An entire generation of sports fans in Tucson has grown up with Simpson's commentary during his 32 years in the Old Pueblo.
"It's been fun, but it's the friends you make along the way, not the scores and numbers, that stand out for me," Simpson said. "Numbers never meant that much to me. It's the individual efforts I remember."
These individual efforts occurred in some unlikely places. He was moved by the performance of a Sri Lankan swimmer in the 1984 Olympics.
"That young man's specialty was in another sport. He was terrible in the pool, and so far behind that by the last lap, he had the pool to himself," Simpson said. "When he finally finished, the crowd gave him a standing ovation."
Or the Jamaican runner.
"There were 20 guys running the 400 meters. This runner takes two steps and pops a hamstring. He's in tremendous pain," Simpson recalled. "But he gets back up, runs the race and finishes fourth."
On a local scale, he remembers fondly the performance of the 1980 UA baseball team en route to its College World Series victory.
"They were dead last at the halfway point of the season, and then in the second half refused to lose," Simpson said.
He was amazed with the perseverance of the 1997 UA men's basketball team during its title run through the NCAA Tournament.
"After they lost in the final weekend of the regular season in the Bay Area, I told (Tucson Citizen basketball beat writer) Steve Rivera that I didn't think they were going to get into the tournament," Simpson said. "Then when they did, in the first round, they were losing to South Alabama by 12 with three minutes left. I was already writing my column--first-round flameout--and then when they came back and won that game, from there, you just never knew."
Clearly, he's seen countless changes in the industry. "When I started in this business, there were 16 teams in Major League Baseball, and they were all east of the Mississippi River. There were eight teams in the NBA."
There have also been changes in those who cover sports, a collective group for which he has the highest regard.
"It's a new generation of sportswriters who are more dedicated to their craft. They know more about the game and the people who play it. Guys like Steve Rivera, (Arizona Daily Star basketball beat writer) Bruce Pascoe (Tucson Citizen football beat writer), John Moredich--my gosh, nobody works harder than him. (Tucson Citizen general-assignment sports reporter) Anthony Gimino (who may be the heir apparent to Simpson's columnist position), they're better writers, and they work harder. (Arizona Daily Star sports columnist) Greg Hansen is a great writer."
Simpson will conclude his full-time duties with the Citizen Dec. 22.
TV WEATHER CAROUSEL CONTINUES TO TURNLet's review.
Erin Christiansen was formerly employed by KOLD Channel 13. Now she's the chief meteorologist at KGUN Channel 9, where she will handle her responsibilities and those of the departed Jeff James, whose vacancy will not be filled.
So it seems only fair that Cuyler Diggs, once employed at KGUN, would travel to the northwest side to undertake weather duties for KOLD. Diggs made his first appearance on the CBS affiliate last week.
"When Erin came over, I kind of ran out of room, and being a freelancer, that left me without a chair to sit in, so KOLD got wind of that and invited me to do some freelance work for them," said Diggs. "I think they're looking for a morning person to replace Erin, and I told them I'd help them out a little bit until they found that person. I don't want a morning position. I've been there, done that, and I don't want to do it again."
In addition to his freelance weather duties, Diggs and his wife operate Roadrunner Business Creations, a company that handles custom printing for businesses.
Aaron Pickering is part of the KOLD weather crew as well, along with lead man Chuck George. At last look, Jimmy Stewart was still top dog at KVOA Channel 4.
KOLD MAKES SPORTS ADDITIONDamien Alameda took Interstate 10 from El Paso, Texas, to lock down the No. 2 sports position at KOLD, thus ending the search for Arran Andersen's replacement. Prior to his weekend sports stint in El Paso, Alameda was employed as a reporter in San Jose, Calif.
FOOTBALL YEARBOOK SLATED FOR AUGUST RELEASEBrad Allis, my cohort on the UA football pregame and postgame radio broadcasts on KCUB AM 1290 (The Source), will helm a preseason football yearbook slated to hit newsstands prior to Arizona's Sept. 2 season opener against Brigham Young University.
Allis spent four years as the editor of Cat Tracks and Wildcat Insider Magazine prior to their bankruptcy in October. In the meantime, he has continued operation of a UA sports Web site, WildcatInsider.com. Las Vegas investor James Clark is backing the Wildcat Sports Report 2006 Football Yearbook venture.
"We fill a niche in the marketplace for the die-hard Wildcat fan who enjoys reading the information in the daily newspaper, but would like expanded coverage, and that's what a magazine like this does," Allis said.
If it's successful, look for a 10-issue-a-year magazine to launch in October. Football fans can go to Wildcatinsider.com for more info.