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John McClain, Legendary Houston Chronicle Sportswriter, Announces Retirement

For someone retiring, McClain plans to remain a prominent voice in the Houston sports scene through writing, radio, and Twitter.

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The term “end of an era” is surely overused — and probably misused, in many cases where it isn’t really suitable. But for John McClain retiring from the Houston Chronicle after 47 years at the paper, is there any other term that applies?

The man is an institution in Houston sports and is known throughout the country as an authoritative voice and trusted opinion on the scene, especially in regards to the Houston Texans and the NFL.

McClain announced his retirement on Thursday in a farewell column to Chronicle readers. With the four years he worked at the Waco Tribune-Herald while a student at Baylor, that makes a 51-year career in sportswriting, truly an achievement worthy of applause.

But rather than just take a victory lap and make that column all about himself, McClain generously thanks everyone who meant something to his career, fellow writers, editors, radio hosts, program directors, coaches, players, executives, and public relations directors.

His final pieces for the paper/website will be a mailbag column on Friday for Texas Sports Nation, the Chronicle’s vertical for premium sports content, and a Sunday column looking back on the 10 stories he remembers best from his career covering football in Houston.

Yet for someone retiring, McClain apparently plans to remain a prominent voice in the Houston sports scene. If you enjoy talking sports, it’s difficult to get it out of your blood. As he explained in his column, he’ll still contribute to the Chronicle when needed, as recently retired Dale Robertson and David Barron have also done.

McClain changed with the times to remain a vital voice. And he’ll continue to do so by providing commentary on the Texans and Astros on Twitter. And he’ll keep making weekly appearances on radio shows throughout the country, including Houston’s Sports Radio 610, Knoxville’s WNML, Las Vegas’ Raider Nation Radio KRLV 920, and Outkick 360.s

For more insight on what impact McClain made with Houston sports fans and the community, please read Brian T. Smith’s column on his colleague, with whom he worked on the Texans beat for two seasons. McClain often signed autographs for fans. Some showed appreciation for his work by paying for his meals.

“Some are lazy, entitled or take a special job for granted,” Smith writes. “McClain was the exact opposite of that. He knew how lucky he was and passed his fortune forward.”

Sports fans in Houston and throughout the country – on radio, podcasts, and Twitter — have had the great fortune of enjoying his work, knowing that they’d get an informed opinion with an entertaining accompanying dose of humor. Sports are supposed to be fun and John McClain showed that. Now he’s taking a much-deserved bow.

Sports Online

Washington Post Reporter Sally Jenkins Details Jerry Jones Reporting to Dan Le Batard

“We just started to research to ask him questions about it and we came across that photo.”

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A report from The Washington Post that featured a photo of Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones witnessing the controversial integration of North Little Rock High School in 1957 caused a stir late last week, and one of the reporters on the project, Sally Jenkins, detailed how it came to be to Dan Le Batard Monday.

“It was part of a larger project,” Jenkins said of the discovery of the photo. “We came across this photo of Jones. It’s at the start of the school year at North Little Rock High School. He’s on the cusp of his 15th birthday and he’s very clearly identifiable in the photo, which ran on the front page of The New York Times in 1957 because Little Rock was undergoing a real crisis of desegregating it’s schools to the the point that (President Dwight D.) Eisenhower had to send the 101st Airborne into Little Rock to quell violence over black kids trying to go to white schools.

“We knew that Jerry Jones had witness — or at least lived through — a tough civil rights era in Little Rock, and we wanted to talk to him about that. We just started to research it to ask him questions about it and we came across that photo.”

The Washington Post debuted a nine-part series entitled “Blackout” that dove into why there are not more minority head coaches in the NFL. They asked every NFL owner for an interview for the project, but Jones was the only one to agree.

Stugotz asked Jenkins if it was fair to judge someone from a photo taken of them while they were a child, referring to some of the media backlish pushed towards Jones because of the photo.

“Of course not,” Jenkins said. “What is fair is to ask him about what he witnessed, ask him what he experienced, ask him how his views may have changed, or if they did change at all, ask him how he has evolved on issues of social justice or racial justice. And the fact is he has evolved, particularly recently. He started out as a real hard-liner on the Colin Kaepernick situation. At one point, Jerry Jones said ‘The Dallas Cowboys will stand for the anthem and tow the line’, and he’s really softened on that.”

She later conceded the answers Jones provided won’t satisfy everyone, and said there are legitimate questions about his positioning in the photograph, noting the Little Rock Six were spit on, and had the n-word shouted at them from those standing on the steps where Jones was located.

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Sports Online

Mike Francesa: George Steinbrenner’s Idea to Put Mike and The Mad Dog On YES Network

“It was George’s idea. So give him credit for it. He wanted Mike and The Mad Dog as part of the CBS Radio contract, and we were.”

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Mike and The Mad Dog is often cited as one of, if not the, best sports radio shows of all time. The show saw an expanded reach with its partnership with the YES Network beginning in 2002. During his podcast Tuesday, Mike Francesa gave all the credit to the simulcast hitting the air on YES Network to the late Yankees owner George Steinbrenner.

“It was George Steinbrenner that came up with the idea of Mike and The Mad Dog being on the YES Network. No one else,” Francesa said.

“They came to us when they were negotiating a new radio deal with him and they said ‘Hey, we need a quick answer on this. Would you guys want to be on the YES Network every day, simulcasting? You know what Imus is doing with MSNBC? We wanna do it with you guys, but we need a very quick answer’.”

Francesa said the show airing on YES Network was a sticking point for the Yankees in negotiations with CBS Radio to continue airing the franchise’s broadcasts.

“Our first deal with them were not for a lot of money. Our later deals with them were for a very significant amount of money. But it was George’s idea. So give him credit for it. He wanted Mike and The Mad Dog as part of the CBS Radio contract, and we were. Our joining the YES Network was part of the CBS Radio contract.”

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Sports Online

Dave Portnoy Reveals Back-And-Forth With New York Times Reporter Who Claimed He ‘Did Not Provide Answers’

“You waited till (sic) your hit piece was done and now you just need to say you gave me a fair chance to speak even though you have no interest in the truth and your article is already written”.

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A story from The New York Times centered around “aging casino company” — Penn National Gaming — and its relationship with “degenerate gambler” — Barstool Sports founder Dave Portnoy — caught the eye of the face of the online outlet after the claim that he “didn’t provide answers”.

In the story, Steel claims “Penn and Barstool executives did not respond to repeated messages. Mr. Portnoy did not provide answers.” Portnoy brought the receipts to Twitter with a video of all of the correspondence he had with Times writer Emily Steel.

The alleged conversation takes place sporadically from May through November, with Portnoy offering to meet face-to-face with Steel for an interview that is mutually audio and video recorded, which Steel declines. She offered to meet Portnoy in New York for an audio recorded interview, which he declined, saying the interview needed to take place in Miami, because “I’m not running around to accommodate you at the 11th hour.”

He added “You waited till (sic) your hit piece was done and now you just need to say you gave me a fair chance to speak even though you have no interest in the truth and your article is already written”.

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