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Seriously, Pinch Me

Posted by johnnieraz on February 16, 2019 at 12:40 AM

     By John Rezell

     Whenever people find out I've spent most of my life covering sports they pepper me with questions about my best memories: the best game, the best athlete, the best team, etc.

     But when I look back at my career, the greatest memories are reserved for the teams I was part of, and the people who worked alongside of me.

     Man, have I been blessed, from my first years on my college newspaper to today.

     When it comes to dynasties, I'll put the sports staff of The Orange County Register of the '80s and '90s up against anyone.

     Starting there as a part-timer I had the privilege of working with some of the best journalists in the country. From columnists like John Hall, Steve Bisheff and Mark Whicker, to beat reporters like Earl Bloom, Peter Schmuck, Dave Strege, John Strege, and Don Greenberg I not only got to see how to work like a pro, but also how to act like a pro.

     Everyone on those great staffers treated part-timers like peers, which only served to create a fertile breeding ground for folks like me, Ken Daley, Marc Stein, Terry Hutchens, Janis Carr and a long, long list of others.

     The unsung heroes on the desk, though, were the best. From the top, Jim Colonna orchestrated an incredible environment where everyone felt hellbent on excelling, not just performing. His lieutenants Dennis Peck, Paul Loop and Robin Romano were three of the best people I ever worked for.

     Robin, in particular, had a tremendous influence on me. She found a way to inspire me to take chances and be creative. She really set the tone for the rest of my career, when I'd do things like climb in a tree (photo above) for the best photo and view of a bike race. The talent level of the many copy editors was only topped by their incredible temperament that taught me grace under pressure.

     As wonderful as those years were, the true gift of that time came when I became editor of VeloNews magazine and later started the content team at bike.com, and I got to put everything I learned into practice.

     We created an incredible team at VeloNews that covered the world of cycling like no other. Charles Pelkey, Marti Stephens, Kip Mikler, Bryan Jew and Lennard Zinn made up the essence of team that brought the heart and soul of cycling to our readers. The talented roster of freelancers were a who's who of cycling journalism, from Maynard Hershon's writing to the photography of Casey Gibson and so many others.

     The best part was that it never really felt like work at any of my stops. We had a blast cranking out tons of stories on tight deadline. At Velo we'd blow off the pressure by having headline meetings late in the afternoon, where we tossed out hilarious, disgusting and sometimes offensive headlines from which we picked the best to share as we laughed our asses off.

     That gang also gave me the greatest moment in my career, when they stood up to have my back in the toughest ethical challenge I ever faced as a journalist.

     Of course, you can read that incident in "Taken for a Ride: Chasing a Young Lance Armstrong." It's a memoir that tells as much about the essence of being a journalist as anything, and how difficult it can be to walk the tightrope between covering someone and befriending them, as well as juggling the ethics of journalism.

     Being a true journalist is difficult, and somewhat rare these days. But it wasn't back then, when being objective and fair was a priceless badge of honor. I've often said you are born with the ability to be objective, it can't be taught. Just because you can write doesn't mean you're a journalist.

     Enduring it with colleagues who were true champions made it one hellava ride.

     Each one of my stops in this long career have been rewarding and enjoyable in their own way. My first gig of responsibility as sports editor of The Royal Purple at UW-Whitewater set the standard for having loads of fun while working hard alongside upperclasswomen Barb Uebelacker, Marla Cone and Sue Pierman.

     One of the most amazing stops was working with the MSNBC crew on the Salt Lake City Winter OIympic websites. Talk about 24/7 production!

       The last few gigs have paired me with genius entrepreneurs whose proclivity to spit out creative ideas seemed endless: Felix Magowan, Alan Scholz, Talty O'Connor. I thrived on the challenge of converting those ideas into reality.

      Some may look at my broken road and think it's paved with shattered dreams. Oh, far from it. It's the foundation of endless adventure.

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