Canzano: Mailbag readers sound off on Bill Schonely, Pac-12 and... a wild moose
Your questions, my answers.
I was set to publish this weekly mailbag early on Saturday morning, right on schedule. But I received a text at 2:50 a.m. from one of Bill Schonely’s trusted caretakers.
It read: “I have bad news.”
The Schonz is dead.
He was 93.
I visited the legendary NBA play-by-play broadcaster last week and wrote a column on Saturday morning about our final visit and the one thing he wanted you to know. I wish Schonely could have read your comments and the notes you sent me.
Rhonda Bennett is an associate commissioner in the Pac-12 Conference. She grew up in Hillsboro. On Saturday, Bennett called Schonely “the soundtrack of my youth.” He’d have loved that. Others talked about how gracious Schonely was when you bumped into him at the doctor’s office, the grocery store, at a golf course, a restaurant, or the arena.
Chip Hilton, a reader, posted in the comment section of my column:
“I don't remember the game; I don't remember the day; but the image of Bill Schonley, as Ambassador, graciously greeting people in the concourse of the Moda Center is imprinted in my mind. Rest In Peace.”
Bob Edwards shared:
“He brought game to you like no one else. ‘Petrie dribbles across the cyclops.’ No one else would do that. I named my first and only dog after Bill. ‘Schonely’ the dog lived 16 years. Schonz read a letter I sent him in 1977 while he was calling a game against the Suns. He was so moved that I would name my dog after him. One of my biggest heroes. RIP Bill.”
Donald Jesky wrote:
“I was very fortunate to have run across him multiple times and every single time he took the time to talk with me and make me feel like we were good friends… a little piece of Oregon died today.”
I was reminded on Saturday of so many wonderful things by readers. Schonely’s time as a broadcaster in professional baseball and Seattle Totems hockey, for example. The table that was always left open for him at Oswego Grill in Wilsonville, too. And so many of you shared that you honked your horn and waved when you saw his red Cadillac on the road.
The connection Schonely had with the public is undeniable. On Facebook, where I posted the column on Saturday, several readers shared how much it hurt to lose Schonely. Julie Christiansen said: “I was one of those kids who tucked the transistor radio into my bed.”
So many kids and their transistor radios.
But only one Bill Schonely.
I appreciate everyone who subscribes here and reads my columns. You make this independent writing endeavor possible. It’s with your support that I’m free to go where the important stories are and bring you with me. Including that last conversation with Bill Schonely.
Thank you for being part of this.
Onto the mailbag…
Q: Are the Trail Blazers eligible to get time missed rebates on Gary Payton II from Golden State? — @HeadStoryteller
A: You may be onto something here. Let’s get this in Adam Silver’s suggestion box at NBA headquarters.
Q: Do you feel that the current state of College Football (NIL, transfer portal) increases or decreases Oregon’s chances of making the playoff and winning a championship? — @colbyreade
A: I think the expansion to a 12-team playoff helps more than anything. It has calmed the realignment seas and given the Pac-12 champion access to the playoff.
Q: Would you describe the Pac-12 as dysfunctional? The media rights negotiations have dragged on for months, there were issues coming up with a college football schedule and expansion seems to be at a standstill. Thoughts? — @NewsManLou
A: I think that’s a reach — for now. The conference is negotiating a new media rights deal. Let’s see where the numbers fall before judging. I’ve been told the Pac-12 annual distribution will eclipse the Big 12. I’m also told the negotiation involves new partners (i.e. Amazon), which complicates the matter. Potential conference expansion won’t happen until after the media deal is done. The 2023 football schedule was a few weeks slow, but I suspect that was more about the ADs seeking consensus than dysfunction.
Q: What’s up with Pac-12 expansion? Are they waiting to finalize the new media deal before proceeding? Side note, I prefer going to 16 teams vs 12 — @BigKahunaSkiTm
A: Yes. All sources tell me that the conference won’t move to expand until after the media rights deal is done. Industry insiders I trust expect the Pac-12 to consider staying at 10 teams or adding two. There’s also the potential that it becomes the Pac-11, adding only San Diego State. More on this front in the coming weeks.
