Hoot Gibson was more than just a sports writer

It still hasn’t really set in, and I’m not sure when it will.

There won’t be another night of music trivia, hearing stories about the five no-hitters he saw in person or late Friday night updates on how Gibsonburg fared in prep football or basketball.

Thinking in those terms is extremely selfish, however.

On a positive note, there will be no more chemotherapy sessions, doctor’s appointments, shots in the stomach, IVs or illness.

Rich “Hoot” Gibson – as unfortunate as it is for those left in this world – is no longer suffering and battling the effects of mantle cell lymphoma. Gibson, 60, passed away last Wednesday after nearly a year-long battle.

As word spread about Hoot’s passing, the outpouring of support was amazing.

I think we, in this business, oftentimes lose sight of the impact we have the opportunity to make on people.

Whether it was via Facebook, Twitter, text message, emails or phone calls, numerous coaches, officials, athletes, fellow media members and just the general Ohio Valley sports fan reached out to express their condolences.

That showed me two things.

First and foremost, it indicated just what kind of impact Hoot made on so many people, including many that he might not even realized he touched. Secondly, it showed just how special the Ohio Valley is.

I personally want to express my appreciation to everyone who reached out this past week or during Hoot’s entire battle. Countless people and teams sent him cards or just took the time to ask us about how he was doing. Several schools, groups and people showed generosity by donating money to help in Hoot’s fight.

I know I speak for many when I say thank you for the thoughts, prayers, generosity and support you guys showed.

Hoot was an eccentric guy, and I mean that as a total compliment.

Many people knew Hoot loved to travel as evidenced by all of the sporting events he had the opportunity to cover. However, sports wasn’t the only reason he traveled. He picked up and drove to Manhattan to watch a Broadway show several times or he’d find a good deal on a flight and just head off on a weekend trip to see a concert or something of the sort.

He once told me, of the weather listing for major United States cities on the back page of the USA Today, he’d been to at least the airport of all but three of those.

The part of his traveling that always amazed me was he usually went by himself. Hoot made trips to Alaska and London, England, in recent memory, solo. Who does that? Hoot did!

By no means was he intraverted or anti-social. He just liked the ability to get up and go at a moment’s notice.

While he loved music (especially the Beatles and Springsteen, whom he saw in concert upwards of 20 times), traveling, musicals, Hoot’s main passion was sports.

And he was equal opportunity when it came to them.

While he loved covering the ‘big’ events such as the 10 Super Bowls, the 1997 World Series, the 1991 and ’92 Stanley Cup Finals, the 2002 BCS National Championship Game or the 16 other bowl games, it was just the same for him to cover a high school event, an American Legion baseball game or work the office, answering phone calls or typing schedules.

In whatever Hoot covered, those taking part, and the readers, never got cheated.

He was the consummate professional, which was proven by the fact that most, including me, couldn’t tell you who Hoot’s favorite teams were. I asked him several times who he pulled for the most of the teams in the tri-state area. Was he a fan of the Pirates, Indians, Reds, Steelers, Browns, Bengals, Buckeyes, Mountaineers or some other team? We’ll never know and that’s just the way Hoot would have wanted it.

Having said that, I can honestly say Hoot’s favorite sport was baseball.

I remember a time when Hoot, myself and mutual friend Kurt Stubbs were heading to Canton to watch a regional basketball tournament. Hoot wouldn’t get out of the car, despite it being just a few minutes until tip-off, because he was listening to a spring training game on the radio. That’s not a typo, either. A spring training game, for crying out loud. Kurt and I still reminisce about that trip, frequently.

I know he was thoroughly enjoying the seasons the Pirates and Indians are enjoying. Every time I talked to or visited with him, he immediately wanted to talk about the Pirates and Indians before he mentioned anything about what doctors might have told him or how his treatments were going.

It’s only fitting that the last high school event that Hoot had the opportunity to cover, in person, was his alma mater (St. Clairsville) playing in the regional baseball tournament in May of 2012.

I remember as a kid seeing Hoot’s byline and columns from places like Pasadena for the 1997 Rose Bowl and thinking, even then, that this guy was an outstanding writer and he was covering some really cool things.

Little did I know, then as a high school junior with hopes of becoming a sports writer, that I’d get to spend the first 14-plus years of my career working alongside this man. However, over the course of that time, Hoot and I became much more than co-workers. We became buddies.

I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to have gotten to know Hoot as well as I did.

Whether it was about writing, journalism, being a professional or things like seeking the best deal on flights and hotels or making sure to look ahead to schedules of other events when making a trip to get the most bang for the buck or pointing out how many Champps Americana restaurants were in certain cities, Hoot was a wealth of knowledge.

However, over the course of the last 10 months, one of the greatest lessons I learned from Hoot was not to sweat the small stuff, which I struggle with at times.

Not once, during his fight against cancer, did Hoot ask, “Why me?” Or say things like, “I don’t want to die,” or “I am scared of dying.”

Hoot also knew the path that the Lord laid out for him was going to be a challenge. From day one, however, it was a challenge that Hoot fought as hard as he could up to his final days.

You fought one heck of a battle, Hoot!

You’ll certainly be missed by your Times Leader family, but it’s also safe to say you’ll be missed by your entire Ohio Valley sports family.

Godspeed, my friend!

Staskey can be reached at sstaskey@timesleaderonline.com