd tell me one story after another from his treasure trove of minor-league memories. He talked about Mike Schmidt's forgettable stint as Clearwater's manager - "He'd write his lineup on a napkin - and how fast guys like Joey Votto and Homer Bailey climbed through the Cincinnati Reds' farm system.
There was the time he reserved a spot for me at the state wrestling tournament, a plum spot right in the middle of The Lakeland Center's long media table.
"When did you this?" I asked during the first day of the then three-day event.
"Last night."
"Last night? What were you doing here last night?"
"Well, I had to come up early and have dinner with my FHSAA friends."
Oh, Boomer.
He talked often about his wife, D'Arcy, and how much he loved her, and how he considered it a mulligan the moment she came into his life. Maybe that's why he was so happy when I told him I was engaged - he saw the good in having a great woman in your life.
The last time I saw Boomer was during Southeast's wrestling tournament in early January. He looked good. Told me he felt good. We shared laughs and smiles, did our interviews and then we said goodbye.
I thought for sure I'd see him again, especially since the state tournament was less than a month away.
But I never did.
Goodbye, Boomer.
Scratch that:
Goodbye, friend.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for sharing. He was a bright light to many of us. Boomer called me " The mad scientist" and said I was always behind the bench figuring out a way to beat the other team... He always was smiling and he made you feel better about yourself.

    Thanks Boomer for being you.

    Love Coach Gug