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Guest Opinion: A career in sports journalism in the rearview mirror

 

Question: What happens when you throw a clock out the window? Answer: Time flies. Yes, it's an old joke. But, it's true, and you don't have to throw anything, anywhere, to have time fly. It does that on its own.

Which brings us to the next question. What happened to the past 49 years? That isn't as easily answered. What happened to a young sportswriter's career that began on a football field in Sunnyvale in 1967 and ended on a baseball field in San Jose in 2016? That's nearly five decades, a half-century. For those family members and friends we lost at a young age, that's a lifetime.

When those first words on that first notepad were written about that first football game (note: Homestead against first-year Peterson High), we didn't have much of what we have now. There were no cell phones (rotaries were still the rage), no computers (remember typewriters and pencils?), no fax machines, no flat-screen televisions (we got our first color TV in 1964, one that was more furniture than anything else), no electric cars, no Wi-Fi or Instagram or Twitter or Google or Yahoo.

Also missing in those days were girls' sports. There were gym classes for all, but the playing field was decidedly absent of girls in 1967. The first-ever Central Coast Section Championships for girls didn't arrive until 1974, when swimming made a splash and track and field burst out of the blocks. Today, everybody plays.

The coaching scene also was different in the late 1960s. The men (there were no female coaches then) who guided a team's fortunes were probably some you had as classroom teachers. They were on-campus coaches, something we see fewer of these days.

Around the world in 1967, 475,000 American troops were serving in Vietnam. Boxer Muhammad Ali (whom we lost last weekend at age 74) was stripped of his boxing world championship for refusing to be inducted into the U.S. Army. Fashion was about Twiggy and mini skirts were the rage, the average income per year was $7,300, a gallon of gas was 33 cents, movie tickets were $1.25 and the average cost of a new car was $2,750.

My, how times (and prices) have changed.

The Stanford University football team was 5-5 in 1967 under John Ralston while the San Francisco 49ers were 7-7 under Jack Christiansen (who later would coach on The Farm). Both teams would eventually have new stadiums and head in different directions -- Stanford finishing 12-2 in 2015 and the Niners 5-11. This is mentioned only because both have achieved great success over the past 49 years, and this career has taken me into both locker rooms and encounters with historic folks like Bill Walsh and O.J. Simpson while enjoying such events as the Rose Bowl and Super Bowl.

The rise of Stanford's athletic programs has been quite remarkable on all fronts. The football team is now a national power, and women's basketball remains among the best in the country. Every team continues to attract the nation's best athletes. Attending Tiger Woods' first press conference at Stanford was remarkable because no athlete in the history of the school ever got his own event like that prior to competing for the Indians or Cardinal.

Since 1967, Stanford has won 100 of its 109 NCAA team championships and had 12 different head football coaches. I've witnessed the start and finish of Dick Gould's legendary tennis coaching career and 40 of the 41 years that Mark Marquess will have coached in baseball when he retires in 2017.

At the high school level, the past 49 years have seen many historic achievements by local athletes and teams. The state championships by the Palo Alto football and girls' volleyball teams just weeks apart in 2010 remains as the most remarkable season to have covered high school sports. Watching Jeremy Lin lead the Paly boys to a state basketball crown in 2006 ranks up there, as well, as does the Vikings' first state hoops crown in 1993. That title bridged two careers for me -- the end of 25-plus years at the Palo Alto Times (later the Peninsula Times Tribune) and the start of 23-plus years at the Palo Alto Weekly.

Personally, the past 49 years have included a 39-year marriage to a wonderful wife, two outstanding children who are now grown adults, and now three amazing grandchildren -- the latest of whom arrived just last week.

A question was posed recently: What are you most proud of during your 49-year career? While there is not enough space to get into too many specific details, here's the CliffsNotes version:

Having a great family. Being surrounded by wonderful friends. Working alongside excellent writers, editors, designers and photographers. Having a chance to create lasting relationships with outstanding coaches at Stanford and at the local high schools. Spending time interviewing talented, young athletes -- some of whom went on to win Olympic medals, earn a paycheck in professional sports or become successful in their everyday adult lives. Doing the right thing, making a difference and earning the respect of others. And, being around long enough to follow a few athletes from their days in high school to college, the pros and into retirement. Or to see three generations of the same family either coach or compete.

That's a lot of time invested, all of which is now in the rearview mirror. Those memories will remain, but now it's time to look ahead to other things because the clock on the wall is ticking.

