ENCINITAS — Sports is his beat.
As a sports reporter for at least 30 years, 25 of them covering the San Diego Chargers, Jay Paris has logged countless Sundays at Qualcomm Stadium (as it’s now known), and has been privy to the highs and lows on the playing field and in the locker room.
It makes sense then, that his first book would share some of those moments, as told by the players themselves.
“You go with what you know,” said Paris, the Cardiff-by-the-Sea resident and reporter who got his start at the Blade Citizen, followed by the North County Times and the San Diego Union Tribune.
He currently writes for the Associated Press, MLB.com, and also pens a weekly column for The Coast News.
His book, “Game of My Life San Diego Chargers,” (Skyhorse Publishing; 212 pages), began with the premise of talking with some of the team’s greatest players and asking, “What game is the most significant to you?”
“I’ve been lucky to go into the locker rooms for 25 years and sit around and listen to all these great stories these guys tell, and what I was trying to do with the reader, is let them come into the locker room with us,” Paris said.
The book ranges the 56 years of the team’s history. And some of its 212 pages, tell stories of memorable wins, losses, a comeback from injury, or the time when a family member was in the stands.
“We let the players, in their own words, tell that story, tell that narrative all on their own,” Paris said.
And even after 25 years covering the organization, Paris said he wasn’t expecting some of the players to reel off some of their most painful games they played in.
“The Chargers, let’s face it, that trophy case isn’t overflowing,” he said. “It’s not an organization that’s known for its championships, save the 1963 one.”
Donnie Edwards, the linebacker who spent five seasons with the Chargers, still feels the pain of the 2007 AFC title game against the New England Patriots where Marlon McCree intercepts quarterback Tom Brady only to lose the ball and the Patriots find it. The Chargers would lose the game and get eliminated from the playoffs.
“It still gnaws at him to this day,” Paris said.
Pro-Bowl guard Ed White said his game was when they lost the “Freezer Bowl,” in Cincinnati for a chance to go to the Super Bowl. Offensive lineman Doug Wilkerson’s game: The “Holy Roller” game.
“He still can’t believe the Raiders got out of here with a win,” Paris said.
Some of the players in the book are easily recognizable. Players like Ron Mix, Lance Alworth, Dan Fouts, Jim Laslovic and Billy Ray Smith, all have their stories.
But then there’s the story of quarterback Craig Whelihan, who started his first seven games with the Chargers without a win.
“So when he finally won his game, I mean that was as big as Dan Fouts winning a game,” said Paris.
Writing the book last year, when the brunt of the new stadium talk was underway, Paris said once the players started talking, it’d just be about football.
“And it’d peel away to the core of what the game meant to the fans, but also what it meant to these guys. These guys are still Chargers,” Paris said.
What Paris took away from writing the book was that the team and the game are still a part of their identity. “They’re proud of being ex-Chargers and they’re proud of contributing to the history in San Diego of pro football.”
The Chargers, whether they remain in San Diego past this season, still have players that’ll be worth writing about — namely quarterback Philip Rivers.
Antonio Gates would make another great story, Paris said.
“The players are what make the game. Sometimes we forget about that. And sometimes you don’t get to know them that well because they are in that uniform, they are in pads, they’re in that big helmet.”
“Game of My Life San Diego Chargers” is available at some local bookstores and online.
Paris will be signing books at the Encinitas Barnes & Noble Oct. 29 at 1:30 p.m.