Reverend Martin Luther King had a dream, a dream he marched on
Washington to make happen only to be cut down by an assassin's
bullet. The Grossmont Griffins' season was played out under the
motto "I have a dream" and theirs' was cut down by poor
free throw shooting last night in the Shaughnessy play-offs."
so it began, January 1982.
So, there I was, a 17
year-old kid put ahead a year and horribly out of
place in college, even a community college. With my best corduroy
slacks and OP shirt on, I applied at the G, the weekly dishrag
of Grossmont College-- and I immediately underwhelmed my editor,
The assignment: Cover the Grossmont College Men's Basketball team
play-off game over the week end, have something on the desk by
8 a.m. Monday morning. After getting the night off at Chuck E.
Cheese, I headed out to the game and saw the Griffins lose by
a basket. Banners that read "I have a dream" still
hung from the gymnasium walls as the local team staggered away,
crestfallen, the dream was dead.
With as little experience
as I had, and it being late January, I figured a
Martin Luther King reference was not out of place. Holy fucking
hell, was I ever wrong.
It seems making a reference
to a murdered civil rights leader was incorrect, even if the team's
motto was "I have a dream." Silly me, I figured they
wouldn't mind... here was my first lesson in the politically correct
world of college journalism. The G, to fill you in, was an odd
conglomerate at the time, hippies stuck in the sixties still populated
the office, bumping up
against young Republicans thrilled with the recently-elected Ronnie
and the go-go eighties just kick-starting. Lost among the VW Bug
skull bong-totting types and the supply side economics nerds was
greasey-haired musician, fan of pugilism and godfather of quick
those he felt were not up to his standards of journalistic excellence;
other words, me. Me? I was a kid from El Cajon, wanting to learn
as much as possible about the writing game, having little experience
and huge dreams of Pulitzer Prizes, six-figure book deals and
smoldering hot exposés on local politicians.
But the G needed a sports
reporter, so I was slotted in as low man on the
totem pole. Being a huge Padres' fan and a Christian Youth League
baseball and basketball player, I figured the gig would
be no problem. I ended up charting stats of a football team in
the midst of a 26 game losing streak, watching my high school
civics teacher coach a group a defense-minded hoopsters to with
in an inch of their "dream" and getting dubbed, by Buddy,
"Barry the Baptist."
To this day, I have no
To this day, I have no
idea why I was chastised so vehemently for the MLK line at the
top of m story. Was it crap? Well, looking back, with all these
years of knowledge and experience, sure. But a rookie mistake
is a rookie mistake and I made one.
It is insensitive to
use the quote of a great African American to compare
his dream of people growing the fuck up and putting the racist
baggage away and a basketball team (that was mostly African American)
getting beaten by a couple of points in a tournament long forgotten.
Sure, I would've probably
gotten my ass handed to me had the line run, and Buddy did do
me a favor by re-writing it. A sporting event and the quest for
social change are entirely different animals. One matters at the
end of the day a helluva lot more. Sure, a 38 year-old can see
that, but at 17, my experience with civil rights was pretty much
limited to what Walter Cronkite put on the evening news. El Cajon
was not exactly Harlem, African Americans, while not nonexistent,
were not commonplace. Bluntly put, I was a kid, I fucked up.
But, 20 years later,
I'm still hearing about it. Do I have a sense of humor?
Just look at my paycheck, my wardrobe or my haircut and the "Yes"
self-evident. Am I tired of hearing this little anecdote repeated
years later? Actually, I figure it makes me pretty special. How
pimply-faced geeks made an impression on him? How many folks from
that staff are still in contact with Buddy all these years later?
Most importantly, how
many other graduates form the hallowed halls of
Grossmont College have gone on to become editors of weekly papers
(okay, so the answer is four confirmed with several probables)?
I guess it could be worse, I could've ended up getting stuck covering
the campus police beat and been totally forgotten by now. I'll
just have to wait until Alzheimer's disease wrecks that mind in
the pretty little head that belongs to Buddy. He is, after-all,
cute as a button when he recants the tale of many years ago when
I was too young to drink, vote or have carnal knowledge legally.
I went on to edit the sports page for the G two years later and
drink my way through college as a music critic (free albums, never
had to wait in line or pay for a concert, sweet deal). I ended
up being the first guy to interview Buddy when he left the Beat
Farmers and formed the Jacks. I've had the pleasure of seeing
the man down copious amounts of alcohol in such ample amount that
Dean Martin would blush. I've had the pleasure of vomiting outside
one of his gigs (okay, more than one). I've had the pleasure of
letting my children listen to his music and meet the guy in person.
I've had the pleasure of listening to his wife and mine swap tales
of our stupidity.
I've also had the cross to bear of a story I wrote, 20 years ago,
listening to Nick Lowe and Noise To Go on KGB (back when they
played interviews and music from guys I wanted to hear) into the
wee morning hours. I didn't give it a second thought.
Twenty-one years down
the road, I still think the lead paragraph was
adequate. It wasn't nearly as embarrassing as when I asked the
they were lesbians. Fortunately, the drinks they threw in my face
the flaming kind. That probably would've hurt.