As that famed philosopher Dr. Seuss once said: "How did it get so late so soon? It's night before it's afternoon. December is here before it's June. My goodness how the time has flewn. How did it get so late so soon?"

Time flies, indeed.

---

Follow the Palo Alto Weekly/Palo Alto Online on Twitter @PaloAltoWeekly and Facebook for breaking news, local events, photos, videos and more.

Sports Editor Keith Peters marked the end of his career as a journalist with the June 10 edition of the Palo Alto Weekly.

Comments

Like this comment
Posted by Frank Bravo
director of IT, Embarcadero Media and webmaster of Palo Alto Online
on Jun 10, 2016 at 8:55 am

Frank Bravo is a registered user.

Congrats to Keith for his long run serving the sports community. I worked with Keith at the Peninsula Times Tribune and had the honor of being his go-to-designer at the Palo Alto Weekly when we both came after the PTT closed in 1993.

Working with Keith was never boring or dull. He always came up with innovative ways to get the most out of the space he was given in print and, in more recent years, using the internet to further the mission of bring the best local sports coverage to the community.

Keith will be missed at Embarcadero Media, but I'm sure retirement will bring new and exciting adventures!


Like this comment
Posted by Harjanto Sumali
a resident of Stanford
on Jun 10, 2016 at 11:35 am

Congratulations on a fantastic career! 49 years is a great feat!

Working with you was an absolute joy for me. Enjoy your retirement, Keith, you so deserve it!

Thank you for giving me the chance to shoot for you, I always be forever grateful!


Like this comment
Posted by thanks Keith
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 11, 2016 at 8:50 pm

Keith,

thanks for all the great stories and write-ups covering youth sports in Palo Alto. You put the extra effort in to really giving us an insight to the sporting events. Most of us who have kids participating in high school athletics realize this is it for them as they move on in life so we are thrilled to see our kids get some headlines!! Special memories thanks to you.


Like this comment
Posted by Thank you
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 12, 2016 at 10:24 am

As a former local high school athlete, I was lucky to have Keith covering our sport. Since graduating, I have continued to enjoy Keith's coverage of the outstanding local athletics teams. Thank you, Keith, for your work; it has been much appreciated!


Like this comment
Posted by Thanks Keith
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 12, 2016 at 11:54 am

Keith has been an incredible resource for Palo Alto athletes and the community at large. Thank you Keith!


Like this comment
Posted by Perkins family
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jun 12, 2016 at 5:36 pm

Keith - you are a hero for sports and you will be surely missed. You have always been more than a sports guy - you have been a friend as well to sooo many. Three years ago we moved to Manila and your stories always brought us back home. God bless you and thank you. The Perkins Family


Like this comment
Posted by a baseball player
a resident of Duveneck School
on Jun 12, 2016 at 11:53 pm

Keith, you covered many of my teams during your career, as well as those of many peers and family members. I only had a chance to meet you a couple times, but you definitely left a lasting impression as a genuine person and talented writer. Thank you so much for bringing life to the events and sharing the stories of our childhood. There is nothing cooler to an aspiring sports star, no matter in elementary school or college, than getting their name in the paper. Thanks, and I will hopefully catch you around town someday.


Like this comment
Posted by Concerned Coach
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 13, 2016 at 3:33 pm

Concerned Coach is a registered user.

Keith Peters reached the top of his profession and also went out on his own terms I'm sure. He ranks up there with other great sports writers like Leonard Koppett - Jack Bluth - John Horgan and only a hand-ful of others.

Thank you Keith and congrats on the newest grand-child.


Like this comment
Posted by Karen Hickey
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 13, 2016 at 8:51 pm

Keith,

Thanks so much for sharing your story. I'm glad that I got to meet you, and that my son did as well. I always admired your dedication to covering the high school sports and athletes. I hope you really enjoy your retirement!

Best,

Karen


Like this comment
Posted by Jeff Frick
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 14, 2016 at 6:43 am

Keith,
Thank you for all you've done for the kids, and our community. As mentioned, it's a very special moment to see one's name or photo in the local newspaper (and even more so for parents and grandparents), and you've covered them all, so well, for decades. Our schools are such a big part of what makes Palo Alto, Palo Alto, and sports are activity that crosses lines, & brings everyone together to cheer side by side. The 2010 season, complete with the downtown Parade and Rally, was a great example.
Best to you on your next adventure, and thanks again.
Take Care,
Jeff


Like this comment
Posted by Cubberley HS '64
a resident of Terman Middle School
on Aug 30, 2016 at 7:40 pm

Thanks Keith for all you have done. Proud to be from Palo Alto with people like you !


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