Close Encounters

Today is my 60th birthday. It’s important to pause and reflect on life experiences when we hit round numbers like these. Here are ‘60 Things’ that stick in my mind as blessings, coincidences and a few not so great moments during six decades…

  1. Winning the KXOL ‘Yard Sign’ contest when I was six years old (Gave the clock to my grandmother who hung it in her kitchen)
  2. Growing up in the country on 35 acres to roam
  3. Meeting my first best friend the first day of first grade
  4. Meeting my next two best friends the first day of second grade at a different school
  5. Burying one of my best friends when we were 22
  6. Being in Arlington Stadium when 18-year-old David Clyde made his MLB debut
  7. Correctly predicting on a local radio show in 1974 that Jeff Burroughs of the Rangers would hit a grand slam that night
  8. Witnessing two of the first 12 perfect games in history, including the last telecast I ever produced for television in 1994
  9. Being named Outstanding Student of my eighth grade class
  10. Not being named Outstanding Student of my high school class
  11. Winning an Amateur Putt-Putt Championship at age 19
  12. Having one of my two best college friends explain racism exists
  13. Having him and my other best friend drag me to a high GPA by studying together every night even though we had different majors
  14. Having University of Texas SID Bill Little tell me that I needed to introduce myself to a new Southwest Conference employee named Kathy Lott
  15. Waiting in line behind Reggie Jackson to check in at the St. Francis Hotel in San Francisco on our honeymoon
  16. Sitting next to a young (and personable) Randy Travis on a flight
  17. Sitting right behind Muhammad Ali on a prop plane during a snowstorm, having the plane twice pull up after misjudging the runway, and when we finally landed on attempt number three, the Champ turned around and said, “You weren’t scared were you?’ I delivered one of my best-ever replies: “The whole time I was envisioning tomorrow’s headline – Muhammad Ali and 21 others perish in crash”
  18. Spending time with Miss America 1987 (Kellye Cash) and Miss USA 1986 (Christy Fichtner)
  19. Slipping, falling and knocking out my front teeth (November 20, 1988)
  20. Being there for the birth of our two daughters
  21. Not being there for the birth of our son
  22. Eating a hot dog in the press box at Yankee Stadium
  23. My mother being diagnosed with cancer when I was 14
  24. Both my parents and oldest brother dying way too young
  25. Saying ‘I want to be a sportscaster’ when the news director at KDFW-TV asked all 10 summer interns what we wanted to do with our careers. He got up, told everyone, ‘Wait right here,’ walked me over to Dale Hansen and said, ‘Find something for this kid to do for the next 12 weeks’ (June 9, 1981!)
  26. Serving as Best Man in Dale’s wedding to Chris on my 22nd birthday a year later
  27. Standing less than 10 yards from Dwight Clark when he made ‘The Catch’ to beat the Cowboys in the 1982 NFC Championship Game
  28. Introducing myself to Cowboys assistant John Mackovic the day before in the media room at the hotel and – 11 years later – meeting him again as coach at Texas and having him remind me of that moment
  29. Having John Mackovic file a complaint with the Southwest Conference because I took a one-minute commercial break before we interviewed him on the field the next day following the game
  30. Riding around with Cowboys WR Butch Johnson and DFW sports radio personality Chris Arnold in Bill Withers’ Mercedes (Butch’s brother-in-law) in Hollywood during the summer of 1982. Butch stopped the car, pointed forward and said, ‘You know what that is?’ I didn’t. He said, ‘That’s Watts.’ I asked, ‘What’s Watts?’ He enlightened me
