As Competitors Go—Bisheff Was The Best

By T.J. Simers

I did not agree with a word written by Register sports columnist Steve Bisheff.

But every budding sport writer should study and emulate Bisheff, who was the consummate pros pro.

I hear he died Wednesday and I only wish he could have written his own obit giving me the chance to critique it before he left us. What a wonderful argument that would have made.

I read his final column at the Orange County Register written years ago only because one of his colleagues referred to it so much in his tribute to Bisheff. He covered it all, as Bisheff noted, and what a career it was.

He had a fantastic feel for sports history and was a solid reporter writing as a columnist. And he had lots and lots of opinions giving him the ammunition to survive for more than 40 years as a noted voice in southern California.

He wrote about the Chargers and so did I, but our paths never crossed on the beat. He worked at the Register as did I, but he had retired by the time I made my brief appearance at the newspaper.

But we collided so many times on the same sports stories while I was at the LA Times, and he was a giant. He wasn’t my idea of what a sports columnist should be, and I certainly wasn’t his. But that’s what made the profession so great for so many years, writers offering differing viewpoints with clashing styles and willing to almost come to blows to defend their approaches.

I would never have gone to dinner with Bish, although it would have been a way to make sure I knew where he was and not have to worry about him beating me on a story. He was a super newspaperman.

Bish gave it everything he had when writing a sports column, and while I would have cut 12 inches out of most of his work, he would have scoffed at that. He was after all, a staunch believer in telling the story, the whole story no matter how boring I might have considered it,

He wrote often like a serious sports fan, and while some might consider him old school because of that, that was a mighty fine school. He cared, he showed up in person to learn more about what he was writing and then offered an educated opinion.

He was also a USC fan, and so he had his faults.

But he might have been the most timeliest columnist in southern California, and I wish he was here to tell me if “most timeliest” makes any sense. But I know this, if USC won a big game, readers woke up knowing they would learn more by reading Bish.

Too often now we get columnists rifting from home about things wandering around in their own heads rather than seeing up close and personal what is happening in the sports world. If it just happened, Bish would have something to say about it. He was dependable; newspapers no longer are and I wonder if Bish might have finally agreed with me on something?

I never met his family as Bish and I were really competitors and that’s how it worked for the most part in our profession. But I’m sure it’s an outstanding and loving family knowing how solid he was as a pro and a competitor.

I’m also sure he left them a million great memories to relive, so many written words to ponder again and maybe even Pete Carroll’s explanation why he didn’t have Regie Bush on the field on fourth down against Texas.

I’d like to see how Bish, the USC honk, handled that, and you know what I’m really saying: The sports world was a better place with Bisheff in it.

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