An Interview with Randy Galloway
“I’ve said for years that the art of writing is not my strongest point. My strength is having opinions and a work ethic and liking what I’m doing. Because as you know a lot of sportswriters don’t like what they’re doing.”
“I have been told I write like I talk, particularly from people in other parts of the country. They say I’m the only guy in the country who writes like I talk. I don’t know if that’s good or not. But I’ve tricked them so far for 40 years and I want to continue to do so.”
“I’m a fan of people. I want these people to do well, but you have to separate that from being a fan of the team in how you report.”
Randy Galloway: Interviewed on October 10, 2006
Position: Columnist, Ft. Worth Star Telegram; host, ESPN 103.3 FM
Born: 1943, Mayfield, Kentucky
Education: Sam Houston State, North Texas State
Career: Dallas Morning News 1964 (part-time), Port Arthur News 1965-66, Dallas Morning News 1966-1998, Ft. Worth Star Telegram 1998 -; WBAP radio 1985 -2002; ESPN 103.3 FM 2002 –
Personal: married, two daughters, four grandchildren
Favorite restaurant (home): Bob’s Steak and Chop House, Dallas – “best steak going and they throw in a carrot, too”
Favorite restaurant (road): Joe’s Stone Crab, Miami Beach – “never miss it when I’m there – stick with the stone crabs – hash fries are the best”
Favorite hotel: Edmonton, Fairmount Macdonald. “Old restored hotel. Best hotel I’ve ever stayed in. Great bar, great rooms, great service.”
Q. You wrote yesterday, “McNabb missed nothing on Sunday. Bledsoe missed the boat. Even the dock, actually.” How do you come up with lines like that?
A. I don’t know. I’ve heard this all my life – how do you think of things to write? How do you do what you do? The answer is I don’t know. I never figured that out. It’s something I always wanted to do – one side of my family was in the newspaper business for three generations. I grew up around the newspaper business. My mother, Margaret Galloway, wrote for the Morning News and then smaller papers – women’s news. My uncle, Danny Bingham, was a political writer for the old Nashville Banner. My Aunt Jen was with small papers in Kentucky – she wrote for the women’s section. My grandfather, George Bingham, was a publisher in Kentucky. So it was something I was around – the combination of that and loving sports – I guess I just morphed into a sportswriter.
I can remember the first time I read a Blackie Sherrod column – in eighth grade – Blackie had worked on the Fort Worth Press with Bud Shrake and Dan Jenkins and Gary Cartwright – a Hall of Fame staff – but by ‘57 he had come to the Dallas Times Herald. I came home and saw his column and said, “That’s what I want to do”. We all grew up trying to write like Blackie. If you were smart you realized you were making a fool of yourself and changed in a hurry. Blackie’s style was unique. He had his own version of the English language – a good version – his style could grab the reader.
Q. How would you describe your style?
A. I’ve said for years that the art of writing is not my strongest point. My strength is having opinions and a work ethic and liking what I’m doing. Because as you know a lot of sportswriters don’t like what they’re doing – I love the hell out of what I’m doing. I’ve never been scared to give an opinion. That’s carried me a long way down the road as opposed to just being a pure writer. You don’t have to have Blackie Sherrod’s kind of talent – but you have to find your style and go from there. I can think of three guys who are just terrific writers, but it kind of stops right there. I know guys who – if they could write like they talk – they would be the best in the business, but it never comes across.
I have been told I write like I talk, particularly from people in other parts of the country. They say I’m the only guy in the country who writes like I talk. I don’t know if that’s good or not. But I’ve tricked them so far for 40 years and I want to continue to do so.
Q. Do you write in a Texas idiom?
A. Yes. Because that’s the way I talk. No doubt about that. When I talk to students they ask if my style would work in LA or Miami or New York – I say I don’t know. Luckily I grew up here and never had to leave to do what I want to do. I like living here. Blackie said he was asked that all the time. The Morning News was a country newspaper with little emphasis on sports in the 1960s – then in the late 1970s there was a boom – our 20-man sports staff expanded to 100 in two years – Dave Smith brought in writers from all over the country. Gary Myers came from New York and Gary asked me if Blackie could take his column and be as big in New York and I said yeah, but he had doubts it could happen. Blackie was a Texas guy who did it here.
It’s a blessing I never had to do that. A great part of all this is being here and the emphasis on sports here and on newspapers and TV and radio and the amount of money spent. You couldn’t ask to be in a better place, particularly if it’s your home.
Q. Has your radio work impacted your print work?
A. Great question. I worry like hell and have for years. I’ve been doing radio for 20 years. The last thing I want is for someone to say Galloway is not giving the same effort on print because of radio, or vice vers
A. You serve two masters – it’s a huge responsibility in both areas. If it impacts you so that you’re not concentrating on one as much as the other you really have a problem. It’s an ongoing worry for me. When I started radio my editor at the Morning News, Dave Smith, was against it, even though the executives favored it because of the publicity for the paper. But Dave never liked it and it probably led to a falling out after a number of years – we’re all right now. Dave was worried about control and about what I would say on the radio. When I left for the Star Telegram in ’98 he was asked that in a radio interview – “Did Galloway break stories on radio that should have been in the paper?” – and he said “Absolutely not”. He said I was way too professional for that – I really appreciated him saying that. Frankly, newspaper is always the first priority.
