I don't remember how I found the Spokesman-Review's Washington State coverage, but while I was in college I stumbled upon the only significant WSU beat around. At the time, it was run by Glenn Kasses and I found myself checking for the latest news multiple times a day. It was the beginning of my real obsession with Washington State athletics.
Kasses moved on and some new guy I'd never heard of came along. I'm from Seattle and didn't know Spokane-area sports, so the name Vince Grippi never registered for me. It was some new guy coming in to do the WSU job temporarily, I thought, and I wasn't sure he knew what a blog was.
Turns out, Sportslink -- the sports blog section of the Spokesman-Review -- was his baby, and the old guy knew a hell of a lot more about technology, different publishing mediums, and the ways of the world than I ever imagined. The guy I thought was a temporary fill-in turned out to be a permanent replacement, and over time the Washington State community embraced him.
About two years ago, I didn't have a clue what in the world I was doing with my life. I had graduated from Washington State with a degree in computer science, but was lukewarm about actually using the piece of paper for what it was intended for. So I started screwing around on CougCenter, eventually becoming a writer. One of the first things I did with my newfound ability to write was attend a spring scrimmage in Pullman.
Like a lost puppy, I asked this wise old man, Vince, for help. I sent emails, asked questions, tried to pick his brain about how he does what he does. He answered all of my questions, then told me to come say hello; I never took him up on it, not wanting to interrupt his work or his time with his wife, Kim, who had come down for the scrimmage.
Eventually, I did get to meet him in person, working alongside him, in a way, during the following football season. He was the wise veteran and I was the kid just trying to look like he belonged in a press box, attempting to not screw things up along the way. I'd visit practices and stay out of the way while learning as I went -- and all of that learning came from Vince.
It quickly became evident that Vince has a sixth sense for when things are going to happen and where. If he scurries off at a quick pace, it's best to follow, because he's either found some kind of cool story or the food tray. It's how a group of about 30 reporters ended up jammed in a tiny hallway in the bowels of CenturyLink Field after the Apple Cup this year; Vince went to go stand by the locker room doors, and every single person followed, only to be told we all had to go back out to the much larger tunnel.
Most of my favorite memories of being around the athletic department over the past few years have had to do with Vince. I looked forward to visiting practices, not to watch the football team run through drills, but to visit with the wise old man who knows more about sports than all of us combined. It was a joy to talk to him about the happenings at WSU, but moreso about life. That and watching him work on a deadline, hammering away at his keyboard while muttering curse words under his breath. Never a dull moment.
Vince would always joke about being the grandpa at WSU, and it was true. Everyone would stop and talk to him, from players and coaches to other members of the media. He's approachable and always willing to strike up a conversation -- one of the reasons he's been so great at his job as a reporter. It's in his blood, after all.
And that's what made Vince a guy most WSU fans gravitated towards. He'd pass along the latest information about the football and basketball teams, but he'd also add a personal twist to it all on his blog. During the time he covered WSU, his father passed and his wife battled breast cancer. He'd keep us up to date on his blog, inviting us into his own family, of sorts.
Vince isn't dead, and he's not technically going anywhere. Part of his semi-retirement will include plenty of blogging for the Spokesman-Review, but he won't be on the Washington State beat anymore. I'm glad he'll be able to be at home in Spokane -- he lived in an apartment in Pullman, traveling north on Sundays to visit his wife -- and hope he can put a dent in what's surely a large honey-do list.
In short, thank you for all the excellent work you've done covering Washington State over the years. There's not a better, more classy guy working a beat that I've come across, and we were lucky to have Vince around. We'll miss him, even if he'll still technically be around.