They were about to perform an autopsy. The body was on the table, ready for the coroner to slice up and declare dead.
There was the neck that mob guy Tony Limo once threatened to strangle. There was the backside that Albert Belle once threatened to kick. There was the kidney that Bernard Hopkins once poked to explain how he left Oscar De La Hoya a crumbled mass on the canvas in the ring.
But the coroner said, “Wait! This heart is still beating! This body is not dead!”
And with that news, the folks at The Washington Times pulled my journalism career out of the morgue and back into the business.
I had written, if I say so myself, a wonderful obituary in June when the Washington Examiner, my last newspaper job, shut down as it existed. I got all kinds of kudos from people about how I had written about the heartfelt end of a 36-year newspaper career. “I’m not a newspaper man anymore,” I wrote.
Well, never mind.
Like Michael Corleone in Godfather III, every time I think I am out, they pull me back in. And I am so grateful for it — particularly returning to where my sportswriting career started in 1992, here with The Washington Times.
I had been a news editor and reporter for 15 years, covering politics, government and crime, and loved doing it. But I dreamed of being a sportswriter since I was 10 years old reading Dick Young in the New York Daily News, and the chance came when The Times offered me a job in 1992 to cover major league sports.
Ever since then, I have been, as Don King might say, “Living the dream.”
I was in Indianapolis my first day on the job covering the opening of the Mike Tyson rape trial. As soon as I came back the next day, I was on a plane to Florida to interview former Redskin Barry Wilburn about a new football league he was playing in called the Professional Spring Football League (a scam that never saw a game played).
When I got back at the end of the week, I was told to get in touch with Darrell Green for comments for a Redskins story. Green was in Hawaii at the Pro Bowl — this was a week following the Redskins Super Bowl victory — and I had to call the late, great Dave Fay, who covered the team, to find out the best way to reach Green. When I called Fay and spent two minutes on the phone explaining who I was and introducing myself, he simply said in his pleasantly gruff manner, “Talk!”
I loved all of it. I got to cover three Olympics, travel to Japan, Australia and Cuba to cover the Orioles’ historic game in 1999 against the Cuban National team, where, in the streets of Havana, a group of children ran up to me and shouted, “Hemingway, Hemingway.” I guess they meant Ernest.
But it was hardly the golden age of sportswriting in this town. Turns out it was the end of the Redskins Super Bowl era and the start of a football wasteland. I covered some great fights, such as the first Riddick Bowe-Evander Holyfield bout, but essentially I covered the death of boxing. I wrote about a baseball team that didn’t exist until the last weekend of the 2004 season in Montreal, when, asked by Canadian customs what the purpose of my visit was, replied, “To bring your baseball team back to Washington.”
Now, though, is the time to be writing about sports in Washington. There’s a baseball team that I believe is poised for playoff runs for years to come, with two great young players in Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper. The Redskins have a young quarterback who can be a once-in-a-lifetime star in Robert Griffin III, who comes equipped with talent and drama. Even the Wizards, led by young point guard John Wall, might be on the verge of creating the illusion of excitement. And the Capitals still have the promise of greatness in the skates and sticks of Alex Ovechkin, though perhaps they are on the verge losing the battle of great expectations.
Great players. Interesting teams. Good stories. And The Washington Times is giving me the chance to continue to be part of this era of sports in town that could be one of the best ever, with exciting plans as well for The Times organization.
It’s alive, baby. It’s alive.
• Thom Loverro is co-host of “The Sports Fix,” noon to 2 p.m. daily on ESPN 980 radio and espn980.com