  31. Getting the videotapes out of order on the annual AP Best Sportscaster in Texas contest night and having Dale walk off the set in the middle of his segment. Coming in the next day to see if I was fired and having him say, ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about. We have a show to do’
  32. Kathy and I sleeping in a hotel room with Davey O’Brien’s 1938 Heisman Trophy in the bed between us. (We were told to protect it!)
  33. Receiving a backstage pass after a Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band concert in Dallas in 2000. Waiting 30 minutes to be first in line, then turning around and telling my friends, ‘I can’t do it. Meeting him would be a letdown’
  34. Getting hired in 1984 by Raycom Sports to produce live events after the other person being considered failed to show for his interview
  35. Dropping our rental car after a game at KState in 1988 outside the gate at the KC airport and calling the rental car company to come pick it up, then having to explain the $75 charge to my boss: ‘It was cheaper than the announcers, director and me having to get hotel rooms’
  36. Working four MLB All-Star Games and producing college basketball for ESPN and ABC Sports
  37. Having dinner in Las Vegas the night before a telecast in a private room at the Mirage in 1993 with Steve Wynn, John Y. Brown, Brent Musburger and Dick Vitale. After two hours of silence, Dickie V turned to me and said, ‘We’re out of our league tonight, Davey’
  38. Working with Bill Walton at the 1994 Final Four in Charlotte and learning that he drinks scalding hot water
  39. Dreaming ‘How do people get to Notre Dame football games?’ and starting a business with my fourth best friend that grew into an amazing company
  40. Being inducted into my high school’s Hall of Fame
  41. Running five miles in under 40 minutes on my 42nd birthday
  42. Walking 7.1 miles in exactly two hours just a few days ago
  43. Tailgating with Burnt Orange friends at UT football games
  44. Seeing all three of our children graduate from UT
  45. Making a hole in one at age 26
  46. Missing a second hole in one by one inch and three others by less than a foot over the ensuing years
  47. Winning golf tournaments with my son, nephew and brothers as teammates
  48. Attending the Masters in 2014
  49. Seeing Tiger Woods hit a tee shot from a few yards away at the Byron Nelson in 2002
  50. Standing directly under the basket as U.S. Reed hit a buzzer beater from the other side of half-court when Arkansas upset Louisville in the 1981 NCAA Tournament in Austin
  51. Witnessing Nolan Ryan’s 5,000th career strikeout in 1989
  52. Learning how to swim freestyle at age 50
  53. Meeting several CEO’s of Fortune 500 companies
  54. Giving a keynote to more than 300 people in Chicago, nailing it for 58 minutes, then forgetting everything after the first line of the short poem I practiced more than 100 times. I ad-libbed some rambling story for two minutes… and afterward five people came up and said it was one the best endings they’d ever heard
  55. Writing a letter to Bud Hadfield to ask for his book, having him call our house and invite me to come and spend a day with him, getting offered a job on the spot, accepting a few days later and relocating our family from DFW to Tomball
  56. Watching our son hit the game winning free throw with no time on the clock following a technical foul
  57. Watching our oldest win Best Supporting Actress in UIL One Act Play
  58. Watching our youngest edit my first book
  59. Publishing my first book (which, coincidentally, comes out today!)
  60. Having Kathy support all my adventures for 31 years next week!
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Class Dismissed

