May 19, 2022

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Sports Really Satisfies

Readers react to John McClain’s retirement

So many have written and said so many nice things about me. Brian T. Smith wrote a wonderful column about me that was overwhelming and made me emotional. I haven’t been able to read it a second time because I get all teary-eyed. Thanks very much, Brian. Your tribute was amazing.

I’ve got local and national television and talk shows lined up. A few speaking engagements, too. Unfortunately, no more movie roles. I fired my agent: Me!

A special thanks to Mark Berman at KRIV. He’s been one of my best friends for more than 40 years, and I appreciate Thursday’s Zoom and all the nice things he said about me.

McCLAIN: Time to retire, give thanks for 47 years at the Chronicle

I’m doing the Chronicle’s Sunday night show on Ch. 2. The King also has me scheduled for the Chronicle’s AT&T SportsNet Southwest weekly show that reairs several times. I’m excited about that because I’ll have time to tell a lot of tales. And I’ve got a million of them.

Please check out my upcoming column — my last for the Chronicle — on the website this weekend on some of my greatest memories over 47 years. The stories that don’t make the newspaper will be included on TexasSportsNation.com. Oh, if you haven’t, please subscribe to our website. If you already have, thank you.

I was asked this today by a friend: Who was the first member of the media I met when I started at the Chron in 1976? I knew a couple of media people from working in Waco like Lester Zedd and David Casstevens at the Post. They worked at the Waco Tribune-Herald before coming to Houston.

But the first media member I met was after my first Aeros practice at The Summit. The PR guy, Rich Burk, took me to one end of the ice, where the players were leaving and heading to their dressing room. Rich introduced me to several of them. Finally, there was one guy left on the ice, and he was skating around the net. I thought he was a goalie. He’d taken off his jersey, and I asked Rich, “Who’s the guy with more hair on his back than I’ve ever seen? Which goalie is that?” Rich laughed and said, “That’s not a goalie! That’s Barry Warner. He thinks he’s a hockey player, but he does the sports on a local radio station.”

So I met the Houston radio legend before any other member of the media. And I want to thank Barry for helping me learn some hockey and introducing me to so many in the organization who helped me survive that first season.

Now, I want to thank everyone for all the kind e-mails you sent about my retirement. I apologize for not being able to run them all. I’m running your comments, and it feels awkward because you guys have been so complimentary. I’m too tired to answer most of them, so I’ll just let them rip. Thank you!

As you can imagine, this day has been remarkably overwhelming. I’m sad to be leaving the Chron but excited about retiring even though I’ll still be doing my 10 weekly talk shows in six cities. I appreciate all my stations, including Sports Radio 610, for keeping me on.

I’ll stay up to date on the Texans, the NFL and all our local teams. Hopefully, you’ll see me in the Chron from time to time on a freelance basis if they need me. Maybe I’ll steal some golf and tennis stories from the Sporty Wine Guy.

I really appreciate your contributions to the mailbag you’ve made through the years. I’ve met many of you, and your loyalty has been incredible.

Before I get to your comments, I want to thank Greg Rajan. Not only is he a talented writer and an excellent podcast co-host with me, but he stays up late every Thursday to edit and set a time for this mailbag to be posted Friday morning.

One last BIG thank you to everyone.

As George Clooney, Brad Pitt and Matt Damon said at the end of the “Ocean’s” movies, I’ll see you when I see you.

Now, let’s get to it one last time!


Q: Congratulations on your retirement! I’m glad to hear that you’ll still be active and will look forward to hearing your views. I moved to Houston in 1965 when the Oilers were playing at Rice Stadium and the Astros opened the Astrodome, and I’ve followed you from the beginning. You’ve earned all the recognition, credit and awards you’ve received over the years — and more. To me, you will always be at the heart of the Houston sports media. So, one last question — and I know that this is going to be a tough one. Looking back at your career — what is your singular most memorable sports moment in Houston? Was it the “Luv Ya Blue” receptions at the Dome after the Oilers’ AFC Championship Game losses at Pittsburgh? The Astros clinching the World Series in Dodger Stadium (I cried)? Or was it the moment you heard that Bob McNair secured an NFL franchise for Houston? What moment jumps to mind? — Dave R.

