Saturday Diary / Small worlds: getting a haircut, watching some football


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While visiting Dallas recently on our annual trip to see most of our relatives, I had to get a haircut. There had been no time for one before we left, and my only niece was getting married while we there. I was going to be an usher in that wedding, so I wanted to look good. That's not easy for me, but a haircut likely would help.

I randomly chose a place not far from my mother's apartment. There were several others just as close, but I made my choice and, at about 3:15 on a Monday afternoon, I walked in. The woman running the place said there would be a short wait. As I started to turn around to find an empty chair, another woman tapped me on the shoulder from behind and asked if I were David Fink. I wasn't going to lie about it, so I said "yes." I recognized her instantly as a daughter of my best friend and colleague nearly 40 years ago when I worked for a long-gone newspaper in Dallas.

He died last fall, and I had sent condolences, but I had not talked to or seen either of his daughters in a long time. But there was one of them with one of her twins in tow. They were doing some errands, the boy needed a haircut and, at exactly the same time as I arrived at a randomly selected barber shop roughly 1,200 miles from home, so did they. Small world, indeed.

But it gets better and smaller ...

Everett Cook arrived at the Post-Gazette in early June and is spending most of his summer in our sports department, where I edit many of his stories. He attends the University of Michigan and is one of many interns who have washed ashore here in the past two months. It's an annual rite of summer, and I do not mind it. In fact, many of them invigorate the newsroom, and some reinforce the notion that the future of our business will be in good hands. I am no authority on the subject, but I supervised the intern program here for more than 20 years.

Incidentally, by my unsolicited reckoning, Mr. Cook has a fine future in our business.

But, as things turned out, I knew of Mr. Cook before he arrived, sort of. If you are befuddled, consider how I felt when I figured it out.

Everett Cook is big. Stands about 6 foot 4 and likely weighs 245 pounds or so. Not the kind of young man who is easily forgotten. In most cases, he makes a big first impression, pun intended.

Our paths, however, first crossed in December 2009 on a chilly Friday night that followed a chilly and wet day in San Jose, Calif., and, of course, I was unaware of it. And so was he.

I was visiting my son, who, at the time, worked for the National Hockey League team there, the Sharks. I visited him at least once a year, and we always had wanted to see a high school football game out there to compare the feel of the game, the crowds, the players' talent, etc,, to high school football here in Western Pennsylvania. Some of his friends highly recommended a playoff game between Bellarmine Prep and St. Francis that was destined to draw a standing-room-only crowd of at least 11,000. So, off we went.

We knew little about either team but were funneled to a standing-room section behind a railing adjacent to the Bellarmine side. So, we adopted Bellarmine as our team. Go Bells! In a bizarre touch, the football-savvy and friendly man next to us turned out to be a North Allegheny High School graduate with many remaining links to the Pittsburgh area. But I digress.

The caliber of players and play was high, the game thrilling. The Bells rallied late for a win, then preserved it even later with an interception near their end zone. We have remained fans of the Bells, and each week of the high school football season I check the Internet for Bellarmine scores. The Bells rarely disappoint me.

About a week ago, a colleague casually mentioned that Everett Cook was from California. He was not sure where in California, but he thought it might be San Jose. Since I had been there a few times and my son had worked there, that intrigued me and some bells went off. But Mr. Cook was out of town on assignment, so I turned to my crack research team (uh ... that's me) and did some fast investigation.

Less than 24 hours later, I confirmed, with Mr. Cook's kind assistance, that he was from San Jose and, yes, No. 76 on our program that night nearly four years ago was -- injured shoulder and all -- starting nose tackle Everett Cook, listed then at 6-4, 265. He could not believe the chain of events that stretched from San Jose to Ann Arbor, Mich., to the corner of Commonwealth and the Boulevard of the Allies any more than I could.

Talk about it being a small world ...

opinion_commentary

David Fink is a sports copy editor at the Post-Gazette (dfink@post-gazette.com).


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