Bob Morris has worked for The Raton Range since January 1999 and is midway through his 15th year with the twice-weekly newspaper based in Raton, N.M. He was born in Killeen, Texas, but grew up in Longmont, Colo., graduating from Longmont High School in 1989, then from the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley, Colo., in 1993. His first job in newspapers was with the Rocky Ford Daily Gazette, a five-day-a-week paper in Rocky Ford, Colo., and he worked there for five years before taking his current job in Raton. His work has led to travels that have taken him all over the state of New Mexico, from Farmington in the northwest, to Clayton in the northeast, to Lovington in the southeast, and to Silver City in the southwest. His book Small Town Sports Beat covers the many tales and adventures he has experienced in his work, from 1999 to 2011. You may follow his blog at smalltownsportsbeat.blogspot.com.
1. What inspired you to write Small Town Sports Beat?
It was in late 2010 that I began thinking about writing a book but I wasn’t sure where to start. After running several ideas through my head, I decided it would be best to start with my work experiences. I thought that it would be a good way to share more of my own personal thoughts about the people that I met through the years, as well as a way to share my experiences with people who were not regular readers of The Raton Range. It would give those people a chance to learn about some of those events and find out just how much can happen in a smaller community.
2. Will you write more longer works or was this a one-time project?
It remains to be seen. Perhaps I’ll do a follow-up book in the future but, for now, this will be it as far any projects related to my work experiences.
3. What publishing platform did you decide to use?
I had looked at a few publishers in New Mexico but didn’t find one that I believed would be interested in my work. So I went the self-publishing route through CreateSpace.
4. Would you consider writing fiction?
I have had a few fiction ideas running through my head. Perhaps I’ll work on one of them in the future — likely something in the science fiction/comic book world. I am a comic book and sci-fi geek, after all.
5. Is it only about one small town or can sports fans from any small town identify with it?
I definitely think the latter applies. While the focus is mainly on the communities I cover, people from smaller communities will certainly notice several themes that fit right in with their communities, ranging from the personalities you meet, to the athletes who have great accomplishments, to well-known athletes who have a connection to smaller communities. Plus, I think most people in smaller communities can relate to how important high school sports are to them.
6. Besides writing, in what other ways are you involved with small town sports?
I’ve been on the local Little League board of directors for several years and served as president this past year.
7. What awards have you won over the years?
It’s a pretty extensive list, actually.All awards came through the New Mexico Press Association. In Class II weeklies, I’ve won first place in sports writing in 1999, 2001, 2002, 2004, 2006, and 2010, and second place in 2003, 2005 and 2009; first place in sports columns in 1999, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2006 and 2007, and second place in 2005 and 2010, then second in 2012 in Class III weeklies (the NMPA has changed classifications recently). Also won second place for sports photo in 1999 and 2011, second place for feature writing in 2003, and second place for photo series in 2004.
8. What has surprised you the most in your career as a sports writer?
The fact that you never know just who might be connected to a smaller community in some way. As an example, I learned from a reader that Houston Texans running back Arian Foster had relatives living in Springer (south of Raton) and that his mother graduated from Springer High School. It’s one of the experiences I cover in the book (now how’s that for a teaser?).
9. How different was your writing process for Small Town Sports Beat from your newspaper writing?
When I sit down to write a sports story, I think more about the angle and approach to take to a single subject. When it came to writing the book, though, I had to think in terms of how to present the material so that some general themes could be drawn from the overall writing. I settled on using a “diary” format, touching upon individual subjects, but made sure to tie them into various themes. Plus I had to jog my long-term memory — when I write a story, I just need to look over the notes I take, but with this book, I had to go back through a lot of stories I’ve written and then thought about what I remembered about the experiences. So it was a more difficult process than just writing about a single subject.
10. If some mega-corp offered you Beaucoup bucks to move to NYC and write sports stuff there, would you move? Or do you love your small town too much?
New York would be a nice place to visit but I don’t think I would ever live there. I don’t like driving in heavy traffic and, sometimes, things get so impersonal in a larger city. Smaller communities are where it’s more likely you’ll see somebody you know, have a quick chat, or just pass by somebody and you’ll say hello to each other. In my line of work, you can never say never but I doubt I’d ever take a job in a larger city.
11. I’m writing these questions just a couple of days after the announcement that the Raton Range might be going out of business! I’m so sorry to hear that. What’s the latest information on this?
I can’t answer that question yet, but I can say that the newspaper should be able to continue in some capacity.
12. Do people ever confuse you with other professionals with the same name?
Well, there is an author out there who goes by Bob Morris, but nobody has ever confused me with that individual. But there have been a couple of people in town who have confused me with my editor, even though our names are very different and we really don’t look that much alike.
13. Do you know if anyone from our High School went on to greatness in the world of sports?
One in particular: Greg Biekert was a member of the Longmont High School Class of 1987 and went on to play NFL football — mostly with the Oakland Raiders but he also played a couple of seasons with the Minnesota Vikings. I’ve kept one of his football cards — it’s probably the only piece of Oakland Raiders memorabilia that a Denver Broncos fan like me would keep!
14. Was Jon Williams all he was cracked up to be on the baseball field?
Unfortunately, I never got to see Jon play baseball but I knew he was a good pitcher. In fact, I remember a story in the Times-Call about him and how he had cataract surgery but overcame it and did very well on the diamond. He was a good golfer, too. As for why I never got to see him play, that was mostly because I was in track practice all the time.
15. When I attended a Longmont High School sporting event back in the 80’s I was always in the concession stand raising money for the music department. Where were you during the games?
During football games, I was usually in the stands. During basketball, it was sometimes in the stands, although as a senior, I was out in the lobby selling tickets for a free-throw contest to raise money for the Close-Up trip to Washington D.C. — and I remember that our assistant principal, Mr. Davis, had his ticket drawn and he made the half-court shot for all the money. Of course, he didn’t take the money but donated it back to Close-Up. Oh, and I also worked the concession stand for a wrestling tournament that LHS hosted (also to raise money for Close-Up). And I ran cross country and track, so I’d be out on the course or track for those sports.
16. What is your ideal writing environment? Have you ever been able to create it?
Given that I do most of my writing at the newspaper office, I suppose that would be it. In fact, that’s where I wrote the book, working on chapters during my spare time.
17. What is your favorite digital or electronic writing tool?
I’m not certain I have a favorite — I don’t really look at any computer differently, be it desktop or laptop. I don’t own an iPad or anything like that, but from what some people have told me, it’s difficult trying to write on one.
18. What is your favorite non-electronic writing tool?
I’ve always used black pens for my note taking, so that would probably be it.
19. How would you adapt the game of American Football to be played on the moon?
Well, you’d have to make the football heavier, for one thing. Gotta compensate for gravity.
20. Who shot first, Han or Greedo?
Of course it was Han. He knew if he didn’t shoot first, Greedo would have.