A: Dave, you said in Houston, but I think you meant my most memorable no matter where they were. I’ll keep it to football. The saddest: Oilers losing to the Steelers dynasty, Bum Phillips getting fired, Buffalo and the Oilers leaving after the 1996 season. The best: Oilers getting to those AFC Championship Games at Three Rivers Stadium, especially victories at New England and San Diego, Bob McNair getting his expansion franchise and the first Cincinnati playoff victory at NRG Stadium, where the J.J. Watt phenomenon was born.


Q: I am so happy that you will get to enjoy semi-retirement. I am sad to no longer be able to read your mailbag and your columns. I always thought of you as the Joel Buchsbaum of Houston football. You are also the only Houston sportswriter who covers the Baylor Bears. Do me and many fans a favor and list the times you will be on the radio each week, including SicEm365. Perhaps you would consider a once a week podcast! I would subscribe. Best wishes. Baylor Class of ’78! — Gary F.

A: Thanks very much, Gary. I did two Chron podcasts Monday and Thursday for years. I’ll be doing some more, I’m sure. As for my weekly radio shows, here they are: Sports Radio 610 (Tuesday 10:30-11:30, Wednesday 8-9, Thursday 6-6:30, Friday 4-5), Outkick 360 (Nashville, Tuesday 3-3:45)), KNML Sports Talk (Knoxville, Tuesday 4:30-5), KENS the Blitz (San Antonio, Thursday 5:30), Sic ’Em Sports (Waco, Tuesday 5:30-5:45) and KRLV RaiderNation 920 (Las Vegas, Tuesday 5-5:20). Thanks for asking. Sic ’Em!


Q: Congratulations on your retirement but you will very much be missed by your favorite fan here in Portugal. I have enjoyed reading your articles since 1994 when I moved from Dallas to Houston. In 2000 I moved to Europe and continued to read every article through Paris, Dublin, London, and now Lisbon. Thank you so much for keeping me informed, entertained, and for everything you do. I wish you the very best in retirement but do look forward to your future articles. All the best. — Phil T.


Q: I am truly going to miss your writing and incredible information and insights into All Sports. It’s been my pleasure to personally listen to some wonderful stories, but most of all you’ve treated me like a true friend. I am beyond happy for you and hope to hear from you again. I’m sad to see the end of a great era. John McCain has decided to enjoy more great times with his wonderful family and do some things long put off to enjoy life with a full to do list. It been an honor and great reading for myself and many Houstonians to get the inside scoop from the NFL owners meetings and the Hall of Fame discussions from someone in those rooms. John has been responsible for many Houston Oilers getting the Hall of Fame nod. Likewise he is instrumental in recognition of the great athletes getting into the Houston Sports HOF. John wouldn’t want recognition for these facts, so I hope that in retirement he will accept the accolades that he has help so many others receive. GOOD LUCK John! — Ronald J.


Q: John, like many longtime Houstonians (my home since 1993), I’ve enjoyed reading your columns and listening to you on the radio. I’ve especially enjoyed your memories from your insider perspective over the years. Small tidbits like old stories about Bud Adams from the 70s and 80s that you sprinkle into interviews and articles. My family sat at the same table with you and your wife Carol at a fundraiser in January 2016. You spoke on stage with a three person panel — yourself, Dale Robertson and Dick Vermeil. Dick was in town in January and mentioned that you voted for him to get into the Hall of Fame. He speaks very highly of you. My family will be in Canton in August to watch Dick’s induction into the Hall of Fame. If I see you, I will make sure to say hello and introduce myself again. Perhaps you and Carol could join my family for dinner the next time Dick is here? We are a bunch of loud Italians and enjoy good wine. Congrats again on your retirement and I look forward to hearing you on the radio. — Harrison B.


