View Count: 316 |  Publish Date: April 07, 2014
Dick Jerardi, our Hall of Famer
MIKE KERN, Daily News Staff Writer kernm@phillynews.comPosted: Monday, April 7, 2014, 12:16 AM
DICK JERARDI - or DJ, as he is more simply known to many - came to the Daily News nearly three decades ago. He came from his native Baltimore, where as a youngster he once hitchhiked a ride from John Unitas. Which is like a Philly kid getting picked up by Wilt. As is the case with most DJ stories (he was at the 1972 U.S.-Soviet Union Olympic gold-medal basketball game in Munich while in the Army), you cant make that up. And thats the uniqueness of him. He comes with no pretenses. What you see is what there is.
And thats always been plenty good enough.
As we found out as part of our long-running Daily News Live show on Comcast SportsNet, you can give DJ a total makeover but hes still DJ. No haircut or new suit or even a manicure is going to change him. But it made for must-see TV. Just as anything he writes is must-read. Some of the priorities in the newspaper business have shifted over the years. Yet as hes often told me, he was brought here by then-sports editor Mike Rathet for one reason: to write good stories. He hasnt disappointed. He came here to be our horse-racing guy, to coincide with Garden State Parks reopening. But it didnt take him long to become much more than that, the most prominent of which was covering college hoops. I dont know whos done it any better.
On a staff thats been littered with memorable talents, DJ didnt take a backseat to anyone, although Im not sure he ever thought of himself that way. Hes just doing his job, and doing it well. And apparently some other folks have noticed, because this morning in Dallas, at the U.S. Basketball Writers Association of Americas annual Final Four breakfast, Dick Jerardi will be inducted into that organizations Hall of Fame. It was merely a matter of when. A former DNer, Dana ONeil, who has moved on to, will make the presentation as the USBWAs incoming president. Im sure DJ wouldnt want it any other way. More coverageWATCH: Jerardi: Beware of the Kentucky WildcatsFull 2014 NCAA Bracket POLL: Which freshman should the 76ers target?Buy local college sports tickets Latest college sports videos
What Im not as certain of is whether he saw the need to get any additions to his wardrobe for the occasion. My sense is probably not. Yo dog, as he might point out, its all good. Hope he at least packed one of those John Chaney Armani ties from one of our classic Christmas Eve DNLs. It would be fitting, considering it was DJ who coined Chaneys Goongate incident. Or maybe because John dubbed him as the Digit in his Digit and the Midget twosome. Care to guess who was the little one?
By the way, a late rumor had DJ going to the original Neiman Marcus because he forgot to pack an extra pair of pants. Can only imagine what the salesperson might have to say about that fitting.
Ive had the privilege of getting to know DJ as a colleague and a friend. Hes never let me down in either capacity. He once gave me one of the best pieces of advice Ive ever received: Write like I talk. It took a while to sink in, but I think I finally got it. He was telling me to just be me. Because hes never been anything but himself. And it shows.
The best compliment I can give him is that hes the one byline that I will always go to first. And the one Ill never skip. I dont care if hes writing about cricket. I have little doubt it would still be interesting, well-thought-out, different. Because he doesnt know any other way. Hes one of the few writers who, when Im finished reading his story, I wish there was more. Hes not afraid to take on an issue, express an opinion, explain what happened. If youre looking for by-the-book, look elsewhere. But if you want to be entertained and enlightened, keep reading. Hes worth the dollar all by himself. If I only had a buck for every time Ive finished one of his game stories and wondered why I couldnt come up with something that flowing and insightful. Or one for every time Ive reread him, sometimes more than once, because it was that worthy. And the DJ you get on the printed page is the same DJ you get in person.
Youve got your images, Ive got mine. Like the time at the Final Four in Charlotte when I was trying to figure out a way to send home a bunch of bulky souvenir sweatshirts before I headed to the Masters. DJ said no problem. He got his duffel bag, which was the only piece of luggage he brought with him other than his computer, and stuffed them all in. What problem? Or the time he took me to my first Steak and Shake in Indianapolis, after we couldnt get into St. Elmos Steakhouse. Or the time he taught an annoying Arizona fan a lesson or two at our annual Final Four media poker game. And proclaimed as only he can when the guy went broke, Gone. Or the time he and his 40-handicap made an impossible birdie putt with a miniature-golf putter at an outing on a big-boy course and acted like he did that all the time. Then, a few holes later, he did it again. Or the time when his pick, Da Hoss, won his race at long odds at the Breeders Cup and I asked him how hed done and he said, I was the bank. Or the time he was covering a Villanova game for me at Rutgers on deadline and Rutgers rallied from way back to win on a four-point play at the buzzer, and he said, The only thing Id written that I could save was Piscataway.
My only regret is that I couldnt be down there to celebrate this moment with him. But Ill be on a plane for Augusta. At least Ill get to read his coverage of the national-title game tomorrow. I cant wait. Yo dog, you had me at Piscataway.
On Twitter: @mikekerndn
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