As family and friends prepare for the home going services for a son, brother, nephew, cousin, friend, athlete, and pioneer, we will be remember Kevin Tatum as a MAN who stood for something and didn’t fall for just anything.
Kevin Tatum led by example as the point guard on the City Championship 1969 McKinley Tech High School basketball team in Washington, DC and as sportswriter for three decades. He covered sports for newspapers in St. Louis, DC and in Philadelphia. It was never easy, it never is, when you are honest and a man of integrity in today’s dog eat dog media circus.
Kevin discovered as I did, folks always want to hear the truth as long as it is about someone else, but never about themselves.
After college Kevin sport’s writing career started out in St. Louis, but after a short stay there he came home to work in his “Dream Job” the sports department of the Washington Star newspaper, but that was also short-lived. The paper filed for bankruptcy in 1981. He applied for a job in the sports department of the Washington Post without any success. This was really a blessing in disguise, the paper already had on board the just arrived Michael Wilbon, Dave Dupree and a couple of other go-along-to -get along Negroes. Kevin never fit the profile required to work for the Washington Post.
We had several conversations about his future in the business as he mailed out his resumes to newspapers around the country looking for his next job. His next assignment would carry him to the City of Brotherly Love. I discovered by chance through his late uncle Craig that he had landed in Philly. I immediately called Sonny Hill (Mr. Basketball in Philadelphia) and Philadelphia Inquirer sports writer Elmer Smith asking them to keep an eye on him. He was highly respected by his peers despite assignments by his editors to keep him away from the juicy assignments of covering basketball mainstays like Penn State, Temple, La Salle, Villanova and the NBA.
Despite the assignments to the high school and Division II basketball beats, he made sure their stories were accurately told and went eyeball to eyeball with editors who tried to put a different spin on his stories.
The media in all forms is one of the most insecure professions known to mankind, especially for blacks. The reason, the opportunities are far, few and in-between. Black folks will step on each other, stab you in the back trying to get that ONE opening.
I applaud Kevin for being able to last in this cut-throat business for three-decades and leaving on his own terms–without the label of “Designated Tom!”
Radio talk show host Sonny Hill remembers Kevin as a brother who was a frequent guest on his Sunday morning talk show “The Living Room” heard on WIP All Sports Radio in Philly. He said, “Kevin walked with his shoulders back and his head held high. There were a lot of trials and tribulations, but he manage to weather all the storms.”
Former basketball All-Met at Eastern High School in DC and Villanova basketball standout Bernie Chavis says, “I didn’t know Kevin, but I read his columns in the Inquirer. He was an excellent writer and all I heard was good things about him in the community.”
The overseer of the Washington sports department was my old friend George Solomon. He ran a Gestapo type sports department, according to highly respected veteran high school sports reporter and native Washingtonian, Donald Huff. George often looked over the shoulders of his reporters which was not a bad idea sometimes, but he too often looked over the shoulders of his columnist who were suppose to have some independence over the written word in their columns.
George allowed me to write several free-lance columns for the sports department and I have written several “Opinion” columns for the Editorial Page. I have seen the Good, Bad and Ugly of the Washington Post. In the 70s and 80s I was in and out of the Washington Post sports department so often folks thought I worked there.
George Solomon and his writers were frequent guest on Inside Sports.
I will never forget how Michael Wilbon cried on my shoulder in the Green Room of the Howard University TV station before we were scheduled to be a guest on the Kojo Knamdi Show. His complaint, George often looked over his shoulder and changed his columns to his dismay.
My advice, “You are a talented writer and I am sure you could find a better position with your credentials. Why not send your resume to the NY Times or LA Times?”
Famous last words, shortly after that advice, Wilbon would become a star columnist, a ESPN television co-host with Tony CORN-HISNER. This is one guy who should get down on his knees every night and thank God he was born Jewish and white (no talent).
Wilbon has co-authored books with NBA Hall of Fame player Charles Barkley, played golf with Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods. He is a millionaire and has been elected to several media halls of fame. Here it is 40 years later, the question to myself should be, “What did I know and when did I know it?” It looks like George knew best or did he?