Q: I read with interest and some nostalgia about your retirement from the Chron. Thank you for your decades of keeping what probably amounts to hundreds and hundreds of thousands of readers informed and entertained. Congratulations, sir, on a job well done, and a much-deserved chance to do whatever it is you want to do. I’m writing, too, with a request in regard to Mr. Lester Zedd. He did one of the kindest things for me during my years in journalism. I’ve always wanted to thank him, but couldn’t remember his last name. Your gracious column not only provided inspiration, but jogged my memory as I’m almost certain now that he was the Lester who helped me. I was once a reporter for the Chron’s neighborhood news section in The Woodlands. From time to time, I covered boxing for the sports department on a freelance basis when Mr. Stickney was unable to. One assignment was a bout between heavyweight contenders Lou Savarese and Kirk Johnson in Dallas. To make a long story short, the fight was held beneath a large tent pitched in a parking lot. As I went to file my story, I was told that no WiFi (or whatever sort of connectivity existed in 2003) had been set up in the temporary structure, or maybe there had been some sort of glitch. I was right up against deadline, desperate and somewhat frantic, I called the sports desk and explained my plight. It was my good fortune that Mr. Zedd answered. He was calm and offered to transcribe my story. I read it to him word for word over the phone. It was a remarkable gift not many would be willing to do. I’m sure he had his own work to see about, and a story about the fight could have been grabbed from the wire. Anyway, although I’m sure I thanked him on the phone that night, the gesture has stuck with me. Not many people would have done such a thing, and fewer would have done it without aggravation, or in such a way that didn’t make me feel small or inadequate. He likely has no memory of this, as I’m quite certain it was simply the sort of thing he did routinely, However, if you are still in contact with him, would you be so kind to pass this note on to him if you’re able? The story in reference is linked above. He banged it out almost as fast as I could talk, and I’m sure that wasn’t in his job description. — Charlie B.

A: Lester is one of my closest friends, and we communicate daily. He’ll read this mailbag and see every word you wrote. And he will remember because he’s got a memory like an elephant.


Q: Was disappointed to read this morning that you were moving on into retirement but also wanted to wish you well and thank you for your great football coverage over the years. We moved to Houston in 1976, the same year you were hired, so I guess we have been able to enjoy the years since then with your writings. You will obviously be missed by many. Live well and stay safe John. May God watch over you with His blessings. — Will W.


Q: No mention of your stellar movie career and obvious multiple Oscar snubs? Thanks for writing so many great one sentence paragraphs. You are the General! — Ed G.


Q: I just wanted to congratulate you on your well deserved retirement! I’ve lived in Houston all my life and I’ve followed you both in print and radio for as long as I can remember. You were the best at whatever you did and can never be replaced. You were literally the only reason I subscribed to the Houston Chronicle. Now that you’re retiring, it’s time for me to unsubscribe due to the leftist leaning, biased coverage of the Chronicle. After I see my letter in your last mailbag, of course! Good luck John. Looking forward to still hearing you on 610. — Ron S.

After he promised to eat the Houston Chronicle sports section if the Texans used their 2014 No. 1 pick on Jadeveon Clowney, John McClain kept his word and sat down for a meal of “newspaper strips.” Video: Brett Coomer


Q: You don’t know me but I’ve enjoyed reading your columns and stories for years. Just read today’s story. I think you are the best. So sorry to hear you are retiring. Lots of folks will miss you. Had not seen Jerry Trupiano’s name in a long time but I came back to the Houston area in 1976 and I see that is the year you started with him (and John Breen) on KTRH — remember listening to you all on my drive home from work out to Sugar Land where I lived in those days. You were good there too. Lots of water under the bridge since then. Congrats on a great career. — Tom P.


Q: I’ve enjoyed reading your articles and listening to you on the radio since I returned to my home state of Texas in 1988. From 1988 thru 2007 I served on international assignments in the Soviet Union, Australia, Africa, Canada, China, and the Middle East, but always stayed connected to home by reading your articles. During those early years we would receive newspapers weekly and would read one per day to retain a sense of normalcy. Reading your articles was always the highlight of the day. You simply can’t imagine how much joy your articles have meant to readers around the globe. You are going to be missed. Take care, my friend and I wish you only the best. Thank you, thank you, thank you very much for all those articles in the Chronicle. — Kevin S.