A good example is when Buck Showalter was fired (as Texas Rangers manager) last week. I got a call in the morning before the announcement. I called our beat guys and other columnist. I told our beat guys to get it online now. As soon as the Star Telegram got it up online I could go with it on air. So you can play both ends – you can serve both masters because of the newspaper website.
In the newspaper business today you don’t hold a story. I like for people to wake up in the morning and fall down with a huge headline – the proverbial scoop. I’m old school – you hit the competition and the reader over the head. Well, that’s gone. You got a story now it’s going online. I’m uneasy with that but such is the nature of the beast.
Q. So you’re on the clock for 24 hours?
A. I was a baseball beat man for 10 years and I tell people no way I could do it now. You are on the clock for 24 hours a day if you are a beat man. My admiration for beat people always has been at the highest level, and even more so now. Covering baseball in the 70s you had one cycle – once the game was over and the paper went to bed at midnight you didn’t have to worry about anything. If you got beat you couldn’t answer for 24 hours – at midnight you were totally off the clock.
Q. What do you read?
A. The Internet – greatest device ever invented for sportswriting. Ten years ago when it surfaced as a tool I was one of those saying “Never”. Now I don’t know how I survived without it. Every day I deal with all the websites, sportspages.com, espn.com, SI.com, Fox and CBS and various other websites.
Q. What about blogs?
A. I don’t read the blogs and never have.
A. I’m ashamed to admit, no. I read SI, but not as religiously as I once did. For 30 years when SI came out I read it, but now I’m more likely to read SI.com.
Q. Must reads?
A. Peter King and Don Banks at SI.com. Tom Verducci (SI) – I love his work. Bill Simmons – I’m glad he’s back on ESPN.com. The Dr. Z stuff (SI.com). Marc Stein (ESPN.com) for basketball.
Q. You wrote in a column that that “professional journalists cover the real world”, implying that sportswriters are not professional journalists. Do we detect a bit of existential angst?
A. I’ve always considered sportswriting – God bless it – a great way to make a living and have a lot of fun. It’s a noble endeavor but not one that ranks with what’s going on in Baghdad or in the White House.
Although having been in it long enough I can say that things have changed a heckuva lot in the jock kingdom. Beat guys have to be police reporters, financial experts, shrinks and everything else – so a lot has changed. I’ve always tried to keep sports in proper perspective based on what we cover – that line was a friendly shot at a friend of mine – he’s in TV – who always is saying, “I’m a professional journalist”. Okay, I’m not – I just make a living at this.
Q. What kind of personality does it take to succeed in sports media?
A. You have to have a trust factor with people you cover. That includes an openness that I’m not out here to burn you but to give an opinion on what’s going on and why it is happening. And while there will be things you won’t like I’m going to try and write it strictly from a business standpoint and not a personal standpoint.
People don’t like to have bad things written about them particularly if it’s personal. I’ve had people mad at me for years over something that was written. Now you see the sports media with all the blogs and e-mails – we’re almost held to the same standards as the athletes by the readers. So the criticism comes in aimed at us and I’ve seen people in our business become touchy over that criticism. I like it. My e-mails pile up like crazy. I used to say I would never do the e-mail thing but now of course I can’t live without it. I love it – particularly those who are critical. I learn from it – it holds us to higher standards, so to speak.
Q. Do you have to be a fan to do your job?
A. I do think you have to like sports. People always ask me if I hate the Cowboys – they want to know why I’m so critical of the Cowboys. I write more about the Cowboys than any other team although the Mavs are coming up to that. A lot of fans don’t want to read critical stuff. My answer is that I grew up here and I was here the day the Cowboys were founded in 1960, so I’ve watched this team grow.
I’m a fan of people. I want these people to do well, but you have to separate that from being a fan of the team in how you report. Anybody in our business is lying if they say I don’t care what the New York Giants or the Cowboys do on a Sunday. It can work both ways. I loved being in Philadelphia two days ago and watching Donovan McNabb and how that game worked out. I could have cared less who won that game, but I liked what McNabb did compared to the other guy (Terrell Owens). It was justice.
Q. It’s been said that sportswriters root for good stories. Is that true?
A. To a certain degree. Do I always want a good story? Yes. But I’m not necessarily agreeing with all of that. That leads to almost a talk show mentality – I’ve done one of those for years – and I call Mondays “overreaction Monday” after a Cowboys game. Around here it’s said when the Cowboys win newspaper sales go up, but when they have a game like Sunday (38-24 loss to Eagles) I got a helluva lot more response through e-mails or radio than when they beat Tennessee 41-7 the week before. Do I want a good story – yeah. Do I hope it develops like Sunday – yeah. It wasn’t a good Cowboys story but it was a good McNabb story.
(SMG thanks Randy Galloway for his cooperation)