David Ramsey ('81) | Journalism

dave ramsey

Award-winning sports columnist
for the Colorado Springs Gazette

His sports writing career was a "happy accident," says alumnus David Ramsey, award-winning columnist for the Colorado Springs Gazette.

"I returned early after winter break for the second semester of my junior year at ACU. This was 1980, and I was planning to sleep and see friends," he recalls. "One morning at 7, the phone rang. It was Dave Wallace, sports editor of The Optimist. He wanted me to start writing sports for The Optimist. I wanted to go back to sleep. I had no interest in writing sports for The Optimist or anybody else. I wanted to be a hard-news writer. But Dave, who remains a close friend, was quite persuasive. Next thing I knew, I was writing about Billy Olson and Willard Tate."  

Now, 30 years later, it is the only career Ramsey has known, and it has been a markedly successful one.

He is a former recipient of the Gutenberg Award, which recognizes distinguished professional achievements of ACU Journalism and Mass Communication Department alumni. He has won the New York State Publishers Award for sports writing and has twice finished first in the national Associated Press Sports Editors contest. He most recently won the Colorado Press Association sports columnist competition. Woody Paige of the Denver Post, who's better known for his work with ESPN, finished second.

Below Ramsey shares highlights of his career and reflections on his education at ACU.

Q&A with David Ramsey

What has been your career path since graduation?

Worked for three years in Abilene for the Reporter-News, where I learned the craft of sports writing from ACU grad Bill Hart. (Billy Fred to his friends.) Then I spent 18 years in Syracuse, New York, covering Syracuse University sports. We loved our time in Upstate New York. For one thing, I spent a dozen work nights a year in New York City, the greatest city in the world. I've been in Colorado Springs, which is an hour from my hometown of Denver, for the past eight years.

What's your favorite part of your job? What makes you say, "Wow, I love it when I can do that?"

It's almost always a blast to sit courtside at a basketball game. Basketball is my favorite sport. I don't watch a lot of sports on TV. This keeps me fresh for games where I'm actually there. If you don't enjoy watching games, sports writing is not your calling. And I enjoy the actual writing much more than most of my colleagues. Writing is hard work, but it's rewarding when the words are coming together just right.

What in your mind makes a good writer?

Honesty. The courage to say what you think even if you know it will anger people. I'm not talking about being needlessly or cynically mean. When coaches or players are most angry with me, that's when I know I've written the truth. The short answer to that question would be F. Scott Fitzgerald. I recently visited his grave in suburban Washington D.C. He's my writing hero. Wish he hadn't drank himself to death. He had so many more stories to tell. (Side note: Ramsey recently found himself near the epicenter of public debate about the worthiness of Tim Tebow for the starting quarterback job in Denver)

How has sports writing changed since you started your career?

Deadlines. Used to be, your deadline was sometime in the evening and you usually didn't have to hurry to get your work done. Now, the deadline is as soon as possible for virtually everything because editors want to get your work on the web. In most ways, I like the new world. There's an immediacy to it.

How have athletes changed?

Not very much. The athletes remain remarkably the same. I'm the one who changed. I'm getting old, but the athletes I'm writing about are always young.

Who are some of the most interesting athletes you've covered?

I watched the young Michael Jordan play for the Bulls in an exhibition game in Syracuse. I had talked with an 8-year-old who was utterly thrilled to see Jordan dunk, and after the game, I asked Jordan how much it meant to him to bring so much joy to this young fan. Jordan shrugged and said he didn't much care. When he saw the look on my face - a look of shocked disdain - he changed his answer and talked about how much fans meant to him. I try to be an impassive observer and interviewer, but couldn't help myself that night.

Is there an athlete you'd love to interview that you haven't had the opportunity yet?

I'd like to talk with Lance Armstrong. There are couple tough questions I'd love to offer him. Don't think that would go too well, though.

How would you describe your experience at ACU and with JMC?

Dr. Charlie Marler was tough on me. Nothing I did seemed to be enough. He did not compromise. He did not listen to excuses. The editors I've worked with since leaving ACU all remind me of Charlie. Newspaper culture is extremely unforgiving, just like Dr. Marler. Let me be quick to say that Charlie now is a close friend, and I could not have found a better person to teach me the business. He's the best. A great man.

The staff of The Optimist was close to a cult - in a good way, I mean - during my years there. We were extremely close, and we worked so hard. Ridiculously hard, but we had rollicking, uproarious fun, too. All within the confines of ACU rules, of course.

Do people often confuse you with the financial guru by the same name?

When I checked my son, Luke, into his ACU campus apartment last school year, the woman at the rental office was openly disappointed I wasn't THE Dave Ramsey. In my mind, there's one David Ramsey, and that's my late father, David Leon Ramsey, a 1952 ACU grad. (I'm David Luke.) That financial guy is a mere shadow of David Leon Ramsey.

Anything you'd like to add?

I'm absolutely thrilled to be home in Colorado. I've become an avid cyclist, and there are all  kinds of spectacular trails here that boggle your mind with their beauty. As I ride along, I often think about all my blessings.

And one of those blessings was to attend ACU.

ACU connections?

My mother (Mary Ann Park Ramsey) and father met at ACU. I met my wife, Sheryl Hamby, at ACU. My daughter, Ruth is an ACU alum. My sons Luke and Caleb are currently attending ACU. My aunt and uncle (Johnny Ramsey and Wilma Ramsey Coleman) graduated from ACU. My father-in-law, Kelly Hamby, was a long-time ACU professor. My brother, Paul, and my sister, Sarah, also attended ACU.  And that's just the start of the list.

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