Sunday, August 07, 2011

RIP to a great journalist and a better man

The phone call lasted barely over a minute but the sense of sorrow figures to linger for a lifetime.

My boss called me yesterday evening while I was working on a story at the women's national softball tournament being played in Stratford and said he needed to talk to me so when I got home around 10:15, I called him back. He had a hard time getting the words out when he finally said "there's been a car accident involving Dave Solomon and he did not survive." All I could say was "oh, my God."

Stories, blog posts and comments on facebook and twitter will say that Dave was a great columnist and wonderful man and every single word written will be true. He was also a good friend.

I first met Dave when I was a college kid back in 1986, earning some money answering phone calls at the Register. It was quite the eye-opening experience. The Register's sports staff featured a lineup of icons. Now Dave joins George Wadley, Bob Casey and Tom McCormack as icons taken from us and leaving a hole in the New Haven sports scene never to be filled. Over the last 25 years, I have been proud to call Dave a colleague but most of all a friend.

My relationship with Dave has changed over the years. It wasn't until I started covering UConn back in 1999 that I really got to know Dave. We've traveled together, shared hotel rooms, had dinner together and spent countless hours in media rooms. It was during those road trips that I saw a different side of Dave, I saw the family man who beamed with pride over the accomplishments of his daughters, who was blessed with a loving and supporting wife. It was fitting that the background photo on the laptop computer Dave used to craft his brilliant stories was not over a member of his beloved New York Mets or of one of the many sporting legends he has crossed paths with, but of his daughters.

If I had to come up with the best journalists I've ever known, Dave Solomon and Bob Casey would be the first two names to pop into my head. As good as a columnist Dave was and man, was he something special, he was an absolute bulldog when it came time to get the facts right on a big story. Whether it was deciphering fact from fiction when the New Haven pro tennis tournament lost the men's tournament (twice) or went to a combined event, the hiring of Tom Williams as Yale's new football coach or more recently, the situation with UConn athletic director Jeff Hathaway, Solomon's work was something to behold. When Dave wrote something, it was gospel. He was not one of these people who just threw stuff up against the wall and hoped it was right. He did not have to. He was so well connected and well respected that when he wrote something, you could take it to the bank.

A columnist can be a beat writer's best friend or worst enemy. Fortunately for me, he was always the former. He would always come up with an interesting take on things when he came up to a UConn women's game, Yale football game or day after day of covering the tennis tournament. That was one of his many rare gifts. He could write the big-picture columns without relying on tired, old cliches and he was a guy you just had to read when he offered his take on a subject.

When I am sitting in the media room at the Connecticut Tennis Center later this month covering the New Haven Open, am at Gampel or the XL Center for a must-see UConn game or at the Yale-Harvard football game, I will be waiting for Dave to make his appearance complete with a witty barb launched my way. Unfortunately, all I'll have are the memories of the playful banter we had in and out of the office, the string of elegantly written stories he crafted in his 35 years at the Register and the way he went about his business as one of the true greats in the world of Connecticut sports.

RIP Dave, you will be missed.

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