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If you have followed sports in the state of Virginia, and spent any time in the western part of the state, you undoubtedly know the name Doug Doughty. Sometime later today, Doug – who has been writing for the Roanoke Times for 44 years – will be recognized for his great work and will be inducted into the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame.
I’ve known Doug for over 40 of those 44 years. It would be an understatement to say I’m proud of my old friend, and that the honor is well-deserved. As is the case in such situations, there are stories in newspapers today listing all of his accomplishments over those 44 years.
I, conversely, will now tell a few tales that are NOT in those stories.
I knew of Doug when I was a student at Virginia Tech, but didn't really get to know him until one fateful night during the Richmond Times-Dispatch basketball tournament, where the Hokies and UVA were playing. It was the 70s, and I was working my way through school as a sportswriter for a weekly newspaper called the Blacksburg Sun. After the first round, everyone filed their stories and then went to the media room to imbibe in strong drink, strong stories, and needle each other. As a youngster, I went to watch the likes of Bill Brill, Bill Millsaps, Jennings Culley, Doug and the other top sportswriters in the state. As the hour wore late, however, my youth served me well and I outlasted just about everyone in drink and storytelling.
I paid a hard price, and when I woke up in the hotel sometime after noon, I felt horrible. Knowing I had to work that evening, I forced myself downstairs to eat something. With my head on fire, I looked across the restaurant and only one other guy was there, wearing sunglasses, eating breakfast. At 3:30 PM. It was Doug, so I went over to his table, paid him a compliment of professional respect for surviving, and a friendship was born.
Six months later I would be invited to join the rest of the crew at the Roanoke Times when their metro sports editor (Bob McLelland) suffered a stroke and the paper needed someone to cover high school sports immediately. The desk I was assigned had me seated with Jack Bogaczyk on one side (who previously has been inducted into the VA Sports HOF), Steve Waid on another (he's in NASCAR's HOF) and Doug (three big reasons I was able to eventually develop into a somewhat decent writer).
Within the first five minutes of sitting down at my desk, I learned that if there was a Hall Of Fame for smart-ass people who could needle someone to the point of getting under your skin immediately, Doug would have been inducted long ago. It’s probably why I get along well with Doug because while he’d be the first one inducted, somewhere in the ensuing classes I'd be in there too.
Doug and I disagree on just about everything, particularly on politics, and there's that whole I went to Tech, he went to UVA thing. But we are similar in many others, particularly a love of family, a love of music from the 60s and 70s, a love of numbers and statistics, and a love for showing up every day and working hard.
On the golf course, he plays with your head from the first swing; in the bowling alley, he takes the sport more seriously than most pay attention to their health. His wry sense of humor sparks the thought "oh, you didn't go THERE did you?" quite often, and to be honest, he's a very bright, very talented, very annoying individual.
But he has another side. One day, I had to attend a funeral for our copy editor, Tony "Buster" Stamus, who died at a young age. I had never even been to a funeral, didn't know what to do or say, and my emotions were getting the best of me during the service. Afterward, Doug and I ended up standing in line together to pay our respects, and I was at a total loss.
Doug ended up teaching me by example that day how to act. He was graceful with the family, talked about all the good memories we had, talked to Buster's parents in a tone celebrating his life, and made folks around him who wanted to cry smile instead. To this day, I still tell him he taught me how to handle grief in as classy a way possible that afternoon.
This other side of Doug would often shine brightly, exactly when it was needed.
In some ways he’s a throwback, as no one these days will probably ever stay at the same newspaper covering the same beat for 44 years. I left newspapers after 10 years, got an MBA, then moved up the corporate ladder at several companies to eventually be a sales and marketing executive. Doug - with his analytical mind, sharp grasp of numbers, and ability to tell quickly who is lying or telling the truth – would have been awesome in the business world as well. He just chose to follow his first love of writing, and the good folks of Roanoke have benefitted because of it.
He's still a pain in the ass, and always will be. But he's been my friend for 40 years, I'm proud to be able to say that, and I'm very proud of him today.
Welcome to the Hall of Fame, Doug. It’s an honor that’s well-deserved.