Merry Christmas, with some resurrected stories
Christmas Eve 1996 arrived, and I needed a column for the next day. It was a little light in the Oklahoma sporting arena. The OU football team stunk. The OSU football team, too. Kelvin Sampson’s Sooners were OK, but Eddie Sutton’s basketball team was en route to his worst Cowboy season. And the NBA wasn’t even a gleam in our eye.
I decided to try something new. A few years earlier, I had read a Christmas Day column by the Dallas Morning News’ Frank Luksa, about the triumphant life of Pettis Norman, the Dallas Cowboy tight end from the early 1970s. Luksa wrote about Norman’s hardscrabble upbringing, how he overcame poverty and all kinds of obstacles to become not just a successful athlete, but a successful man and a respected a citizen.
But Luksa’s curveball was not telling us who he was writing about until the very last line of his column. He ended the piece by saying, “Merry Christmas, to Pettis Norman.”
I filed that away and often thought about doing something similar. And so in 1996, needing a column idea, I ventured into my library, such as it was in those days, and went through my books. I found four Christmas stories from my biographies, fashioned them into short pieces, four or five inches each, and didn’t tell readers who I was writing about until the last line of each segment.
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