A: Wow, Kevin. Thanks for your loyalty through the decades. I really appreciate it, and so does the Chron.


Q: I first met you I believe in 1989. I was a teenager working for Barry Warner at KILT. I used to use my Astros press pass to get free food and booze at the Dome. You were still a newlywed to Carol, who was reporting for radio and you would join her on occasion. It was a great thrill to meet a celebrity like yourself that I grew up reading every day. A few other random memories after I have of you. I later went to work for Giff Nielsen and Mark Berman. We would have you in studio and I would get to chat with you. I remember you and I were also camped out waiting to chat with Mike Holovak. We also hung out at Oilers training camp trying to track down your Baylor crony Vic Vines when Cody Carlson was holding out. Anyway, I’ve long since moved to L.A. to be an actor and an producing my first film in Texas this summer. Let me know if you wanna get back in the acting game. I’m very happy for your retirement, but sad for us fans that will greatly miss you. — Dale D.

A: Thanks so much, Dale. Good luck with your film. I’ve got a new agent. Your people can reach out to my people, and maybe we can do lunch. My new agent is John McClain. I’ve got a lot of time on my hands. If you need me for a nude love scene, I’m going to need two personal trainers and two years to get ready.


Q: Life brought me to Houston from my native country after stopping through a few places in the U.S. A  person never chooses where to be born, that is something that no one has controlled in their life. But we can all make a decision where we want to spend the rest of our days, and for me that’s Houston. Sadly for me I was only able to enjoy your columns for the last few years, and those columns say a lot about the person behind the keyboard. Thanks for your well-thought and down-to-earth analysis. Enjoy your retirement and who knows may be one day over the rainbow I might cross ways with you at the rodeo, NRG, or Minute Maid. — Tavo C.


Q: John, you gave me a great memory about 10 or 15 years ago. You selected a few people who had been commenting on a blog you were writing, and you invited us to lunch. And you paid, which was way too generous. I could have sat there listening to your stories all day. I want to thank you for that. I guess everyone has stories about the times they met people they admire or who are famous. I have a few of my own and your luncheon is certainly one I will always remember fondly. You rock, General. — Peter B.


Q: Right up in heaven right now our mutual friend Rocket Rosen is happy that you have taken retirement on your terms but is upset that you will now longer be a regular contributor to the Houston Chronicle. I have written to you many times over the past four decades and I have always enjoyed your analysis and comments on the world of sports, especially pro football. To quote Howard Cosell, you have always been a fair voice of reason who “told it like it is.” Since I moved to Houston in 1976, the pro football scene has seen so many up and downs and fortunately you were there to chronicle the events of the day. The Oilers should never have left Houston. I was a season ticket holder during the “Luv Ya Blue” days and the atmosphere at the Astrodome for home games was like going to a college game. So many Houstonians like myself were new to Houston and Texas and we latched on to the Oilers. Even my mother, who just turned 90, had the time of her life when I took my parents to an Oiler game and Krazy George sat in her lap! So many memories. Maybe the best. “The Cowboys might be America’s team but the Oilers are Texas’ team.” Bum Phillips and Earl Campbell, what a combo. So glad that you have a plaque in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. It is an honor well deserved. 

Wishing you all the best going forward. When you spoke at Rocket’s memorial you told the story about going with him to Green Bay and all the friends he made in the parking lot at Lambeau Field and him saying “They love me here.” Well, the same can be said about you and the sports fans of Houston and beyond because they love you too. Thanks for the memories. — Bob J.


Q: Just an email to say congratulations on your retirement and thanks for your fantastic coverage of the Texans over the years. I’m an Englishman who discovered football in 2012 when I caught a Texans game (vs. Bills) on my honeymoon. Been hooked ever since. And John McClain at the Chronicle was always my go-to. I thought that you’d like to know that your following extends beyond Texas and indeed the States, but you have fans here in UK who will all want to wish you the best. Thanks John, and if you are ever in Manchester, UK, we’ll take you out for dinner (although I might have to show you all my Texans jerseys also!). Enjoy your retirement. — Ciaran M.


