Heisler, the paper's award-winning pro basketball writer, was on vacation in New Jersey when he got the word that he had been laid off. When he returned this week to L.A., he went to the office to clean out 32 years worth of stuff and found his parking card was turned off, someone had to come down and sign him in to the building, and his computer log-on was disabled. He sent along this write-up of the experience, with the photo of his company American Express card and the Times' exit paperwork.
First line: "I've got to get out of this place, if it's the last thing I ever do...." Whole thing is after the jump.
And, at the rate it's going, it might be.
I mean to tell you, in 32 years in the Los Angeles Times sports department, I saw it all.
The staff I joined in 1979 was good, bordering on mind-blowing which we achieved for a few brief and shining moments around the 1984 Olympics, with the incomparable Jim Murray and rising hotshots Scott Ostler, Mike Littwin, Richard Hoffer and Alan Greenberg.
Gordon Edes was a kid hockey writer. Tom Friend was in the San Diego bureau, pining to be called up. Marooned in the Orange County bureau were Gene Wojciechowski, Chris Dufresne, Mike Penner, Tim Kawakami, Tim Brown and Lisa Dillman. A cult figure from the East Coast named George Kiseda, served out his final years in the biz on the desk after a career of tilting at the establishment, writing dazzling, off-the-wall headlines, often pulling angles out of stories the writers neglected to put in.
You want to talk about camaraderie.... There was none, or at least none of the usual kind. We were all unabashed hotshots, who thought we were the best. We lived to compete with each there. Littwin, the strongest-minded of us, got us all to disclose our merit raises each year, which the bosses hated. Of course, Littwin always got the biggest merit raise so whatever the rest of us got felt like peanuts.
Mike went on to bigger things in Baltimore and Denver, we stopped comparing raises and everyone was happier for it.
Of course, we had to break in the even younger hotshots, but nothing could hold down Rick Reilly, who was as hot as hotshots got.
When he joined us, all we had for him to do was write sidebars because the major beats like the Dodgers and Raiders were taken. This posed a new challenge for the grownup beat guys, not getting smoked by the kid who's there to do a story out of the visiting team's dressing room, but who nonetheless, arrives, talking smack, like, "Move over and let the big dog eat."
Thirty-two years later....
I got the bad news last Wednesday in Ocean City, N.J., on vacation.
Not that I had any problem with that, after years of rolling my eyes when jocks moaned about the way they were told they were history, as if that meant anything, compared to the fact they were history.
These days, worse things can happen to you. My friend, Dan McGrath, the former Tribune sports editor, was told in person--then frog-marched out of the building by an escort, presumably to keep him from getting to his computer, downloading the next day's budget and selling it to the Sun-Times.
So, getting told over the phone was OK with me!
Five days later, I went downtown to turn in my company ID, laptop, Blackberry and American Express card.
Unfortunately, my ID card no longer opened gate in the parking structure. They had already turned it off, along with my access to the Trib's virtual network, my email account and, of course, health insurance.
I should point out that, believe it or not, I'm not angry about this. At 67, I was only going to work one more season and they just gave me the whole thing off, with pay, through April.
All that notwithstanding, I'm sitting in my car, behind the closed gate, marveling at the company's efficiency, thinking, 'If only we were as good at newspapering as we are at dumping people...."
I explain my problem to the attendant--"I've just been let go, I just want to run in and dump this stuff off, and leave forever. Can I park over there?"
Right, as if.
He calls in for instructions and tells me I have to exit, go around the block and park in the adjoining lot.
Of course, when I exit, and go around the block, the guy in the adjoining lot doesn't know anything about letting me park there.
So, I tell him my sad story--just been let go, dump stuff, split, etc.
The guy looks mystified.
I figure the hell with in, pull into a spot, take my stuff and walk off, pretending I don't hear the parking lot attendants yelling after me.
I go upstairs--well, after the security guy confiscates my dead ID card, phones up to sports and has someone come down to sign me in. I pile my stuff up in the boss's office, take a picture of it, just for laughs--look, the sum total of my 32 years!--BS with everyone one last time, shake hands, exchange hugs, promise to stay in touch, etc.
This takes 30 minutes, plenty long enough for them to have towed my car my car, or at least decide i owe them $20.
Voila! My car's where i left it, enabling me to sneak in and drive off before anyone fires a warning shot over my head.
So, at least, my very last memory of the Los Angeles Times was positive!
I mean to tell you, these days they make it hard to be sentimental.