Happy trails to tireless Dispatch storyteller

Staff Writer
Buckeye Xtra
Dispatch sports reporter Tim May was honored on the field at Ohio State before the Michigan for his years covering Ohio State football. [Adam Cairns/Dispatch]

LOS ANGELES — Shelley Meyer walked beside her retiree husband as he exited the field one last time. But the real man of the hour at the Rose Bowl — at least in sportswriting circles — walked right behind the Ohio State coach.

As Urban Meyer formed O-H-I-O with his arms in the midst of adoring Buckeyes fans, longtime Dispatch reporter Tim May was just off the coach’s left shoulder, capturing the scene on video and later posting it to Always working. That is Timbo, who is retiring after 42 years at the paper, including 35 as an OSU football beat writer.

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It was the perfect framing of two legends sharing a final assignment: taking care of business at the Rose Bowl, where Meyer was making his first visit and May was making his fourth. The 28-23 win against Washington meant a lot to Meyer, but the game itself meant just as much to May, whose first season covering the Buckeyes in 1984 ended at the same spot. Full circle for a football square. And I mean that endearingly.

While many writers, and most columnists, operate from outside the game — “What is the deeper psychological meaning of it all?” — May absolutely loves the on-field action, feasts on the X’s and O’s and understands the value of having a quarterback like Dwayne Haskins Jr., who can thread the needle for his receivers.

You’ve heard of an athlete being a coach on the field? May is a coach on press row. Except he asks questions instead of trying to deflect them. He is a relentless interviewer, asking … and asking … and asking … at news conferences — “Just one more follow-up …” — so readers don’t get shorted in their coverage.

On a personal note, I am grateful Tim put up with my eccentricities for more than two decades — he has a few of his own, I’m here to tell you — and have a hunch the grinder with the Texas twang is “fixin' ” to keep tabs on the Buckeyes. Good, because the press corps won’t know what to do without his colorful anecdotes, spun in a way that resembles van Gogh on a verbal canvas.

Mention Lufkin, Texas, where May grew up — he spent his first 11 years in Alabama before moving to the Piney Woods region — and enjoy the storytelling ride. His Walt Garrison yarn is legendary. Warning: NSFW.

I’ll let him jump in here with memories and insights gleaned through the years.

“A moment that stands out is when I was up at Michigan in 1987 for the press conference, getting all the stories for that week — we had talked to Ohio State players the day before, when everyone was denying that Earle Bruce would be fired — and I get back and my wife (Suzy) had left me a note that said, ‘Earle fired. (Rick) Bay resigned. Get on it.’ ”

In talking to May on Wednesday, I said I had to write, “God bless, Suzy.” He liked that.

Tim also wrote on auto racing and boxing for The Dispatch — he was in Japan in 1990 for Buster Douglas’ shocking win against Mike Tyson — but was best known for his Ohio State coverage. He ranks this season among the weirdest of his tenure.

“Just when you think you’ve seen it all from Ohio State, you see something new,” he said, saying he would not have wanted it any other way.

“If I had covered Indiana football, I probably would have quit after five seasons. But when you cover Ohio State it’s like a roller coaster. Even when things were going good, usually there was something else going on.”

Glad we got more than five years from this guy. Happy trails, Tex.


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