The Bob Mathias, Dick Schaap, Chris Terrence, Connection
“Ask and ye shall receive” is a biblical statement from the Book of Matthew, in the Bible, and I remember it was one of the many expressions my mother would say to us kids when she was tying to teach us things to help us growing up. “If you don’t ask or seek, or work at an idea, how are you going to get it?” It is a good thought and I’ve seen it ring true many times. One time, in the late 1970’s,
I was taking a late flight from Los to New York. The man who sat next to me on the redeye was someone who looked very familiar to me, but I couldn’t put the name on the face. However, after we exchanged greetings, it hit me – I was sitting next to Dick Schaap, the top sports guy from ABC-TV! Great author of many sports books, host of network sports specials, and one of the most respected names ever to report on the sports stories of the day.
At first I was just thrilled to meet him, even a little nervous, but as the flight wore on, and neither of us was ready to sleep, we had a very nice conversation for a couple of the hours or so of the five hour long flight while most of the people on the ground below us, and many fellow passengers on the flight, slept. We talked about sports of course, me being a sports nut and him being a sports guru was awesome, but the best part was that we talked of other things as well. Like discussing our families, the world in general, and how things were going in general. I was so impressed with him because of the way he listened as well as spoke, just sharing a friendly conversation with not one of his huge circle of celebrities, or leaders he knew as friends and colleagues, but rather to an everyday guy from Clovis, California or Vestal, New York. What a great guy.
I saw Dick again a couple of years after that in Chicago at the McCormick Center, where he was doing a book signing at the National Sporting Goods convention and as he was signing a book for me, I mentioned our flight and weather or not he remembered, and regardless, he was very cordial and nice.
Years after that, in 1997, I was working on the finishing touches on a book I had written, about the great Olympic decathlete, Bob Mathias. Bob Mathias: Across the Fields of Gold is the story of how a great young seventeen year old athlete stunned the world by winning the 1948 Olympic gold medal in the decathlon event.
As I was thinking about whom I might get to write the forward for the book, like someone who was well versed in sports and in particular, in Olympic Games history and who might even have known Bob. It didn’t take long to arrive at the idea of, my old pal, Dick Schaap! I asked Bob about the idea and he said, “Oh, Dick would be great. He’s been a good friend for many years.”
So I called a friend of mine from ABC-TV, Gayle Kirchner, (we had worked together, on a ABC Network promotion committee – when I was working for the ABC affiliate in Fresno, years before, and now she was still connected with New York’s ABC headquarters). Gayle gave me Dick’s number at his desk and when I called it he answered, “Dick Schaap!”
Once again I mentioned our flight together years before, and once again he was very nice, and asked what he could do for me. If he remembered me or didn’t, he was pleasant and cordial. I told him about my Bob Mathias book and asked if he might consider writing the Forward for it. He said he knew Bob very well and would be delighted to do it.
I sent him the manuscript right away and 10 days later, Dick sent me a truly wonderful forward for the book, along with his best wishes for success with the project. Not only that, but get this: A few weeks after that, Dick performed his awesome forward for his nation wide audience on the, “Schaap on Sports” show, on the ABC Network. Wow! We were all thrilled. He did a great job and it sure helped with the promotion of the book.
Dick Schaap obviously was a very busy man. His many awards and allocates throughout his extraordinary career certainly proved that out, but what a great guy as well. He was not only approachable, he was also supportive and encouraging, and happy to help out a rookie writer, and surely happy to do what he could to help promote an old friend’s new book.
It is sure no mystery to me how this wonderful man became so respected by so many people on many levels of writing, reporting about people, life in general and sports .