Scanning the morning papers, I came across an editorial tribute in the Fresno Bee to my namesake. I’m not related to Jim Sweeney, the former Fresno State football coach, and I never met him, yet he helped more out more than once. He almost certainly didn’t know it, but I appreciated it just the same.
For much of the 1980s, I covered state government and politics for a paper in Southern California. When I called on someone in the Central Valley for the first time, I was frequently asked whether I was related to the Bulldogs coach. It may have been the only reason some people took the call. They probably would have preferred to talk to him, but they usually answered my questions anyway.
My distant association with the other Jim Sweeney – or am I the other Jim Sweeney? – goes back even further. When I was a little boy in Montana, he coached at Montana State. My dad got transferred to Portland, Ore., and soon afterward, he started coaching at Washington State. Someone missed a memo somewhere, because he stayed put when we decamped for Denver. But soon after we arrived in California, he was coaching for Fresno State and, briefly, the Oakland Raiders.
I’m sorry I never tried for a meeting on one of my visits to Fresno. The closest we came to meeting was when we stayed at the same hotel in Los Angeles. He must have been on a recruiting trip, and a couple of his phone messages got routed to me. I returned them via the front desk; perhaps I should have tried to deliver them myself.
This old baseball fan always took a little extra interest in football when Jim Sweeney’s teams were playing. And I’m sorry that he’s gone.
– Jim Sweeney