Temple: Journalist of the year had long
August 23, 2003
You know him
as Sam Adams, our sports columnist.
Local comedy club fans may know him as Samuel.
But few know what a
long, strange trip he's taken to get where he is
Sam reached a milestone last weekend when he was
named print journalist of the year by the Colorado
Association of Black Journalists.
It was a day that he never could have imagined when
he arrived in Denver aboard a Greyhound bus from
Cleveland in 1984.
I speak to so many young people who dream of having
their own byline. Many of us have had to struggle to get
our name in print, me included. But Sam's story is one
of the best.
Sam spent two years at Kent State University, where
he "majored in dropping out." The best thing about
college was the late-night radio show he stumbled into:
"Sammy Dee - the midnight master of mellow madness."
Eventually, he really did drop out and went to work
doing odd jobs until he heard good things about Denver
and got on a bus heading West.
Greyhound lost his bag with his good clothes, so when
he went to a temp agency to find work he was wearing the
only things he owned: a blue sweat suit and tennis
shoes. But he promised them he could type. And type he
did, faster than anybody in the office.
Sam could type so fast that he could get his
insurance company work done in six hours, which left him
another two to work on his own little sports newsletter,
something to share with the guys he talked sports with
In 1986, he predicted the New York Mets would beat
the Boston Red Sox in the World Series and one of his
buddies dared him, "You think you know so much, why
don't you go write for a newspaper?"
His next job happened to be right across the street
from the old Denver Post building and one day
during his lunch hour he found his way to the sports
"Somebody told me I should be a sportswriter," he
told Jim Herre, then the deputy sports editor.
"We just don't hire people off the street," Herre
told him. But after reading Sam's newsletter, he gave
him his card with the high school sports editor's phone
number scrawled on the back.
Sam carries that card in his wallet to this day.
For two or three months at night, Sam went to the
paper and compiled box scores.
"I'm thinking I don't need this," Sam recalled of the
yelling and pressure. He wanted to be a writer. Not a
But on the day he had made up his mind to quit, they
sent him to a high school basketball game, Highland High
School vs. Jefferson High School at the old McNichols
He was told that they just wanted to see what he
could do. But the next day, to his great surprise, his
story was in the newspaper, his first byline.
That was 1986. It would take him another six years to
get a full-time job.
In 1990, when the Post's Denver Nuggets beat
reporter job came open, Sam applied to then-Sports
Editor Woody Paige.
"I like what you're doing, kid," Paige told Sam. "But
don't quit your day job."
He couldn't pass up the challenge. On the day before
New Year's Eve 1990, the father of a 20-month-old son,
Andrew, came home to his wife, Valerie, and told her,
"This check might be the last one."
By 1992, Sam was about to give up his dream. But then
Paige called with the offer of a full-time job. The next
year the Post named him the backup Broncos beat
writer. The next he was the lead. And then came a call
out of the blue from the Charlotte Observer,
which wanted him to cover his first love,
(Sam tells me the last time he dunked himself was two
years ago. This from a 43-year-old sports columnist, so
I don't know what to believe.)
But Sam wouldn't be gone for long. He realized he'd
made a mistake, and we needed a Broncos writer.
He arrived on a Friday, moved in to his apartment on
a Saturday and covered the first regular-season game of
1996 on Sunday.
When he came to the office to have his picture taken
the day he arrived, editors asked about his NFL notes
column, the one they needed that night.
This after he'd driven for more than 24 hours.
"I'm going to do this because I don't think I have a
choice," he remembers thinking. "But I don't like you
Three weeks later he got pneumonia and the caring of
his colleagues taught him that maybe there were a few
that were OK after all.
It didn't take long for the writer with the winning
smile and an easy way with people to get his own column.
And then two years ago he started doing stand-up
When Sam was hoping to become a reporter, he kept
looking for a break. Now he's just having fun.
"If you ever turn the TV on and see me on Letterman,
I'll be shocked."
Still, he is on TV twice a week giving his opinions
on Fox Sports Net Rocky Mountain.
"If I had to do it all over again, I would go to
school. I would pay attention. When you're 26 and you
don't know what you want to do, that's scary."
That was Sam.
Look at him now.
I'm proud to call him my colleague.
John Temple can be reached at editor@RockyMountainNews.com
or by mail at 100 Gene Amole Way, Denver, CO 80204.
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