Chapter Five

Hanging with Chad

Along with Ostler’s introductory column, Johnette Howard, who went on to write for Sports Illustrated and Newsday, put together the first of her many intelligent feature stories called “The Main Event.” This one ran in the New York edition and focused on Patrick Ewing’s maturation into not only a dominating basketball player, but also a young man who was newly confident in his ideas and his ability to discuss his opinions with the media. The feature stretched from pages 35-38 and contained about 3,600 words along with four color photos.

Norman Chad, known now for announcing poker tournaments on ESPN, wrote a substantial column about a controversy between the NFL and WJLA, a local television station in Washington, D.C. The story was that WJLA had reported that the NFL drug offense policy was racially-biased, with white players less likely to be sent to treatment programs than black players who had committed similar offenses. It’s slightly ironic now that Chad, who chastised ESPN for glossing over the story in its pre-Super Bowl shows due to pressure from the NFL, is now working regularly for ESPN. Discovering Chad is something Deford is proud of.

“I took Norman Chad off the desk of the Washington Post, he was my Pygmalion,” Deford said of the former stand-up comedian. “George Solomon, one of the best sports editors in the country, what he was doing keeping him on the desk, that was beyond me…I’m a great admirer of George Solomon, but we all blow one every now and then.”

One thing for which The National should be applauded is that it gave readers all around the country a chance to experience writers like Ostler, Howard, Chad, Mike Lupica, Dave Kindred and John Feinstein a few years before the Internet made that so easy. Some employees were also the newspaper’s biggest fans. Ken Carpenter bought a copy every day before work, and still has every issue in storage near his home in Orlando.

“I used to try to get in there by about 2:30 and pick up a National. I spent my 50 cents and my 75 cents. Frank Deford said: ‘Never leave home without three quarters in your pocket.’ It was sort of our theme. I would buy a paper every day and sit there and have lunch,” Carpenter remembered.

The writer that Guidera read regularly was Chad.

“I remember the first couple of times I read Norman Chad. I still scour the Internet today looking for anything by him. I thought he was awesome. He was my favorite writer, he was the most entertaining, the funniest, not necessarily the best, but the most fun to read,” he said.

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