Let me make one thing perfectly clear, I love Wilbon like a little brother and when my younger brothers the late Sgt. Earl “Bull” Bell and my younger brother Puddin aka Billy, Tyrik, or William, stepped out of line as grown men, I stepped to them! It is no different with those who came through Kids In Trouble and Inside Sports before their 15 minutes of fame.
My next question, what price did Wilbon pay for all those accolades? He had a heart attack that almost took him out of here and lost a lot of credit and trust in the community, especially, when he went on National television saying, “It’s okay to use the N word among family and friends!” This was after telling me in the Wizards (NBA) media press room, “I have been asked to be a part of the discussion on the N word on “ESPN’s Out Side the Lines but I am not going to participate because the white host has no horse in the race.” The next Sunday I turn on the TV and who do I see sitting in on that same discussion saying, ‘Its okay to use the N word?’
Kevin Tatum would never have gone back on his word because of the pride he had in himself of being black and proud. He was a product of a home that thrived on integrity and honesty.
In a recent e-mail I said, I would jump over a one-hundred, Michael Wilbons, Stephen A. Smiths, and Kevin Blackistones to get to one Kevin Tatum. There is no common denominator as it relates to Kevin, Wilbon, Stephen A and Blackistone, accept all four were sports writers and black to some extend.
Remember, Kevin was an outstanding impact athlete in high school and on the playgrounds of DC. Wilbon, Stephen A. and Blackistone could not play dead while in high school or college. Stephen A. claimed he played for Bighouse Gaines at Winston-Salem State my al-mater. In a conversation with Coach Gaines during homecoming several years before he died, he said, “Stephen A. Smith never got off the bench”–I rest my case!
In the meantime, for those of us who knew the real Kevin Tatum should not be alarmed by the story that appeared in his old newspaper the Philadelphia Inquirer obituary reporting his passing. The story claimed he plagiarized a story he had written during his tenure??? The obituary was written by some sports department go-fer by the name of Sofiya Ballin whose boss is evidently the one who tried to set Kevin up from the very beginning.
D. C. have no fear, Garry “G” Cobb is here. Garry is a classic case of a former NFL star who transitioned successfully to a radio and television career. Garry played linebacker in the National Football League for 11 years. He spent 6 seasons with the Detroit Lions, where he was a team captain for three years and led them to the playoffs in two of those years. Garry then played three years along side Hall-Of-Fame player Reggie White as a member of the Philadelphia Eagles. He finished his career with two years in Dallas playing for head coaches Tom Landry and Jimmy Johnson. Some of Garry teammates in Dallas were Hall-Of-Famers Troy Aikman and Michael Irvin. As an outside linebacker in Buddy Ryan’s vaunted 46 Defense, Garry had his best day as a pro when he registered 4 sacks, two forced fumbles, and a fumble recovery in a single game against the Atlanta Falcons and was named the Sports Illustrated NFL Defensive Player Of The Week. He held the Eagles single game sack until Clyde Simmons surpassed him with a 4.5 sack game. Garry was traded by the Lions to the Eagles in 1985 for one of the Birds All-Time greats Wilbert Montgomery. Cobb played on some outstanding defenses while playing for the Lions. He led NFL linebackers in interceptions with five during one of his years in Detroit. Garry also led the Cowboys with 7 1/2 sacks during one of his two seasons in Dallas. After his football career, Garry became a popular sports radio talk show host on Sports radio 610-WIP in 1991. He became known as G. Cobb and has developed quite a following among sports fans and especially Eagles fans in the area. In addition, Garry was a sports anchor and reporter on CBS-3 television in Philadelphia for eight years.
This is what Garry wrote on his blog page SPORTS 24×7.com in May of 2012 relating to the false accusation by the writer on the Dead Spin blog site. He said, “We have learned this week that the plagerism accusation against Kevin Tatum that was posted by Dead Spin in November, which had Tatum stealing a blog regarding Villanova basketball and claiming the information enclosed as his own, was at the very least a miscommunication between Tatum and his immediate supervisor” (see link below for complete story).
When Kevin was contacted about this story, he said “No comment I have moved on!” I am sure that is exactly what he would want family and friends here in DC to do—move on. Rest in peace little brother.