In a 40-year career as a sportswriter, I’ve become intrigued with that phrase, “Small world, isn’t it?”
Every once in a while, I’ll have a flashback of sorts, to my early days.
This all began in November 1979, when I got a full-time job covering the police beat and high school sports for the Valencia County News-Bulletin in Belen. It’s where I got my feet wet, so to speak, and learned all about photography.
Even then, a community newspaper needed staffers who could multi-task. To cover a game, it wasn’t practical very often to send a reporter and photographer, so I learned all about the darkroom from our full-time photographer.
Back then, it took a lot more to “download” photos than now in the digital age. Chemicals had to be mixed, temperatures had to be monitored, a clock was used and that doesn’t include spooling the 35-mm film onto reels, which then went into the chemical solution.
Long story short: I’ll take the SD card in my Nikon today and the ease of downloading photos to my desktop or the web.
At Belen High School, the girls volleyball coach, Joanne Romero, always seemed to have her two children running around in the gym. Flash forward three-plus decades and I’m running into that little boy, Dominick Romero, now the boys basketball coach at Manzano High School.
Another family, the Wisneskis, also had a role at both ends of this career.
The eldest son of Al and Barbara Wisneski, Joe, was a three-sport star and always seemed to have his name in the sports stories. His younger brother, Tommy, as I recall, played briefly at Belen before transferring to St. Pius X.
One spring while I was in the Valley of the Sun to see Cactus League ballgames, and possibly a U.S. Football League game at Sundevil Stadium, I met up with Tommy — then playing baseball at Grand Canyon University in Phoenix — and turned that into a story for the Albuquerque Journal.
On March 7, I was in the visitors’ dugout at Cleveland High, chatting before a ballgame with that same Tommy Wisneski, now the Eagles varsity baseball coach — a job his dad had once held.
There have been other similar stories, such as Rudy Aragon being the head coach of the Los Lunas Tigers in 1979-80, the first season I covered prep hoops. Flash ahead to 2000, and he’s an assistant principal at RRHS — and his two sons, Isaac and Santos, later played basketball for the Rams.
Sports have been the common denominator in this four-decades-old tale, but there’s another interesting (to me) piece to it.
Back in 1985, although I was content for the most part at the News-Bulletin, I had a falling out with the editor and decided to look for another job. I found one — at the Observer.
But that turned out to be one of the worst jobs I’ve ever had.
I would literally come into the office at 8 a.m. on a Monday, work around the clock to get that week’s paper done, and leave at 8 a.m. on Tuesday, heading straight to bed. That’s how I missed the Challenger disaster, although that’s also the reason I remember it happened on a Tuesday in 1986.
About seven months after exiting the News-Bulletin, that editor that led to my departure was arrested –— and then fired — for a DWI. The VCNB publisher asked me to come back, and I did.
I remained there until the summer of 1988, even buying a house close enough that I could walk to the office, until two brothers — not the current owners — bought the VCNB and fired me without cause.
Until May 2000, when I “returned” to the Observer — you’ll note I never burn those proverbial bridges — I did a lot of stringing for the Albuquerque Journal, much of it on prep sports. In fact, if you look carefully at the Journal, you’ll find my bylines in there every year from 1979-2020 — that encompasses six decades, if you count 2020 as the first year of the twenties.
Maybe I shouldn’t be so surprised at these connections from both of my worlds. And I’m pretty sure there’ll be more.