When I write about sports people I almost feel they are characters I’m putting in a book. Of course, they are real people. But I write about them in words, translate them into my words. And they become characters in my writing — ongoing characters.

I’ve been sitting around the house today asking myself who are the greatest personalities I’ve written about — the best characters I come back to again and again. And off the top of my head I come up with this.

In a class by themselves.

Bill Walsh.

Don Nelson.

Just fascinating. I carry them around in my head, all their great qualities and their weaknesses and I think about them. I don’t totally understand them. If Dickens had met them he could have written a dozen novels about them.

Remember, I am not saying these are the best people or the nicest — although I like(d) them both. They are the most fascinating.

Other great characters in no particular order:

Frank Robinson

Jeffrey Leonard

Chili Davis

Kevin Mitchell

Jose Canseco

Charle Young

Vida Blue

Russ Francis

Al Davis

Will Clark

Dusty Baker

Jim Harbaugh

George Karl

Jim Lefebvre

Billy Beane

There are dozens more, I’m sure. But it’s late and I’m getting sleepy. I’ll wake up in the middle of the night and smack myself in the head for leaving out a bunch of wonderful characters.



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  1. jason

    Surprised to see All Davis not in your first group. Always thought Davis was the most fascinating character in all of sports after Ali.

    January 10th, 2014 10:45 am

  2. CohnZohn

    jason, Al Davis was in LA much of the time, especially when I was starting out. We never really got to know each other.

    January 10th, 2014 11:28 am

  3. glenellen

    I hope you write a book about this. How fortunate you have been to have this life in sports with these experiences.

    From what I understand, when you started college you did not know it would go down this way in sports. Am I correct ?

    January 10th, 2014 12:41 pm

  4. CohnZohn

    glenellen, I intended to be a college English professor. I’m so glad I became a sports columnist. For me, with my personality, a much more interesting life.

    January 10th, 2014 2:04 pm

  5. Tommy CostaRica

    I guess you didn’t think much or care too much of Barry???

    January 11th, 2014 7:36 am

  6. Stan

    Of those…only Davis,Canseco and Harbaugh stand out to me. The others had nothing to say that wasn’t company line.
    They might have been fun to talk too,but I never heard Dusty Baker saying anything that ever stood out. Only, “It wasn’t my fault” over the WS. After all,he was only the manager.

    Even today…maybe Bogut will say something not canned. Zito?..see my Dusty Baker..applies to all his philosophy he used to explain why he stunk so bad for so long.

    Now,old Raiders? Who didn’t read what Snake said? Or Mother Hubbard and his latest bar fight? Big Ben biking. On and on.
    Its all filtered now,the worst of Yahoo Sports segments are the player interviews..just FF is all I do.

    January 11th, 2014 5:52 pm

  7. Stan

    Yahoo player interviews? Like being in somebody’s house as they greet new visitors “Hi Bob,how have you been? hows the job?”….then putting that on TV. Boring…

    January 11th, 2014 5:54 pm

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