fat lady swan song?
SYerkes at EXPRESS-NEWS.NET
Wed May 19 22:10:32 UTC 2004
Dear Listserve friends,
First of all, I'm now a certified ADS junkie, thanks to the fascinating
discussions I read daily here.
Since my linguistic studies have been largely post-academic, I don't
usually toss my thoughts out. But this I gotta say.
I've read some good discussions on "the fat lady sings" and its
variations, and I'd like to note that my former colleague, sports
columnist and TV sports-guy Dan Cook, first used the phrase in a TV
sports report ("the opera ain't over till the fat lady sings")
Yogi Berra is a great guy to credit for just about ANY colorful saying.
And I'm sure ol' Dan would happily give him credit. But Cook deserves
it, nonetheless. He was so hard-working, well-read and engagingly
literate (not to mention really witty) as I expect Barry Popik must be
Below are a few local references over the years. Even if you don't find
them convincing proof of Cook's origination of the phrase I hope they'll
move you to re-consider.
As for twists on "the fat lady sings" -- I added a graph from a creative
team that uses a fat guy running laps to end each game.
San Antonio Express-News
L.M. Boyd Revisited
12/08/03 Monday S.A. Life 08D
If you don't like children, odds are you were either neglected or
mistreated as a child. .....
Q. When did Yogi Berra come up with the line "It ain't over 'til the fat
lady sings "?
A. He didn't. San Antonio sports reporter/columnist Dan Cook first said
it. And Dick Motta popularized it when he coached the Washington Bullets
during the NBA playoffs in 1978.
San Antonio Express-News
Walker kept cancer at bay for three decades ; She led an active life,
wrote an upbeat book about her struggle.
by Carmina Danini EXPRESS-NEWS STAFF WRITER
11/07/03 Friday Metro / South Texas 04B
Mary C. Walker, who wrote a memoir, "The Fat Lady Hasn't Sung," about
her decades-long struggle with cancer, died Sunday. She was 67. ////Her
book, "The Fat Lady Hasn't Sung: An Inspiring Story of Love, Hope and
Triumph," is an unsparing but gentle story of her illness, from the
deterioration of her hips to the myriad visits to military hospitals in
Washington and San Antonio, where the family settled in the summer of
Walker selected the title because she was a sports fan and knew Dan
Cook, her husband said. Cook, who retired this summer after 51 years as
a San Antonio Express-News sports columnist, is credited with coining
the phrase "the opera ain't over till the fat lady sings ."
Document 6 of 25 found
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San Antonio Express-News
Fat lady sings for Cook after 51 years at E-N
by John Whisler EXPRESS-NEWS STAFF WRITER
07/13/03 Sunday Sports 01C
Feature ; Profile ; News - Local Metro
In his younger days - yes, Dan Cook once was young - smoking a cigarette
or a stogie or two in the press box not only was common, it was
Alcohol, however, had to be sneaked in and consumed in even sneakier
One clever strategy was to convert a transistor radio into a flask by
hollowing out the insides. Instead of turning it on, you just tipped it
In the 1950s and '60s and even beyond, sportswriters lived for the big
game, the big event - in part because of the promise of a big night of
drinking and hell raising that was sure to follow.
Today, their idea of a good time, Cook says, is to "buy a six-pack of
Pepsi and go back to the hotel for a game of Trivial Pursuit."
To be sure, the industry has changed mightily over the years. But Cook
will be the first to tell you he has changed, too.
After 57 years in the newspaper business - 51 of those at the San
Antonio Express-News - "Old Dad" has decided to retire, to put down his
pen and hang up the keyboard once and for all.
His final column will appear Aug. 3.
"I've just had enough," he said. "I've done this well over half my life.
The decision by Cook, a San Antonio institution and South Texas legend,
marks the end of a long and colorful era that has seen him write more
than 10,000 columns and interview dozens of the sports world's greatest
legends, from Joe Louis and Rocky Marciano to Cassius Clay and Muhammad
Ali, from Babe Ruth, Ted Williams and Mickey Mantle to Bear Bryant, Tom
Landry and Jim Brown.
Just to name a few.
"He's an icon," said Larry Walker, publisher of the Express-News. "But
the respect he's earned goes far, far beyond San Antonio and South
Texas. Our readers have loved him for years. He's certainly earned his
retirement, but he's going to be missed."
* * *
Cook, who will turn 77 next month, joined the Express-News on Aug. 14,
1952, first as a copy editor and writer, and then award-winning
columnist and sports editor for the Evening News.
He was executive sports editor of the Express-News from 1960 to 1975,
when he became a full-time columnist.
"Dan is our connection with 50 years of South Texas journalism," said
Bob Rivard, Express-News editor. "He's basically a walking, talking,
living history of sports all the way back to the Korean War era. He's
also a connection to an era that has all but disappeared in American
newspapers, when larger-than-life characters roamed newsrooms, told big
stories, played fast and lived to beat the competition across the
"If that's not all gone, it will be the day Dan leaves."
Cook also worked as a sportscaster at KENS-TV for 44 years, from
1956-2000. It was there that Cook first uttered the famous phrase, "The
opera ain't over till the fat lady sings ," which is listed in
Bartlett's "Familiar Quotations."
