I could easily write a column about Dan Jenkins. All it takes is a getting few memories down on paper and trying – rarely has that verb been so stretched to paper-thin limits of its meaning – to be as funny as he was.
I will say this. Dan Jenkins mattered. As a documentary tells it, when Dan was initially hired by Sports Illustrated in the early 1960s, the magazine was more like a “slick cookbook for your basic two-yacht family,” according to Dan. It was Jenkins who began to cover college football much like it is covered today. The key year was 1963 when he predicted the University of Texas would be the No. 1 team. He was right and it set a tradition that continues to this day.
Here’s his daughter, Sally Jenkins – a great sports writer in her own right – on her dad’s writing style: “One of the real hallmarks of my dad’s writing style is candor. This is the truth I am about to tell you. This sentence right here I am nailing down on the page is as plain and simple and truthful as pounding a nail into a board. Boom.”
So here are some flashes of Dan Jenkins, in his own words. Read them and remember a guy who grew up in Fort Worth, went to Paschal and TCU and wanted to be the best sports writer in the world – and he was.
Jenkins began writing for Golf Digest in 1985, and in his second year with the magazine, he watched Jack Nicklaus charge to a 65 to win the Masters for a sixth time at age 46. Jenkins later recalled several writers freezing over a story that big. His editor recalls a smile on Jenkins’ face as he began writing what he thought, with seemingly little effort.
His opening line:
“If you want to put golf back on the front pages again and you don’t have a Bobby Jones or a Francis Ouimet handy, here’s what you do: You send an aging Jack Nicklaus out in the last round of the Masters and let him kill more foreigners than a general named Eisenhower.”
* “Guys shared their cocaine with pretty young girls. At least they shared it with them until pretty young girls developed noses that could outperform an Electrolux.” – Baja Oklahoma.
* “Juanita made only three predictions about the “religious person” in Oregon who was enabling hundreds of young people to achieve a heightened consciousness: he would be a 27-year-old dropout with surfing scars, his sermons would be as deeply meaningful as the dialogue on Star Trek, and he would, if he weren’t watched closely, sneak a meatball into his tofu.” – Baja Oklahoma.
Jenkins lived for a short time in Ponte Vedra Beach, where he got his first taste of Florida football. This was before Steve Spurrier became head coach, before the mighty Gators had won so much as an SEC title. “They have the attitude of Alabama and the accomplishments of Wake Forest,” Jenkins said.
* “Juanita named the band. One day Lonnie and Toby staggered into Herb’s after picking all night at a Chi Omega orgy. Juanita had watched Lonnie and Toby slop a bowl of cream gravy over their chins, sleeves, chests, boots, and part of their chicken-fried steaks. ‘There they are folks,” Juanita had said. ‘Would you give a real Grand Ole Opry welcome, please, to Lonnie Slocum and Dog Track Gravy?’
“The name stuck, as the gravy would have if Lonnie and Toby hadn’t lapped it up before it hardened.” – Baja Oklahoma
Also in Baja Oklahoma was something Dan became known for: The 10 stages of Drunkenness. As he said, if he’d have known how popular it would be, he would have moved it further up in the book. Here they are:
Witty and charming
Rich and powerful
Crank up the Enola Gay
Witty and charming, Part II