When I started covering the Seahawks in 1979, Gil Lyons of the Seattle Times and Don Fair at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer were the veteran beat reporters for the team. Each provided guidance and inspiration for the “kid” who is now in his 35th season of covering the Seahawks.
Lyons, who covered the team from its inaugural season in 1976 through the 1991 season, died on Sunday of complications from surgery. He was 83.
One of my fondest memories of Lyons and Fair came during my first season on the beat – 1979, while working for the now-defunct Fournier Newspapers in Kent.
Jack Patera was the coach and his weekly day-after sessions with the beat writers were held in his office at the team’s original headquarters along the shores of Lake Washington in Kirkland. No TV cameras. No sports-talk radio stations, because there weren’t any at that time. Just the beat guys – Lyons, Fair, Earl Luebker from the Tacoma News Tribune, Will Nessly from the Everett Herald, Glenn Drosendahl from Bellevue Journal-American and “the kid from Kent.”
Patera came to the Seahawks from the Minnesota Vikings, where he had been the defensive line coach on Bud Grant’s staff. That also meant he was a diehard 4-3 man, and definitely had no need for the 3-4 defense that was becoming popular (the Seahawks would switch to the 3-4 in 1983 when Chuck Knox was hired to replace Patera).
Of course, I was unaware of Patera’s passion for the 4-3 and just-as fervent disfavor of the 3-4. Before one of my first Monday sessions in Patera’s offense, Lyons and Fair suggested I ask Patera if he was considering shifting to the 3-4.
“What nice guys,” I thought. “They’re willing to help out the new guy.”
But when I asked Patera about a possible switch, he shifted his ample weight in his chair and pursed his lips as the blood began to rush from his neck up his face. Before the eruption that Lyons and Fair were expecting could occur, however, Patera noticed them trying to hide smiles and laughs behind their notebooks.
Aware that the prank was on, Patera settled back in his chair, smiled and offered a thorough explanation of why he would only play with a four-man line. It made for a good story, for all of us.
There are many other Lyons’ tales that could be shared. But we’ll keep those private, to protect the innocent and not-so-innocent.
In the Seahawks’ early years – before the internet and ESPN – Lyons was a must-read for fans of the fledgling team. He eventually became known simply as “The Dean,” because the other original beat writers retired or moved on to other things.
Before covering the Seahawks, Lyons was the Times’ beat writer for the Sonics from their inception in 1967 until 1976, when he moved to the Seahawks.
He is survived by his wife of 60 years, Joan; and their four children – Chris, Lyn, Lucy and Michael.
A memorial service is scheduled for Saturday at St. Jude’s Catholic Church in Redmond.