The two jobs helped to create an image that was part macho man, part
father figure and elevated Cook to celebrity status. He retires as one
of the region's most beloved and popular personalities.
Through it all, however, Cook's first love was always writing.He had a
folksy, conversational style that was direct and to the point. He was
considered a master storyteller and might have been the only columnist
who regularly used the word "durn."
To thousands of South Texans who grew up reading his articles, Cook was
the best durned sports columnist they've ever read.
Cook also wasn't afraid to criticize. In a Sept. 19, 1961, column, in
the midst of Roger Maris' quest to break Babe Ruth's home run record, he
ripped the New York Yankees slugger as "a brooding, immature crybaby who
would have been run out of baseball by the sharp-tongued bench jockeys
of Ruth's day."
A book, "The Best of Dan Cook: Collected Columns from 1956 to 1990," was
published in 2001 and now is in its second printing.
Cook, meanwhile, has no explanation for his longevity ("I thought they'd
fire me after about three years, and probably should have," he said) and
his popularity has always been a mystery to him.
"I've never figured it out," he said. "Still haven't. All I know is I
outworked a lot of people."
That's putting it mildly. His work habits are the stuff of legend around
the Express-News Sports Department. Former sports editor Barry Robinson,
now the newsroom's director of administration and recruitment, was hired
by Cook in July 1969.
"I thought he was old then," Robinson said, laughing. "But that very
first fall I saw how special he was. I could see how busy he was and was
amazed that any person could do that much work." By then Cook was
writing six columns a week, delivering two sportscasts a day at KENS-TV
(in those days the TV station was owned by the newspaper and KENS stood
for Express-News Station) and doing two daily radio commentaries, in
addition to his duties as sports editor.To Cook, it was a job, but it
never was work.
In the winter, Cook not only covered the state Golden Gloves
competition, he organized it (the Express-News was a sponsor). He made
the matches and drove the team bus to Fort Worth every year.
As if that wasn't enough, he worked after hours at a bar he co-owned
with former Light sports editor Bob Ostrum. The rest of Cook's time was
spent with his wife, Katy, and their three children.
Cook's pseudonymous Benjamin P. Broadhind character, a fast-talking,
barroom bettor who served as Cook's alter ego, became a reader favorite.
Robinson said he's surprised "how many people still think Broadhind is a
real person." Kilpatrick recalled the time an editor, who was not new,
came to him one day and demanded that Cook be fired. "Did you know that
Broadhind is fictitious?" the stunned editor asked. "Why, that's
Kilpatrick and Robinson both say what many people don't know about Cook
are his extraordinary acts of kindness. They said Cook routinely gave
money to street people, so much so that he became something of an easy
mark."He had a rule," Kilpatrick said, "that whatever amount of money he
had in his pocket, he would give half of it. He'd get calls from people
in jail. People he didn't even know. Dan would say, 'Well, I can't come
down right now, I'm writing my column.' But he'd go by the jail later
and leave money for them. At that time, he wasn't making a lot of
money." Cook, both men said, also frequently co-signed loans for
co-workers and people he barely knew - Cook had a particular soft spot
for the down-on-his-luck boxer - knowing all the while he'd end up
paying the loan without getting a dime in return.
Cook's columns were full of Runyonesque characters. Cook is worthy of
At 6-foot and 215 pounds, Cook was as handy with his fists as he was a
pair of dice. Robinson said he covered his first Super Bowl in 1975 only
because Cook separated his shoulder in a fight in his bar. He told of
the time Cook came to work with a black eye and an editor immediately
wanted to know what happened.
"Look," an agitated Cook told the editor, "I told everyone in this
department I ran into a door. If that story is good enough for them,
it's good enough for you."
Cook stories - the ones told by Cook and the ones told about him - are
the stuff of legends, too. Cook's peers, most of them owning as many
years in the business as Cook, said many of their stories weren't fit to
Blackie Sherrod, 83, who retired in January as sports columnist at the
Dallas Morning-News after 60 years in journalism and is perhaps Cook's
best friend in the business, acknowledged that the old gang has slowed
considerably. Cook, he said, still grumbles about the "Pepsi and Trivial
Pursuit" crowd and told him he missed the good old days.
To make up for it, Sherrod said, a "Geezers Club" was organized that
includes such newspaper icons as Edwin Pope of the Miami Herald and
Furman Bisher of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Bill Millsaps, 61, executive editor of the Richmond (Va.)
Times-Dispatch, said the Geezers' yearly gathering - not connected to a
sporting event and held at a hotel near the Dallas-Fort Worth Airport -
"solves all of the problems of the newspaper business and the world's,
"Assisted by bourbon, we get real smart about 2 in the morning,"
The San Antonio Light
12/30/91 Monday SPORTS B4
* THE FAT GUY RUNS: In most arenas, the saying goes, the game is over
when the "Fat Lady Sings ." In Orlando, it seemingly ends when a lunatic
fan, who dubs himself "the Fat Guy" runs a lap around the arena and
brings the house down.
But when he made his usual jaunt Sunday the Magic were only down 79-77.
They scored just four points the next five minutes and lost their 14th
straight game, one short of the club record. ....
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