Q: This isn’t your April Fool’s joke is it? Tell me that Easterby didn’t pull strings with Hearst and have you thrown into early retirement? Now, time for serious. I have been reading you since you came to the Chronicle. You have been with us from the highs of Luv Ya Blue to the lows of … well, how many lows have the Oilers and Texans had? I want to be selfish and have you stay, but you have earned your retirement. Thanks for all you have given us. Life goes on. Be happy. Live happy. — Robert S.


Q: In many ways, I’ve followed your career for forty years. I was a couple years behind you at Baylor, but left Texas in 1979 for Alaska and then Europe in pursuit of my career in the oil industry. While we’ve never met, you are very much an old friend that I depended on throughout those years to keep me informed of the Bears, Astros and Oilers. Indeed, once a week for almost 10 years, a friend mailed me seven day’s worth of Chronicle sports pages so I could read your work. Your articles were always insightful, interesting, balanced, and important to me, devoid of drama and what today might be called click-bait speculation. Congratulations on what I hope is a long retirement.  You’re an asset to your community, the teams you cover and your alma mater. — David B.


Q: I will miss your writing. I always read anything written by you because I knew it would be the real facts and news. I glossed over all the rest. As a person who has retired from teaching, (husband of Nancy Stephens) I knew when to fold the tent. My problem was that I felt I had so much more information to feed the students as I know you have. You will be missed! Thank you for staying in one place so long and creating book of loyal readers and information. — Ron S.


Q: I just wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed reading your articles over the years, and wish you a happy retirement! Your columns were always thoughtful, well-sourced, well-written, and your analysis insightful. You will be missed. Beyond that, take it from me — I’ve been retired for eight-plus years, and retirement is wonderful!  Enjoy! — Vern M.


Q: I’ve been reading you in the Chronicle for all of your 47 years. I was 15 in 1976 when you started and it was about that time I began to regularly look at the newspaper, with sports being my primary interest then. I’ve been looking at it every day since.
You will truly be missed. I know good people are there and well ready to take up your production, but it just won’t be the same without reading columns from “The General.” I feel like we are friends even though we have never personally met. God bless you, and happy retirement wishes. — Raymond R.


Q: Upset, shocked, saddened! I will miss your dry sense of humor, John. Your column was always a must-read in the Chronicle, and I looked forward to it every morning. Now I know why I haven’t seen your column the last few days. I feel a little less upset knowing that you’ll appear in the Chronicle and on Texas Sports Nation occasionally.  I definitely will miss your weekly Mailbag, but look forward to reading your Aeros/Oilers/Texans column on Sunday. A well-earned semi-retirement, John. I say “semi” since you’ll still be doing all your weekly radio shows. I’m sure Carol will appreciate seeing you more now that you’ll not be traveling as much to cover games and other events. Thanks, John, for all the memorable, informative, and insightful columns during the last 40-plus years. Chronicle Sports section just won’t be the same. Wishes for the very best for you and Carol! — Marilyn K.


Q: I moved into the Houston area in the mid-90’s. I have thoroughly enjoyed your articles, segments on 610 and tweets. You are a fixture in Houston sports. I had the opportunity to visit with you at Newark Liberty Airport after a Texans win over the Jets in the Meadowlands. I was struck by how down to earth, and engaging you were in that brief conversation. Thanks for keeping us entertained and informed over the years! — John H.


Q: Just had a chance to read your column and saw the new email. That was a great thing for you to do, though I’m betting you’ll still receive some bizarre notes. I spent the last 2 days in Austin working on a project. I retired in 2016 but I’m still at it, now on my own terms and mostly because I enjoy it so much. And that’s how I see you down the road, doing what you do best because you enjoy it so much. Take care, and I’ll be pestering you from time to time. — Bob E.


