Paul Oberjuerge header image 2

Five Events I Regret Not Seeing

January 23rd, 2021 · No Comments · Olympics, Uncategorized, World Cup

The other day I was walking around the little French town where we live and thinking about things I covered during 40 years in sports journalism.

I reflected on events I really enjoyed — just sorta free-associating. As often occurs in one of these reveries, eventually I shake my head and concede, “I got to do a lot of stuff. I was extremely lucky.” As were many of the journalists in the 1980s and 1990. Years that covered the zenith of American newspapering.

This time, I seemed to head off into a different direction; I started thinking about events I had not covered and wished I had. Not seen. Not filed on. And felt just a little bit of disappointment. A twinge. And following on that, I compiled a list of five events I would like to have seen — but did not.

So, what is called for?

A list!

It needs a list!

So, here we go: Five sports events I regret not covering, starting with No. 5 and working my way down to No. 1. (Most rued; sad face.)

No. 5: America’s Cup. This is sailing. And it is very technical and very competitive but also very colorful, and in the middle 1980s, it was what I would have loved to cover. I laid out a schedule and estimated expenses for my corporate benefactor but, realistically, this was going to be hard to do. I would have needed to be in Perth, Australia, for August and most of September. This was at the height of America’s Cup popularity, when the 12-meter boat was the law of the sea, and it led to innovation and vast outlays of money. The America’s Cup isn’t lower on this list because it very little chance of happening. I would have to quit my job as a sports editor, and then … what? Turns out, it was a great story, with Dennis Conner of Stars & Stripes ’87” regaining the Cup for America by defeating New Zealand’s Kiwi Magic and then Australia’s Kookaburra to bring the Cup back to the states.

No. 4: NCAA Final Four. College basketball’s grand finale. A Final Four. Just one. Never happened. Why? Because we had a college basketball writer who year after year was part of a March Madness coverage team organized by Gannett News Service. I wasn’t needed, is what it came down to. I covered more than a few NCAA Tournament games, but the final four …

No. 3: The Iditarod. The great race held in Alaska every winter and officially known as the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. I thought it could lead to some quality reporting, and it seemed to be gaining in interest. I put together a detailed plan for coverage … and my corporate sponsor said … “Uh, no thanks.” (A confession. I hate being cold, and it almost certainly is a good thing I didn’t go — though I didn’t see it that way, back in the early 1990s. Anchorage to Nome? Not a problem. Ha.)

No. 2: The Goodwill Games. A Ted Turner invention, a sort-of Olympic Games except that no one boycotted the competition, as had happened in 1980 and 1984. There were several editions of the Goodwill Games, but the one I really wanted to see was the first, the 1986 Goodwill Games in Moscow. At that time, I had never been to the Soviet Union, and I was ready to go — rarin’ to go — right up till my brother decided to get married during the ’86 Goodwills. I took a deep breath and called my GNS sponsor and suggested he replace me with a co-worker — who came back and said it was the greatest event he had ever covered. Russia! Vodka! Lenin’s Tomb in the middle of the night! Unforgettable!

And coming in at Regret No. 1: The United States versus Mexico, 2002 Japan/Korea World Cup. This one has been a recurring dull ache for the past 20-some years because shoddy planning was all that kept me from covering the Yanks and Mexico in the round of 16. Granted, when planning coverage of soccer’s biggest event, I sold it to editors as a three-game package — assuming the USMNT would not survive a group that included Portugal, Korea and Poland. The Yanks, however, made it out of the group thanks mostly to a 3-2 upset over Portugal. And who was up next, in the round of 16? None other than the greatest U.S. rival, Mexico. One of them was going to advance to the quarterfinals, and could talk trash for months, years. And here is the thing: I was already in Korea, covering the American team. Had been for a couple of weeks. When pool play yielded USA v El Tri — we had to change plans and cover that, didn’t we? The moment I knew it was going to happen, I started reaching out to executives in our media company, and they were not opposed to the idea. But the clock was ticking. If I stayed, I would need a new flight back to LAX. The original reservation would return me to California before the U.S. and Mexico collided, on June 17. To stick with the original low-cost plan left the news group with a decision to make. I waited and called and waited and called … and then I had to use my ticket back — or lose it. The upshot: A day later, the suits said, sure, go! However, I was already crossing the Pacific; waiting-time had run out. I was already depressed and annoyed, but the capper was getting back to SoCal and finding an email permitting me to stay in Korea for the Mexico game. I offered to turn around and take the next plane back to Korea, and that was pondered for a bit … but then it was just too late. I watched the game on TV. The U.S. won 2-0, still one of the sweetest and most significant victories by the national team.

That one still stings.


0 responses so far ↓

  • There are no comments yet...Kick things off by filling out the form below.

Leave a Comment