We’re supposed to be competitors, but the propinquity of the press box turns sports writers more into friends than foes.
When you’re on the road covering Kansas University football and men’s basketball, you naturally gravitate to familiar faces, and the longer you see those faces, the more familiar you become with their lives.
That’s how I came to know and become a friend of Pete Goering, who was a sports writer for the Topeka Capital-Journal for many years before they kicked him — somewhat reluctantly — upstairs.
Goering will be buried today in Topeka. He died Saturday after a two-year bout with lung and brain cancer at the age of 60.
As far as I know, The Big C was the only enemy Goering ever had. When the illness forced him to step down from the Topeka newspaper last August, there were so many people at his retirement party, you could hardly move in the room.
Goering was a good guy, a good writer and, no less important, a good husband and father.
Most of my memories of Goering are mundane. Sometimes we drove to KU games together, just to have some company. Other times we would show up at a KU football or basketball game not even knowing the other would be there.
One game does stick out in my mind, however — the Kansas-Southern Cal football game in 1983 at the Los Angeles Coliseum.
Some of you may recall that was the game in which KU quarterback Frank Seurer, a suburban L.A. native, threw for 385 yards and dedicated the Jayhawks’ stunning 26-20 victory to his father, slain a few months earlier in Lawrence.
Yet on one of the most uplifting Saturdays in KU football history, Goering suffered one of the most deflating days of his life.
First, you have to know Goering was a rabid Los Angeles Dodgers fan. Why, I don’t know, but there’s no law saying a sports writer can’t have a favorite team.
Since the Jayhawks and Trojans were playing a night game, Goering had planned all along to make his first visit to Dodger Stadium that afternoon, pick up some souvenirs, then head for the Coliseum. I was with him as we drove to Chavez Ravine.
Now, if you’ve been to Truman Sports Complex in Kansas City on a non-game day, you know there is always access. Not at Dodger Stadium. Guards stopped us at the outer gate, and when we told them we just wanted to visit Dodger Stadium, we were told to scram.
They wouldn’t even let us drive in to look at the Dodgers’ home. Goering was crushed, and who could blame him? So he had to buy his Dodgers’ souvenirs the next morning at the airport, where the prices were outrageous, as they are at all airports.
“Is this too much to pay for a Dodgers’ souvenir?” I overheard him say to himself as he hefted an overpriced T-shirt. “No.” And he quickly scurried over to pay for it.
I’m happy to report Goering eventually made it to Dodger Stadium, where I’m sure he tread in awe, treating the stadium like a shrine.
Now Pete Goering is residing in the big shrine in the sky wondering, I’m sure, what in the world Manny Ramirez is going to do.