During my long career at The Daily World, I’ve had the pleasure of working with several talented all-around sports writers — some of whom were also really good at covering a particular sport.
Few, if any, writers in the state have covered high school track & field as well as my semi-retired colleague Ray Ryan. When he was writing about track regularly, Ray was so attuned as to what was happening in the meets that he often detected scoring mistakes before the coaches or meet directors.
My current co-worker Rob Burns similarly ranks near the top of his profession when it comes to soccer. I enjoy watching soccer, but don’t pretend to fully understand it. Rob, on the other hand, knows the nuances of the sport and can make even a 1-0 game come alive.
Rob and Ray are outstanding writers on other events as well. But their passion for their favorite sports comes across to readers.
Elma resident Jack Fordyce, who died Sunday after battling cancer, was in the same class in terms of auto racing coverage.
A Daily World correspondent for several years, Jack did a solid job for us on a variety of sports ranging from football to softball.
But it was racing that made his juices flow.
Working at the time for the state Department of Natural Resources, Jack began providing stories and photos for a variety of publications — including The Daily World — from Grays Harbor Raceway in the late 1990s.
Although, in the early years of that arrangement, he invariably had to miss some midseason races in order to fight forest fires in Eastern Washington, he immediately provided an enormous upgrade in the public relations operation at the Elma track.
He not only wrote detailed accounts of all the main events, but also included tidbits on the racers and their backgrounds that couldn’t be gleaned from the race summaries.
If a newcomer to Grays Harbor Raceway had experienced success at another track, Jack featured that in his articles. Ditto if a particular result had a major impact on the overall season standings. His explanations of unusual races at the Elma track were succinct and clear.
It was truly a labor of love, as he frequently worked into the wee hours of Sunday morning assembling the stories and photos.
An avid fan of several sports, Jack was hired as one of our non-staff correspondents following his retirement from the DNR. He was game for just about any type of assignment. When we needed another writer capable of covering soccer, he checked out library books that explained the sport.
He was also a great guy to deal with, particularly if you didn’t have a thin skin. Diplomacy was a trait not commonly associated with Jack.
If I assigned him to a game that turned out to be lopsided, he’d usually say something like “You sure stuck me with a stinker” when we’d make contact after the contest. He also gave me a hard time on the frequent occasions that my pre-game “scouting reports” went awry.
My favorite Jack Fordyce articles were published last year, when he did a daily diary on Northwest Speed Week, primarily from tracks in Oregon. It might not have rivaled John Steinbeck’s “Travels with Charley,” but it was a delightful account of the ambiance of racing at small tracks. Jack was in his element filing those stories.
“I really enjoy racing and enjoy covering it,” Jack told Burns in a Daily World profile that appeared in 2008. “If it goes fast and turns left, I love it.”
On and off the track, he’ll be missed.