Jim Huber: Death of a sports poet
Jim Huber died this week at age 67.
January 3rd, 2012
11:44 AM ET

Jim Huber: Death of a sports poet

Editor's note: CNN senior executive producer Michael Schulder had the chance to chat many times with Jim Huber when their paths crossed at the CNN offices in the 1980s. He wishes he'd gotten to know Huber better.

Once you get Jim Huber’s voice in your head, you can never get it out.

Who would want to?

Jim Huber wrote lullabies that could open your eyes.

His essays on sports and life were short.  But never rushed.

And, before I even Googled him Monday night, as soon as we learned he had died at the age of 67, I knew that no matter what sample of his work the Internet giant’s algorithm spun out, I would feel as if I were learning something nobody else had ever conveyed.

Golf was Huber’s main beat for many years.  He saw way beyond the fairway.

So when a 22-year-old Irishman named Rory McIlroy won the U.S. Open last year - just two months after going into the final round of the Masters with a huge lead, only to self-destruct in the final holes - Huber captured the magnitude of the comeback.

“There comes a moment – and you’ll remember where you were forever – when the golf world shifts just a bit, and a new order steps up.  It came when Tiger Woods won the ’97 Masters, by a dozen shots.  It came at Congressional Country Club, this Father’s Day Sunday, when Rory McIlroy charged through the golfing void and made U.S. Open history.”

Huber brought a sense of history and perspective to fast-breaking news.

So you can imagine what he did when aiming to capture a moment in history.

The retirement of Shaquille O’Neal:

“It is almost as if Marvel Comics had commissioned its own basketball creation all those many years ago.  Make him huge – larger than anything we’d ever seen.  And menacing.  But paint a subtle gleam in his eyes. … Drop his voice to a whisper.  And give it a kind of rapper’s drama.  And develop for him one of the most astonishing records in NBA history.  … There, in a kind of comic book flesh and blood, you have a giant for the ages.”

Jim Huber always slipped in fascinating unexpected details as if they were written in big bold letters spoken softly.  On basketball coach Phil Jackson retiring after toying with retirement twice before:

“He has repeatedly said that this would be the end.  And the son of two ministers wouldn’t lie to us, now would he?”

I chatted with Huber in the hallways of CNN enough to know that what he loved about sports was the human dimension, not the statistical one.

Huber would weave numbers into his stories when they illustrated a point worth remembering.  In the Phil Jackson piece - pointing out that under Jackson, the Chicago Bulls and L.A. Lakers won 70% of their regular season games and 69% of their playoff appearances.

“Phil Jackson, taken at his word,” wrote Huber last May, “has sat at the end of an NBA bench now for the very last time.  And the game will have a void like none since Red Auerbach stepped away decades ago.”

Speaking of voids.

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Filed under: Obituary • Sports
soundoff (10 Responses)
  1. Sue Reading

    Michael, thanks for finding and posting those great quotes. Your post was a beautiful tribute to Jim.

    January 3, 2012 at 12:00 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Alan

    I was fortunate enough to have spent time with him over the past few years at a charity golf tournament. Warm, intelligent, funny and always a gentleman. We would all do well to take lessons from Jim. Rest in Peace and prayers for his family and friends.

    January 3, 2012 at 12:13 pm | Report abuse |
  3. banasy©

    My condolences to his family, his friends, and all who read him.

    He was also correct about Phil Jackson.

    January 3, 2012 at 1:17 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Astarte

    What a sweet, gently man. May he rest well.

    January 3, 2012 at 1:56 pm | Report abuse |
  5. banasy©

    Hello, Astarte.
    How are you?

    January 3, 2012 at 3:04 pm | Report abuse |
  6. bigwilliestyles

    I became familiar with Huber's writing when Tiger Woods began his golf run; he had a writing style that immediately made you steal from it; though I'm sure he would not have minded if he knew. RIP to one of the genre's best.

    January 3, 2012 at 3:50 pm | Report abuse |
  7. RuckaRucka

    Has anyone notice that the American military is defeated these days? All those claims of military related females
    exposed as pure fiction for over one decade? And notice also the world is a far better place in that clear
    worldwide defeat? The word American military females hate most is "defeat" as this hurts the hairstyle BUDGETS.

    too bad eh?

    January 3, 2012 at 4:34 pm | Report abuse |
  8. banasy©


    What the Ruck are you talking about?

    January 3, 2012 at 5:16 pm | Report abuse |
  9. conch

    Missed in Atlanta, missed on the Tour and really missed in my house.
    See you at the 19th Jim.

    Nice work Michael.

    January 3, 2012 at 9:22 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Michael J Monteith

    My Tribute to Jim Huber 1944-2012

    He chooses his words,
    The way Tiger chooses an iron;
    Carefully, with an almighty consideration,
    Never too much, and never too little.
    Put it back if it doesn’t feel right.
    The way Jack reads a putt-
    Choose a line, choose a target-
    Keep it simple, keep it smooth,
    Don’t flirt with pretty or flashy.
    And when you heard him read-
    You thought, why couldn’t I have written that?
    I could have said that!
    But you couldn’t!
    Even if Jim gave you all the right words,
    Jumbled in a white, shaving mug,
    Like jig saw pieces,
    You still wouldn’t get it right;
    Couldn’t place them in the right order.
    But Jim could,
    And he did.
    And it sounded just right and respectful;
    Like a little Homer Winslow watercolor,
    With its perfect shades of leaves,
    And reflections in the water;
    Just a lovely thing.

    Michael J Monteith written 13 August, 2012m

    August 13, 2012 at 10:51 am | Report abuse |