“I’ve only known Dwight Jaynes for a little more than 40 years, so I’m still learning about the guy. But as far as I can tell, there’s never been a multi-media person of his caliber in the Portland area. Newspaper, radio, television — Dwight has done it all, and with a far higher degree of sensibility and skill and acumen than almost anybody else.
When they put together the Portland Sports Media Hall of Fame — and it’s high time for that to happen — Dwight will be a charter member.”
The quote above was authored this month by one of Oregon’s journalism icons – Kerry Eggers in response to a request I made about Dwight Jaynes for this blog. Dwight is usually identified by the moniker – “The Godfather.” And what is the background behind this effusive quote from his long-time friend. Well, the evidence is pretty compelling.
Let’s start with Dwight’s 2010 induction to the Oregon Sports Hall of Fame and being named as Oregon Sportswriter of the Year five separate times. (Eggers has also garnered the accolade five times himself.)
He has made his mark both as a reporter and editor in the print media, become a familiar presence on radio as a talk-show co-host and analyst and one of the four regular commentators on the Talkin Ball television show following each Portland Trailblazer broadcast on Comcast. His one-on-one interviews on Comcast’s “Posting Up” with such sports luminaries as Charles Barkley, Phil Knight, Bill Walton and wrestler Rowdy Roddy Piper were also notable.
In recent years, he’s also made the move to social media with a blog on Comcast and a new podcast with a creative moniker – “The Podfather’s Godcast.” Oh, and don’t forget his two books – one of which (Against the World) was coauthored with Eggers and the other – The Long Hot Winter – was a collaboration with former Portland Trailblazer player and coach, Rick Adelman.
To interview Dwight for the Beerchaser-of-the-Quarter, I suggested a venue for our lunch that both of us knew well – the Kingston – right across from Providence Park – and most recently known for the after-game celebrations by Portland State Football Coach, Bruce Barnum, who would buy everybody in the house a beer after one of PSU’s victories in his first year (up to a $500 tab….).
Kerry Eggers’ quote aptly summarizes why I wanted to “honor” The Godfather as Beerchaser-of-the-Quarter – a Portland native – he graduated from Cleveland High School in 1965.
Most of the narrative will be on Dwight as an interesting guy who cares a lot about his family, his thoughts about his profession and Portland and what he thinks about topics you may not find in articles about him.
And as some background, my past quarterly Beerchaser-of-the-Quarter awards have gone to athletes, military heroes, authors, academicians – most of whom I have met, but not all – for example, the crew of the USS Constitution for their 1798 war cruise. The person or group “honored” may or may not have anything to do with beer or bars.
Such is the case with Dwight, who told me that he never drinks. “I used to spend a lot of time in Frank Peters’ Grand Café and the Peters’ Inn downtown when I worked for the Oregon Journal and The Oregonian, because colleagues would congregate there into the wee hours.”
Although I was well aware of who he was based on his thirty + years as a columnist for the Oregon Journal, the Oregonian and then as the inaugural editor of the Portland Tribune, I first met Dwight based on a failed bid to have lunch with him as part of a benefit in 2010 which radio station 750 -The Game, was sponsoring to help victims of the terrible earthquake in Haiti. He was then co-host of the morning show with Chad Doing and Antonio Harvey.
I bid $75 and left on a business trip to Chicago. Upon returning, I called and learned the bad news, but decided not to give up. I enjoyed his insightful columns and his candid conversation on the air about everything from the Blazers to why Portland does not have a Major League baseball team.
So I got his e-mail address and told him that although my bid didn’t make the cut, I would donate a similar amount in his name if he joined me for lunch. After all, a mid-60’s Cleveland grad and a 1966 Oregon City High School grad might have some common interests. His response was, “You don’t have to do that, I’d be happy to meet you for lunch.”
From my perspective, that lunch was great – we talked about high school sports figures from that era – Dwight had a great story about facing Wayne Twitchell – the 6’5″ 1966 Wilson High grad who was a fast-balling right-handed pitcher and basketball player for the Trojans. (It involves being the last batter to face him when Twitchell threw a no-hitter.)
Twitchell went on to pitch for five teams during his ten years in the Major Leagues including one All-Star game appearance in 1973.
