The Goal Line

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Sherrod does not offer advice to his young peers, does not seek them out and hand out brochures on How to Write a Sports Column. When Tim Cowlishaw took over for Galloway last year, the longtime Morning News beat writer went in and asked Sherrod if he had any advice. Sherrod responded: "If I am asked." According to Sherrod, that was the end of the conversation: Cowlishaw never asked, so Sherrod never offered.

But those who know him best insist Sherrod is being neither standoffish nor arrogant. He is, Galloway insists, a quiet and shy man who was "never comfortable with being famous, which, I believe, is the nicest thing I can say about anybody." Old friend and colleague Frank Luksa, whose own writing should be taught to all English-speakers, says Sherrod prefers the company of old friends and cold beers. Under those circumstances, there is no better storyteller in the whole world.

"Blackie's a man who always finds the right word, and every time he sits down to write a column, he finds 800 or 900 of the right words," Luksa says. "Here was the epitome of style, humor, and frequently a very subtle point...You feel better after reading Blackie."

If there's a young generation out there that barely knows the name Blackie Sherrod, perhaps it's the fault of a newspaper that never knew what to do with him, never celebrated its finest writer, and let him give up his column without a fight. Or maybe Sherrod is to blame, having so little ego that he didn't feel the need to keep his name in spotlights forever. Either way, it's a shame.

But do not tell him that. He doesn't take compliments well. Do not, for instance, tell him that reading one of his columns is like watching a carpenter build a cathedral. That doesn't go over too well.

"I never thought of it that way," he says, hacking up a laugh. "I thought about getting through that sumbitch so I could go get a beer with the guys." Still absolute greatness.

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Robert Wilonsky
Contact: Robert Wilonsky