Tuesday, March 15, 2011

A Letter to a Friend from a Friend. Dear Nick Charles,

I was just looking at an old trophy we both have from our CNN days marking our three thousandth Sports Tonight show together, and it made me smile...'More than Lucy and Desi', we were told! That was in 1994, and we did more and better after that.

Seeing that old hunk of Lucite also made me want to express to you how wonderful it was working with you all those years and beyond, and how much you taught me as a journalist. How to never skip the details. How to cultivate, work and respect your sources. And, above all, how to tell a story and paint a picture for the viewer.

We had a great team, and I was sorry to see it broken up, but that choice was not ours. Just the way of the business I guess. Boy, we got our money's worth though, didn't we?

I recall broadcasting the Olympic Winter Games with you twice and the Goodwill games from St. Petersburg, Russia from the roof of a floating hotel on the Gulf of Finland. The latter was at night...outside...with full lights, and every flying bug in Russia attacking us!

There were all those Superbowls...lot's of work, but lots of fun. I always tell people that we didn't have the glamorous office space. Remember the Redskins-Bills game in Minneapolis when we worked in a hallway between the hotel kitchen and a dining room...dodging the wait staff all week? And, there was one of many in New Orleans where were once visited live on set by the Voodoo Queen...the REAL one...bearing gifts? No way I was eating that candy, Pal!

One of my fondest Superbowl memories was of us in Miami at the Niners-Chargers game...they were just about to kick, and there you were reading the travel section of the New York Times planning your next exotic trip to the Himalayas or, somewhere else involving pack animals and Sherpas.

Yeah, we started in the old manual typewriter days of 1980...back when if you found a GOOD machine, you'd run for a sharpie and write 'NICK' on it. My guess is that by the time we switched over to computers, 'Nick' was inscribed on at least twenty of those old beasts.

Good times, man.

We ALWAYS had good times. We never...not once...in all those years of shows and over two decades working together...had a beef or a harsh word, no matter the circumstances we might have been going through personally or professionally. I'm more proud of that than anything.

You have been my mentor and a great inspiration since my younger days watching you in Springfield, Illinois...to the thrill of knowing the late, great Bill Macphail was teaming us up at CNN Sports. I've always appreciated our phone calls since then, and seeing you last year after all those years.

But, you have never inspired me as much as you do now as your light in this world is fading. It pains me to see you ill, but it makes my heart glad to see the way you are finishing the race, just like the thoroughbred fan you are! Trying to catch your patented 'Lightening in a Bottle' a few last times for your wonderful wife Cory and your beloved daughter Giovanna. I know they give you strength the way my wife and kids empower and encourage me.

All I can pray for is to be as courageous in living the rest of my life as you are in the last days of yours. But don't leave yet. Remember, you owe me dinner in New Mexico. And, I've never seen you welsh on a deal. God bless you...and, thank you from the bottom of my grateful heart.

Your Friend Always,