For a good 12 out of my 17 years at The Seattle Times, I felt total hatred for our arch-enemies, the Post-Intelligencer. It was, I admit, my way of generating the competitive juices to engage in the daily dance of newspaper journalism and, I understand, it is not rare for the industry. I took that competitive hatred to new levels, however, generally refusing to socialize with my colleagues on the road, the way it was done in city after city across the country.
The five-year gap in my streak of “total hatred” for the opposition is the fault of Jim Moore, today one of my dearest friends and the “Go 2 Guy” columnist for the dearly departed P-I and now the renewed digital version, seattlepi.com. I fully intended to hate Jim, as I had his predecessors Kenneth Richardson, Carter Cromwell and Art Thiel. But anyone who has met him will agree that he is one of mankind’s thoroughly un-hatable members. He is the way he comes off in his column — an irreverent, say-first, think-later, life-loving carouser with a heart of gold and the quickest of any person I’ve ever met to explode with laughter and force you to do the same.
If Jim’s colleagues were people I loved to hate, he was the exception that I hated to love.
Jim Moore is the reason for the empty sadness I feel today, something I last felt almost a year ago when another of my best friends, Stephan Miller, was killed in a truly tragic accident with a movie-star bear. I think about Stephan every day and miss him terribly. Though the P-I will live on via the Internet, it won’t be the same.
So I will miss the P-I, too, as I have missed hating it the past, oh, 15 years or so — those five years, plus the 10 since I left newspapering for the Web.
It has required every bit of those 15 years to completely de-program me. During that time, I’ve come to respect Thiel as the most erudite and gifted writer at any newspaper in the region. Before, I’d dwell on the fury we felt in the Times sports department the day Thiel unhatched a major scoop — David Thompson’s addiction to cocaine and resulting suspension. I was a copy editor then and vowed revenge. I remained on that hunt long enough to realize that Dan Raley has been the kind of bulldog of a sports reporter you wanted on the trail of wrong-doing or ego-mongering. I noticed that the front page of the P-I seemed more relevant to me, as a citizen of the city of Seattle and state of Washington, than my old employer, the Times. The P-I, until the end, maintained the underdog, tilting-at-windmills spirit that used to grip this region, while the Times has come to symbolize the new-money arrogance that is starting to replace it.
And then there is Jim Moore. I laughed out loud — and cried — while searching via Google for a photo to “borrow” for this post. Up came photos of cheerleaders and other “hotties,” of course and any number of bon mots aimed at the University of Washington (Jim is a Coug). Also popping up was Jim’s brilliantly written, first-person (from the dog’s point of view) obituary for his dog, Murphy. I remember flinging a Frisbee with Jim and Murph on a snowy early morning on Queen Anne Hill after Jim had arranged a birthday celebration at a local club. In true Jim Moore fashion, he’d had a cake made with a likeness of Shawn Kemp (the former NBA player of “Reign Man” fame with whom a shared a birthday) and invited all patrons of a local nightclub to share a piece. The guy knows how to throw a party, both in print and in real life.
Our claim to fame was back-to-back, all-night binges — past 5 a.m. in Chicago, then past 5 a.m. in Charlotte, N.C., the next night. We had to cover a game between the SuperSonics and Hornets the morning after (an early start because of a national TV broadcast). The morning after stands out for two things — Kendall Gill wept as we interviewed him about returning to face his old team and, earlier, Jim was eating his breakfast at press row when Gary Payton walked by and called him a “bagel-eating featherduster (actually a word that sounds very much like it).”
I could write a book about Jim and Payton. For some reason, they were the ebony-and-ivory version of oil and water. Payton once called Jim’s hometown, “Van Halen Country,” while swiping at an air guitar. When Payton once said he was just “ballin’,” Moore responded, “You were bowling?” Payton often refused to answer Jim’s questions, but always talked to me. A typical encounter:
Jim: “Got a minute, Gary?”
Jim: “Got a minute for Nellie here?”
Payton: “What’s up, Glenn?”
We both would then get what we needed. There was a night in Phoenix, with Salt ‘n Peppa in tow, that Payton actually softened toward Jim. Payton bought us drinks while we watched him play pool with the hip-hop duo. Jim challenged the NBA star to a game, and offered to bet $500. “I can take him, Nellie,” Jim argued. I responded that Payton, being a professional athlete, probably had the reflexes and acclimation to pressure situations that would grant him a huge advantage. I eventually had to appeal to Payton to refuse the bet, and he agreed. Another night, Payton and Jim had a dust-up, which I missed. “Where were you????” Sam Perkins demanded. Payton and Jim had gotten into an argument because Jim had asked him about an illness, which we all knew Payton hated. After a heated exchange, Jim, in his way, told Payton he had some toothpaste in the corner of his mouth. According to Perkins, he had to catch in mid-swing his teammate’s fist, which had Jim’s face written all over it.
Jim grew up in Redmond studying the P-I and dreaming of covering the Sonics for it, while I grew up in Seattle reading The Times and dreamed of covering the Sonics for that paper. That we would come to hold those very jobs at virtually the same time became a wonderful confluence of dreams come true. That confluence is what I used to think about every time I saw the bright-red P-I vending boxes into which for the longest time I would never think of inserting a quarter or two or three.
Today I will slip some change into a box emblazoned with, “It’s in the P-I,” for the last time. I will take a copy of the historic final edition as homage to Jim Moore and my other fallen colleagues. Then I will take another copy without paying, as one last dig at the newspaper I loved to hate and hated to love.