Some have inquired about the start of Hawgs Illustrated. I will write something for our Silver Anniversary issue, the June magazine. What I will say is that I had a tough decision to make at the time. I had been at the Tulsa World for 14 years. Sports editor Bill Connors was nearing retirement. It was not spoken, but everyone knew it. I was the assistant sports editor.
When I told him what I was thinking about doing (the start of Hawgs Illustrated), he asked me to lunch. He took me to the nicest place in town. I was blown away. He did not try to talk me out of the move at all. He said it was a great opportunity and that he knew I’d be successful. Then, as we were about done, he handed me a sealed envelope. He said to take it home and share it with Jean Ann because he knew it would be better to have something in writing then just me relaying words.
I got in the car and opened it. It said, “I will retire in six months. It’s already decided. I have asked and it’s been agreed upon that you will be the next sports editor. Here is your salary.” And, it was basically double what I was making.
I gave it to Jean Ann and we both cried. That was a dream job and it was at a great place and we loved our church and our schools. We loved our home, just a few blocks behind Edison High School in a great part of Tulsa.
But, as my friend Ed Beshara told me the next day, I would never own the Tulsa World. We all knew that the people I was going to work for who would fund the start-up of Hawgs Illustrated would likely build it, then quickly sell it. I knew there was a real possibility I could own it. And, that happened in less than three years.
Did I do the right thing? Of course, I did. I really had no doubts that I was making the right choice, but it was not easy.
One of the things that worried me about the Tulsa World job was that I would suddenly be asked to manage my peers, people who had been at the paper 30 years, along with others who had been there at least as long as I had and were all very good. Could I lead a staff of 15? Sports at the Tulsa World in the early 90s was a massive operation.
I thought that I would have a much easier time managing a very small staff at Hawgs Illustrated. I have never been comfortable in a leadership role. What I like to do is hire good people and let them manage themselves. I never really wanted to manage. Really for about the first 6-8 years, it was just me and contract labor. You don’t get involved with decisions that alter someone’s family with contract labor. It’s just one job at a time, or short term decisions. Much easier.
I guess I’ve always been a reluctant leader. I’ve laughed about my role as the leader of our household. I’ve often said that Jean Ann and I began our relationship by agreeing that I’d make all of the major decisions, letting her handle a lot of the mundane stuff. After 39 years, we’ve discovered that we’ve never gotten to the major decisions because all of them have fallen into the category as mundane (and hers). Is that true? No, what has happened is that I’ve let her do what she’s wanted in almost all regards. She’s done it so well, that it’s worked perfectly. She will tell you differently, but I think that’s close to the truth.