Like other Dan Jenkins fans mourning his death last week at age 90, I discovered him in childhood.
Sports Illustrated was one of the many magazines that arrived in our home. As a boy whose love for sports fused with a love for words, I couldn't wait for Thursday, when I'd come home from school to find SI on the counter.
While SI dazzled me with color photographs of heroes like Muhammad Ali, Joe Namath and Arnold Palmer and had a stellar lineup of writers, I treasured most Jenkins' stories on football and golf. While he captured spectacle and drama, he also wrote with a subversive irreverence that made me think I was in on the joke, that it was really just a game.
I never stopped reading him. He was one of the first writers I loved, and I've loved his work into old age.
His daughter, Sally, a stellar sports columnist for the Washington Post, said in a lovely tribute that an almost finished novel was left on her father's desk in Fort Worth. He kept writing until the very end.
While in later life he loved playing the curmudgeon, his writing never lost the joy that touched a young boy's heart.
Reading his memoirs of growing up on the ragged public courses in Fort Worth, I remembered my boyhood playing golf at Baton Rouge's nine-hole City Park, believing it August National. His recollections of playing with Ben Hogan at Colonial Country Club, of watching Arnold Palmer win the Open at Cherry Hills, rekindled my love for the old Scottish game.
Whenever I sit down at a keyboard, or put a pen to paper, Dan Jenkins is one of those spirits sitting beside me. As the tributes to him showed, countless others grew up feeling the same.