I dreaded Sunday mornings. Mom's screeching howl echoed through the house. "Mike! Nate! Abby! Wake up for church."
Knowing I could read Terry Pluto's weekly column on the ride there made it a whole lot easier to roll out of bed.
It would be a stretch to say the Beacon Journal's lead sports columnist delivered me from the depths of hell, but his spiritual columns afforded me growth as a person. His sports columns helped me learn to write like a pro (a process painfully still in progress).
Pluto is the writer that I grew up with. Many people my age will say the same. The way he looked at sports became the way we looked at sports. He was one of three remaining "voices" from a newspaper that once won Pulitzers like the Tribe once pulled down pennants (the others being Bob Dyer and Chip Bok).
Pluto accepted a job at the Cleveland Plain Dealer. My bosses won't appreciate this endorsement, but Cleveland.com is just a click away, so it's not a total loss for area sports fans who loved to read his assessment of Northeast Ohio sports.
In my ventures across the midwest as a college journalist, I told seasoned industry-types that I'm from Akron and I was a business writer for the Akron Beacon Journal. "Whoa," they usually responded. "Great newspaper for that size." When I added that I intended to be a sports writer, they often responded, "In Terry Pluto, you have a great mentor." Bob Kravitz, my former colleague at the Indianapolis Star who frequently is seen on ESPN, especially sung Terry's praises. Kravitz, now the Star's top sports columnist, said Pluto was a mentor when they both worked at the Plain Dealer.
I have sat next to Terry on several press rows. I've spoken with him at length about sportswriting. He genuinely is a good person. After I told him about my plans for law school, he provided me with one warning that will stick: "One day, you'll wake up and wish you were writing about sports again." (That ugly truth rings inside me each time I post a blog entry, as silly as that sounds.)
This sounds way too much like an obituary. For that I apologize. I suppose I'm just a bit upset my writer won't write for my newspaper anymore. I'm certain many fans agree. It's must be like seeing Bob Huggins leave for Cincinnati. You knew his talent too big for this town, but you hoped he'd stay anyhow.
A lot of people complained about the way Terry wrote about the Zips -- that he was too patronizing, that he believed UA was just a sideshow for when the big boys weren't playing. That isn't the way Terry feels. You could always tell he loved sitting on press row at Rhodes Arena, watching the Zips. Although he didn't necessarily give the games the same magnitude as Ohio State, maybe it's for the best. What serious sports fan would give merit to a columnist who does?
Anyhow, my guess is that the ABJ will name a new columnist from within. Typically, that's how it works at newspapers this size. What reader will connect with a writer from, say, San Diego talking about the significance of the Cavaliers' playoff run? And although I am flattered by your consideration, it's more likely that Mike Rouse bats cleanup tomorrow evening than the ABJ calls on yours truly.
If anyone, like myself, is thankful for having Terry around for 22 years, let him know. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.