The Godfather’s anecdotes from working with the icons in sports journalism such as George Pasero, Leo Davis and L.H. Gregory, are fascinating and could fill another book.
About a year passed and a few more lunches and I asked Dwight for a favor. I was working then as the Chief Operating Officer at the Schwabe Williamson & Wyatt law firm. Given a number of high-profile Oregon sports issues at that time and his reputation as a journalist and media personality, I thought our clients would be interested in hearing about his story and opinions about the changing role of the media in sports.
Based on the response from staff when we announced it, we decided to open it to firm personnel as well. Well, our largest conference room which seated about 120 people, was filled to capacity.
Since it was my idea, I was designated to introduce him and his characteristic modesty was typical in my response for information on his background – a two sentence e-mail……That meant I got to do the research and there was no shortage of information since even seven years ago, the search term, “Dwight Jaynes” generated 66,000 hits on Google, including this one by a colleague:
“To call Dwight Jaynes, Oregon’s Godfather of professional sports reporting would not be an exaggeration. Dwight has sports – and Oregon – in his blood…..and also in his resume.”
In addition to his resume and awards in articles in the Web, there were plenty of opinions on his work since he is known for his candid and sometimes blunt opinions of the actors and organizations involved in Oregon sports. According to an Eggers’ quote in a story he wrote about him in the Tribune, Dwight in his acceptance speech at the Oregon Sports Hall of Fame induction stated: “During my career, I’ve offended just about everybody……I’ve had the opportunity and I’ve taken advantage of it.”
For example, in a 2001 article in Willamette Week about his new job as founding Editor of the Tribune, two on-line commenters lamented:
“Dang, I’ll miss Dwight. He’s a great journalist and columnist. He always points out the not so obvious, even if it reveals the painful truth.”
“I hope he surfaces soon so he can do what he does best – observe, research and report.”
To which another reader – a guy named Bob, who obviously didn’t like some of his opinions, responded:
“Good riddance. Jaynes sucks…..!”
Well The Godfather was supposed to speak for about 45 minutes at Schwabe that day, but because of the reaction of the audience and considerable number of follow-up questions, he finally was able to get out of there for an interview with Phil Knight at Nike that afternoon after at least and hour and one-quarter. (And based on the reactions of both clients, attorneys and staff, I was a hero for suggesting the idea for which his honorarium was a bottle of wine…..)
Below are the highlights of our conversation at the Kingston:
Beerchaser: Okay, let’s get this one resolved early on – How did you get the moniker, “The Godfather,” which seems to be used more these days than “Dwight”?
Godfather: It was about ten years ago when I was working at 95.5 The Game, on the morning show with Chad Doing. Gavin Dawson, who was the host and now works at CBS radio in Dallas, came up with the label, but initially I didn’t like it. My brother, however, who has pretty good instincts, told me to “ride it out” and that it was working. It stuck.
Beerchaser: You worked with a lot of Northwest legends in sports writing. Who was the best and who was your favorite?
Godfather: Leo Davis was the best followed closely by Ken Wheeler, who helped me a lot. Bob Robinson was the best basketball writer and could remember the score of every game he covered.
And writing for the Oregonian in those days was great. We covered sports and the news very well. I was able to travel to every major sporting event that I wanted to cover. (Beerchaser comment: Those days are unfortunately gone and on one of the four days of the week a subscriber can get home delivery of The Oregonian, the delivery person almost needs to tie a rock to the paper to have enough bulk to throw it…..)
Beerchaser: You are known for your candor in writing and broadcasting and willingness to take a position where most of the younger crew throw “softballs” and hold back criticism, evidently to preserve relationships and sources. An example was your criticism of Mo Cheeks when he coached the Blazers and you were one of the few, if only Portland writers, pointing out his deficiencies as a coach. Comment on this.
Godfather: “Telling it like it is,” didn’t used to be rare as is the case now. I’ve been around long enough, where it’s expected. We never used to be friends with the people we covered and now that’s not the case with many in the profession. The people we covered weren’t our friends for obvious reasons.
