Adiós, Amigo

Saying Goodbye -- And Thanks -- To Outgoing Editor/Publisher Douglas Biggers.

IF DOUG BIGGERS says "Hi, Tom" the next time I see him, that'll make an even 200 words he's said to me in the 14 years we've known each other. And yet, I consider him a good friend of mine and will miss him greatly now that's he's riding off into the sunset.

When I first met Doug I was emerging from a four-year period of professional inactivity in which I spent all day, every day raising my then-infant children. I pitched a story idea about gender discrimination among high school athletic programs in Arizona to the editor, Howard Allen, who liked it. I went in to talk to Howard and was introduced to Doug.

I remember thinking that Doug looked like the kind of guy who would protest outside McKale Center over how much money was being wasted on athletics.

When Howard told Doug I was doing a story about sports, Doug flexed every muscle in his body in an attempt to produce the most modest smile. I think he would have been infinitely happier had I been writing about spores. But he sucked it up and went along with his editor.

A few months later, I wrote another cover story, this one also about sports. I think for Doug, one is one, but two represents a dangerous trend. The next time I saw him, he asked me, "Can you write about anything other than sports?"

I said, "Sure, I like movies. Especially movies about sports."

After that, he re-upped for two years on his Vow of Silence.

The big breakthrough for us was when Sean Elliott led the Wildcats to the Final Four in 1988. We produced this big, splashy special edition about the Cats. People in town loved it, but I can only imagine the ostracizing he got at the convention of Alternative Newspaper publishers.

It was shortly after this that he uttered my favorite line of his of all time. (When you only have 198 words from which to choose, it's not that hard.) He said, "Tom, I really don't understand a lot of the things you write, but my friends seem to like you, so keep up the good work."

Over the years, he always stuck by me. When Howard left, Doug hired a Serious Journalist to be the editor. She naturally thought of me as the Journalistic Anti-Christ, but Doug kept me on. So too, during the next editorial administration, and then finally up to Dan Huff, who actually liked me, so Doug could back off.

I've always greatly admired him for his loyalty in those years, and I have shown my gratitude by never asking for a raise. (He did offer one once.)

For his part, I have watched him struggle time and again to keep the paper afloat. Every time black ink loomed on the horizon, something else bad would happen and we'd be scratching to hold on. But he never lost his focus and he held on to his dream.

He used to look at me a little bit sideways when I would talk about the joy of having and taking care of kids, but when he got married and started a family, he would nod and smile at me, passing along an evening's worth of shared experiences in a knowing look.

As he struggled to keep the paper going, the strain showed. He began working out on a daily basis and the results were amazing. All of a sudden he looked like the kind of guy who would protest outside of McKale Center and then pick a fight with the campus cops.

Sometimes he would just ask, "So Tom, how many Press Club Awards have you won in a row now?" I'd tell him, and he would nod and smile on the outside while shaking and scratching his head on the inside.

He stuck by me for years and I appreciate it more than he'll ever know. He's a good man and he deserves whatever rewards he has received. I'm going to miss him.

AFTER THE FIRST homestand of the season, things are looking up for the Tucson Sidewinders. The Pacific Coast League team averaged a robust 4,170 fans per contest over the eight-game span, almost double last year's average of 2,150. There's still a long way to go, but things are definitely looking up.

I went to Friday night's game and the place was jumping. I got there almost at game time, but found parking right away and had a short walk to the stadium. It was Good Friday, so I couldn't really eat anything, but the food smelled great, the concession stand lines were short, and everybody looked like they were having a good time.

As usual, I couldn't tell you what the score was, but I know the 'Winders lost. The place is clean, the game moved along at a lively (for baseball) pace, and I got to see a couple great athletic plays. On the downside, I kept wondering if whoever it is that's in charge of making sound effects gets paid by the number of times he makes the spring-twang noise.

And paging Notch Johnson on the loudspeaker will have a limited impact. There are only about eight Tucsonans who have seen Son of the Beach, and I only saw it because I was looking for a M*A*S*H rerun late one night.

Still, I was very impressed with the evening. If they can get the team to not stink and throw in a couple 10,000-fan event nights, they should have no trouble reaching the desired 300,000 attendance goal.