The ride south to work would always pull alongside the Highway 101 curb like clockwork. Bobby Beathard would pop out of the SUV, his head still wet from an early surfing session at Beacon’s.
“You ready?” Beathard would always ask. “What a great day!”
It was the beginning of another one of those memorable mornings more than two decades ago when hanging with Beathard, the Chargers’ former general manager. In an example of just how far in the past that was, Beathard carpooled with a media member: me.
Beathard, a longtime Leucadia resident now living in Franklin, Tennessee, was selected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday. He’ll be inducted into the hallowed grounds at Canton, Ohio, in August, an appropriate time of the year for someone always chasing the endless summer.
“The waves were pretty good today,” Beathard would say, still plucking seaweed from his disheveled swath of blonde/white hair.
That was the exceedingly enthusiastic Beathard and that was what made him special — and unique.
In today’s NFL, a team’s GM seldom interacts with the press. Current Chargers GM Tom Telesco, once of Rancho Santa Fe, is polite but is not known for returning calls. Let along collecting a sportswriter outside Surfdog’s Java Hut in Cardiff for a lift.
A.J. Smith, the GM preceding Telesco, was notoriously sour and once hung up on a media member: me.
Then there was Beathard, who understood the press’ mission. He was always willing to help with a sly grin, a pat on the back and by offering his passenger seat — albeit after a wet towel had graced it — to a sportswriter.
When I started covering the Chargers in 1992 for the Oceanside Blade Citizen Tribune, I didn’t know a soul connected with San Diego’s NFL squad. Then two soul brothers quickly emerged in Oceanside’s Junior Seau and Beathard.
Seau, who was drafted by Beathard in 1990, told me to never hesitate to reach out if I needed something.
And Beathard never quit letting me stick out my thumb for a much-needed ride.
It was those commutes with Beathard that anyone would cherish, an opportunity to pick one of the NFL’s smartest brains. Beathard directed the Chargers to their lone Super Bowl to cap the 1994 season, and in a career that spanned three decades, he took three organizations to seven Super Bowls.
Remember the 1972 Miami Dolphins perfect season? That bunch had a young director of player personnel in one Robert Beathard.
His credentials were unmatched, which makes his inclusion among the game’s greats past due. So when word came that Beathard was honored, it became a super weekend before the Philadelphia Eagles upset the New England Patriots in Sunday’s extravaganza.
Just don’t expect Beathard, 81, to be long-winded with his induction remarks. Shy and modest, Beathard won’t ramble like others.
“It will be the shortest speech in history,” Beathard promised.
But he never sold a fresh sportswriter short and for that I’m grateful — if I was a tad naive.
Maybe Beathard just wanted a passenger to use the I-5 car pool on-ramp at Via de la Valle in Del Mar. Maybe he just wanted some company. Maybe he was just a good guy helping a young guy get his feet under him in a new city while writing about a team which was new to him.
Secretly, I would root for a traffic jam at the I-5 and I-805 merge. The result was more stories from Beathard, which made any morning commute a pleasant ride.
Contact Jay Paris at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him @jparis_sports.
Sportswriter Jay Paris has written his “Sports Talk” column since joining the Coast News in 2013.
Paris, a Cardiff resident, is a longtime Southern California writer, getting his start with the Orange County Register before coming to San Diego in 1992 to cover the Chargers.
He had the Chargers beat for more than two decades with Oceanside Blade-Citizen, the North County Times and the San Diego Union-Tribune, before being named a sports columnist with the San Diego Union-Tribune.
Paris has won numerous awards voted on by his peers in the Pro Football Writers of America. He has also been a staple on countless media platforms, everything from the KPBS to MLB Network and various radio outlets.
Paris is also the author of three books, with his latest one being, “Shohei Ohtani: The Amazing Story Of Baseball’s Two-Way Japanese Superstar.” He has also written “Game Of My Life Chargers” and “Game Of My Life Rams.”
He currently covers the NFL in Los Angeles for Forbes. com and is a contributor to USA Today Sports Weekly. Follow Jay on Twitter @jparis_sports