In some respects, it’s like the current relationships on the field or on the court. In fact, I have seen members of the opposite NBA team go over and try to calm down an opposing player when he objects to a call to prevent his opponent from getting a technical and a fine. That’s a change from the past. (Beerchaser comment: Yeah remember Bill Laimbeer and the Detroit Pistons playing the Trailblazers….)
Beerchaser: What’s your favorite sport to cover?
Beerchaser: What was your best interview and some of the most memorable? The worst?
Godfather: Charles Barkley for “Postin Up” (http://www.csnnw.com/dwight-jaynesposting-brand-new-show) was my favorite and the best. He’s an amazing guy. (We didn’t get to broadcast if for a long time after it occurred because of the delay in getting his waiver signed and returned….) Magic Johnson and Carl Malone were also great to interview.
The worst was Pistol Pete Maravich early in his professional career with the New Orleans Jazz. (I then was able to relate my own Pistol Pete story of seeing him after standing in line all night outside Gill Coliseum in Corvallis when LSU played the Beavers on December 22, 1969.)
“It was basketball, Maravich style, replete with 45 personal fouls, seven technical fouls, 68 free-throw attempts, a fight, a player ejection and a crowd of 10,388 captivated by it all.”
Legendary ref, Frank Buckiewicz, officiated and when the fight between LSU’s forward, Lou Sanders and the Beavs guard, Vince Fritz, started, OSU’s Football Coach, Dee Andros – The Great Pumpkin – came flying out of the stands to try to break it up. https://www.thefreelibrary.com/Classic+basketball+bout.-a0156085283
Beerchaser: Your favorite and most respected coaches?
Godfather: My favorite coach was my Cleveland High baseball coach, Jack Dunn, who is 86 and still lives in Portland. http://portlandtribune.com/bnw/21-news/195802-home-run-hero-jack-dunn.
Jack Ramsey was not only a superb and unique coach, but a Renaissance Man and amazing human being. When the Trailblazers were in New York, Jack would take in a Broadway play(s) whenever he could.
Mouse Davis, the great Portland State Football coach, also rates very highly based on the breadth of his career and his record – not only did he play football, but his outstanding coaching record in high school (Hillsboro, Sunset and Milwaukie: 79-29 combined record including a State Championship at Hillsboro), college at PSU and Hawaii, and the pros (World League of American Football, the US Football League, Arena Football League, NFL and Canadian Football League). Beerchaser comment: In fact, speaking of Godfathers, “Davis is now widely regarded as the ‘godfather’ of the run and shoot offense.” – Wikipedia
Beerchaser: I know that baseball seems to be your favorite sport. Not only have you covered it, but you also played it at Cleveland, helped coach at PSU and worked for the Portland Beavers in their heyday. Give us some stream of consciousness thoughts about baseball.
Godfather: Some people say, “It’s an old man’s sport,” but it’s big money and very successful on TV. It’s really one of the last pro sports that most millennials can affordably attend. Besides, it’s a spectator sport where you can both watch and also interact and have a good conversation with the people you’re there with. For example, going to a minor league game at the Hillsboro ballpark where the Hillsboro Hops play is a wonderful experience.
Portland should have a major league baseball team, but nobody wants to stand up and be an owner. (Dwight has also talked in some of our previous lunches about the failure of the City of Portland to show leadership in bringing a major league team to the Rose City.) The City will not build an acceptable facility like the municipalities who have teams. That also raised another issue on which he has a strong opinion: “The Memorial Coliseum should be torn down or recycled to create a new facility. It is not workable as an arena.”
Beerchaser: Tell us about your family.
Godfather: My son, Will, is a law enforcement officer for the National Park Service at Great Smokey National Park and his wife, Molly, also works there for the National Park Service.
My daughter, Elizabeth Kulp, lives in Indiana, is raising three kids and is the owner of a small business. Unfortunately, I don’t get to see them as often as I would like.
Beerchaser: You’ve collaboratively written two successful books. In fact, I checked, and you can still get them at Amazon and on the “sale” table at Powell’s – albeit at a pretty cheap price…..! Tell us about them and any more in the pipeline?
Against the World: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Portland Trail Blazers Chase for the NBA Championship – November, 1992 (Co-authored by Kerry Eggers)