About a month into her freshman year of college, our youngest called home and said, “I don’t want to major in math anymore.” While she may have worried we’d be disappointed, that quickly dissipated when we said, “What do you want to do?”

Kirsten switched to Corporate Communications with a minor in Business. Got a job at the Daily Texan – which last year was named the best student newspaper in the nation. Worked her way up from editing, to copy desk chief, to associate managing editor. Spent a semester in New York City interning at an entertainment management firm.

Then came the last semester of her senior year and – like so many – she’s finished up taking online classes, homebound to stay safe from the pandemic. That meant missing out on celebrating with friends, saying goodbye to coworkers and, with hiring on hold, having a chance to interview for her entry into the workforce.

Today and tomorrow, the UT-Austin Class of 2020 holds remote online commencement. Kirsten won’t get to experience the walk across the stage with her Moody College of Communication classmates or the music and fireworks celebration with all 8,000+ graduates in front of the Main Building. She’ll dress in her cap and gown, we’ll play ‘Pomp and Circumstance’ on my iPhone, and raise a toast in the backyard.

The end is different; however, the achievement is the same as past generations. Four years of hard work. Youthful rites of passage. Growing into an amazing woman. Graduating with Honors. Life filled with adventure ahead.

During our honeymoon, Kathy and I made a list of near-, mid- and long-term goals. It’s amazing how many came true during the past 31 years. One is my favorite: “Our children graduate from the University of Texas.” While we later encouraged all three to consider other schools, being raised in a home where the mother did a burnt orange laundry load each week, the father spent way too many hours talking Longhorn football, and a UT flag flew on a tree out the front door, perhaps they were predestined.

Thank you to Kirsten, Kyle and Kelsey for joining mom and me as five graduates from the Forty Acres. The Eyes of Texas ARE Upon You.

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Focal Point

When Kathy and I took birthing classes during her first pregnancy, there was a suggestion to have a personal item – like a teddy bear – with her at the hospital during labor. That focal point served as a distraction during painful contractions… taking her mind to a different place as she took in a series of ‘he-he-hoo’ breaths.

While 30 years have passed since our first experience in the birthing suite, the technique seems relevant today. With everything going on in the world, it’s easy to be sucked into a swirling whirlpool of negativity around the latest news.

Headlines. Twitter. Briefings. Every bit of information combines to impact how someone views their situation right now.

Using well-intentioned words with family and friends like ‘it will all work out fine’ doesn’t alleviate what they are experiencing… and it might add to their frustration. Perhaps the best thing you can do is show empathy: acknowledge their feelings and let them know you’re there should they need someone to listen.

As for your own health, take a daily break from news outlets and the online rabbit hole. Spend time reading the novel you never got to, binge watching a comedy you haven’t seen… or focus on a teddy bear and allow yourself a few minutes of peace. And be sure to breathe.

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No Fooling

Note: With everything going on in the world, April Fool’s Day is cancelled this year. That’s a good thing. We need to be serious right now. However, amidst all the fear and uncertainty, maybe a story from four decades ago will bring you a brief smile.

First some background. Jester Center at UT-Austin isn’t your typical on-campus co-ed dormitory. There are hundreds of rooms spread over 14 floors. They serve thousands of meals each day. In my era it was cafeteria style – I still hate boiled potato balls – as compared to today’s choose-your-favorite from an assortment of selections.

So… 40 years ago today…

At 11:55 p.m. on March 31, 1980, Glenn began calling friends who lived in Jester. You only had to dial four numbers, so it didn’t take long. He said: “Guys, you gotta see this. Somebody’s rappelling right outside my window. Come quick.”

Shortly after midnight a dozen of us are gathered staring into the semi-darkness. We see no one. Then Glenn shouts from above: “See him? Right over there.” We’re all yelling at him, “Where? We don’t see anyone.” Now more students are joining us and looking up to find out what all the fuss is about.

Suddenly, Glenn yells: “Hey, everybody… April Fool’s!”

The next day I promised Glenn he’d pay for it eventually, and for many years I’d call him at midnight and say, “Not yet.” Then hang up. Eventually, the desire for revenge passed. Glenn remains my close friend. April 1, 2021, might be the perfect time…

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Change Magic

Some folks say the biggest fear people have is giving a speech. Others claim it’s being buried alive. A few believe it’s being buried alive while giving a speech. Of course, the most likely biggest fear is… change.

Think about some of the big changes in your life. Going to a new school in junior high? Unsettling. Starting your first full-time job? Scary. Watching your 16-year-old drive away in the car alone? Frightening.

Change just doesn’t feel as comfortable as that old pair of shoes, as familiar as that drive you take to work every day, as tasty as that dessert at your favorite restaurant. Yet shoes wear out, roads get rerouted and restaurants revise their menus.

Rather than fear change, perhaps the magic comes when you approach it as an opportunity to experience something for the first time. To lean in and anticipate the possibilities. After all, what’s the fun in going through life without ever standing in front of an audience and giving it your best shot?

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