Q: Just a note of sincere thanks for the opportunity to enjoy your work over the past decades. I moved with my family to Houston in 1967, from a small town on the West Coast, and one of the things I love about the big city is following our professional sports teams — primarily the Astros, Oilers and Texans, and the Rockets. Your work has added immeasurably to that enjoyment. I’m not a journalist, so I come at things as a fan, but one of the things I’ve always appreciated about your coverage is you’re a homer in the sense of being assigned to cover your home team and rooting for their success, but you’ve managed to balance that with journalistic integrity, which I expect is often a narrow middle ground to follow, and not always easy. I also like the fact that you never seem to forget that the players, although professionals, are still people, and you seem to treat the folks you cover with the respect that I would certainly welcome if I were an athlete.  At the same time, you manage to write from a fan’s perspective — frustrated when things are going poorly and excited when things are going well — without ever making it more important than it needs to be. Finally, at least in terms of this note, I’ve learned a lot from you about professional football, as you do a great job of providing an insider’s perspective on the events of the team(s) and the league. I wish you much happiness and fulfillment in your retirement. I’m glad to hear that you plan to continue your radio work, which I’ve also enjoyed, and I’ll look forward to seeing your occasional articles/columns going forward as the opportunities arise.  I’m glad for you, but sorry for those of us who are fans of Houston professional sports. You are a sports journalism icon in Houston and Texas. You daily work with the written word will be missed. — Richard E.


Q: Please accept my thanks and congratulations for your insightful, reliable and interesting reporting over these many years. No other reporters, regardless of their area of expertise, have held my confidence and attention as firmly as you. I trust John McClain. My not-quite-serious question today: could you please consider covering politics now? The country needs you! Best wishes, sir. — Jim S.

A: Thanks very much, Jim, and in one word — no!


Q: Just wanted to say congratulations on your forthcoming retirement. You came to Melanie Hauser’s sports writing class at UT while I was there, and you were incredibly kind and generous to us students during your visit. That was 15 years ago at this point, but after reading your farewell column I’d be remiss if I didn’t reach out to let you know of the positive impact you had. I think there’s a saying that people forget what you say but never forget how you make them feel. Please know you left a very positive impact and I know I try to pay it forward in the same way to the next generation. Congrats again and wishing you a wonderful retirement. – Eric R.


Q: I’m going to be 54 next week and have lived in Houston my entire life. I grew up watching the Oilers, Astros and Rockets. I’ve been through all the same Houston sports history as you. As I’ve followed the Texans since their inception, there of course have been numerous articles about them. I’ve always appreciated yours because I know of your relationship with the team and I truly appreciate your writing style. You tell it like it is. Many times I’ve thought to myself, my thoughts exactly! Best wishes to you and I’m glad you will still be on the sports scene in other capacities! Warmest regards. — Daphne E.


Q: You’re a class act and a fantastic sports writer. I can speak for myself that, as a 23 year old, you’ve also connected across generations. I’m going to miss your column but I hope that you still tweet “pathetic,” “putrid,” and as many other lovely adjectives as possible. We will still be watching and listening! Enjoy retirement. Wish you all the best. — Ryan F.


Q: I know this is a busy year for you. I have noticed you are taking a seat back. Is Brooks Kubena taking over your duties? I texted you for coffee I am still interested. I just realized today is your last day. Congratulations on an awesome, hall of fame career. I will still tune in on Tuesday/Wednesday/Friday for your weekly radio shows. If I was an owner, GM. My only goal would be to find players who want to win. Passion, burning desire to compete and be the best, everyday putting in 150 percent the only thing that should matter is winning. Then you will get paid. What would the Texans be like with Watson at QB under Gary Kubiak? I read a column last night, the offense under Pep will be similar to the offense under Kubiak. — Orhan Y.


Q: John, we moved to Houston in 1985 from Cleveland. I have really enjoyed reading your columns each morning with my coffee! You called things as they were — didn’t sugar coat. I have traveled a lot and can tell you that the Houston Chronicle has the BEST Sports Section of all. I wish you all the best — thanks for helping me jump start my mornings. You will be missed — stay young, stay safe and thanks again! — Mike B.


Q: Hope you are doing good. I have a none Watson/Easterby/Caserio question for you. Since you have answered about a million of those the past year. I’m planning a trip to Houston to watch my first NFL game with the Texans. Anything else you recommend I should experience while in Houston? Med venlig hilsen. — Kristian S.

A: Kristian, my new e-mail is [email protected] Get in touch in a week or so and I’ll make sure you have a great time!