Many decades ago, some inspired editor christened the newspaper as the Daily Miracle, and the moniker has survived in the industry ever since. And it makes sense — it’s more than a little mind-boggling that so many different moving parts (including the advertising, editorial and circulation departments) come together every day to bring the paper to your driveway or newsstand.
In other ways, though, it’s not miraculous at all. It’s the product of a lot of hard work. Teamwork makes the dream work.
Whenever I’ve interviewed someone as a potential addition to the Tribune-Herald sports department, I always remember to ask one question: Can you function in a team setting? Because it simply doesn’t work otherwise.
David G. Campbell could — and did — for more than four decades in the business. He’s the ultimate team player, and the profession will certainly miss him.
Campbell, a longtime high school sportswriter for the Bryan Eagle and, before that, the Trib, will work his final day in the business on Friday. Knowing Dave, he’ll really work it, too. I suspect he’ll file about three feature stories, a column and two dozen area football schedules before he heads out the door one final day.
We call him Dave, but if you followed his work you probably knew him as David or David G., the byline distinction he used here in Waco to distinguish himself from the even more well-known Waco sports scribe Dave Campbell, founder of Texas Football Magazine.
Truth be told, David G. didn’t mind being the lesser-known Dave. In fact, that’s kind of the way he liked it. He was never in the sportswriting business for the “glory” of it.
“You know, I never cared about scoring the touchdown. I just wanted to lay the block to set up the touchdown,” Dave told me last week.
Fitting, since Dave played on the offensive line back in the late 1960s at Mexia High School, helping to open up holes for the great Ray Rhodes.
“I always thought offensive linemen were the smartest guys on the team,” Dave said, only half-jokingly. “They’re the only guys on the field nobody wants to hit.”
Dave is decidedly old-school in his approach. He differs from many of today’s millennial, web-based writers, who are as gifted in the art of self-promotion as they are journalism.
Dave didn’t care about the byline. Seriously. At every stop of his career, he typed up countless volleyball scores, baseball stats, softball rosters, cross country results, football schedules and all manner of other items that meant a lot to mommas and daddies and grandparents and, consequently, they meant a lot to Dave.
In newspaper parlance, we call such results and scores “agate” — a reference to the smaller font size in which they’re printed. But such info wasn’t small or inconsequential to Dave.
In fact, Dave’s origins at the Trib can be directly traced to that kind of information. He joined the Trib to help out with StatsPlus, our longtime weekly package that consisted of Central Texas district standings and stat leaders. I can’t even begin to explain the amount of work that went into compiling and publishing this info. But Dave loved doing it. He believed in its value.
Know this — if you played high school sports in the Centex area from 1993 to 2006, Dave typed up your name at some point. Not only that, he probably knew your name from memory.
As mentioned, he got a kick out of doing such grunt work, about tracking down the record for the baseball team at Blooming Grove so that those district standings would be complete.
But Dave could write a great story, too. Wherever he worked, his knowledge of the local high school scene was vast, and that expertise poured through in his writing. He had a knack for crafting a colorful, engaging lead — the introduction to a newspaper story that is designed to hook the reader and get them to read more. He wrote hundreds of classics.
In fact, the “maddest” I ever got at Dave was related to that very talent. I had just finished covering a high school football game in Killeen where a quarterback named Columbus Givens produced a monster effort in a Kangaroo win. Following the game, I called Dave, as I was prone to do, to chat about and break down the night in high school football.
We discussed the game I’d covered for a few minutes and then he asked, “What was your lead?” (I don’t know if all newspaper reporters do this, but sportswriters definitely do.)
I shared my offering, which was as forgettable then as it is now. (It’s not even worth looking up.) Then Dave said, “Not bad. I would’ve gone with, ‘Columbus Day came early in Killeen Friday.’”
The upcoming Monday was Columbus Day. Columbus Givens had gone wild. Brilliant. “Aw, man,” I griped, “Where were you a half-hour ago when I needed you?”
Dave has always maintained a passion for high school sports, and telling the rich stories that they contained. He covered plenty of big-time events over the years. But I can guarantee you — he’d rather cover the UIL State Track and Field Championships than the Super Bowl.
Whenever he departed the Trib in 2006 for the Eagle, he wrote a farewell column. A few days before its publication, I asked him what he planned to write about.
“I’m going to write about the best team I ever saw,” he said.
“Oh, man. That should be good. I’m looking forward to reading it,” I said, knowing Dave had witnessed dozens of memorable, state championship-winning teams across a variety of sports over the years.
But he didn’t write about a football or baseball squad. No softball, track or basketball, either. Instead, he wrote about the team of people he worked with at the Trib over the years. That included his late friend Mickey Humphrey, who was cut from the same caring cloth as Dave.
It was a poignant, meaningful piece, full of passion, and as I read it I found my heart strings being strummed like Charlie Daniels’ fiddle.
“It has been my honor to be your teammate,” wrote Dave, the ultimate team player.
Speaking for the team — the honor was all ours, Dave.