Q: Could you see a time where college football adopts the college basketball NET ranking for College Football Playoff and NY6 bowl bids? Would seem to be a much fairer way of selection. — @bkbeban
A: I don’t think the people who have the College Football Playoff in a stranglehold are going to let go anytime soon. They like the selection committee model. I like your idea, but I don’t think it will get traction.
Q: Reser Stadium essentially cut off halftime tailgating with their new policy. Probably good for staff and profits at Oregon State, but bad for fans. What are your thoughts? — @JoshHarley36
A: Hey, they’ve got to pay for the $162 million expansion somehow. Keeping fans inside the stadium at halftime puts them on Beaver Street, where they can eat and drink. It also avoids security issues and alcohol-abuse problems that come with allowing in-and-out privileges. I do see some benefits for fans on that front.
Q: When will you play pickleball? — @RECSpdx
A: Very interesting that you bring this up. I have a fun pickleball column planned.
Q: Will the combination of returning elite quarterbacks and new coaches lighting up the transfer portal make the Pac-12 a top conference to watch? — @ParsiJohn
A: It’s setting up to be a great football season for the conference. I am mildly concerned that the conference may cannibalize itself because of the fierce competition. But this is far better than some prior years where it was a struggle to find great teams.
Q: Once we’re in the post USC-UCLA phase in the Pac-12, how would you rank the in-Conference rivalry games? — @Cargoman0363
A: I’ll leave this to the readers in the comment section. I think the Civil War (Oregon vs. OSU), the Apple Cup (UW vs. WSU), the Big Game (Stanford vs. Cal) and the Territorial Cup (ASU vs. Arizona) are great rivalries with wonderful tradition. The “Rumble in the Rockies” between Colorado and Utah needs a competitive boost (Utah has won 12 of the last 14 meetings). But maybe injecting Deion Sanders into the fray will help.
Q: Is it just me, or are there others who have already reached and exceeded their capacity to be interested in the Coach Prime hype? — @gdorius
A: I’m sure you’re not alone. But I’m obviously not there yet. Colorado hasn’t been talked about this much in a long, long, long time. Let the Buffaloes have some fun.
Q: My hometown paper, The Medford Mail-Tribune closed its doors after 116 years of serving southern Oregon. More than 2,500 papers have ceased publication since 2005. I mourn the loss of local journalism and how it showcased its community and shined the light on government — @SpatzSteven
A: It makes me sad. You’re right. Our communities need good journalism. It’s partly why I decided to start this independent writing endeavor. I’m told that EO Media Group, which owns over a dozen small newspapers across Oregon (the Bend Bulletin, etc.) has plans to launch a brand new paper, called The Tribune in Medford. I will root for it.
Q: If you could rewatch a movie for the first time again, what would it be? Mine would be The Prestige — @bryanmiller513
A: The Shawshank Redemption. I was too young to fully appreciate it when it came out in 1994. Now… I’m going to go put The Prestige on my watch list.
Q: How would you feel about a team, teams or an entire division in Europe in the NFL? — @TylerHergert
A: I don’t like it. American football is our game. I understand the temptation to expand operations in the NFL, but I’m not a fan of regular games overseas. The NFL announced last week that the Bills, Titans, Jaguars, Chiefs and Patriots will each play international games during the 2023 regular season. That’s more than enough 6 a.m. kickoffs for me.
Q: What is the greatest song that John Williams has created? I always have something from Superman (1978) or Raiders of the Lost Ark on my playlists. — @jkimball5506
A: Difficult to beat the soundtrack while Indiana Jones is running away from a giant rolling boulder in Raiders of the Lost Ark. It sometimes plays in my head when I am navigating the living-room floor, avoiding the LEGO pieces that are strewn on the carpet.
Q: John, tell us why Bronny James would want to play basketball for Oregon and Dana Altman? — @dag1963
A: Nike. But I don’t think Oregon is the current favorite to get him. USC will be a big-time contender.
Q: I miss Coach Mike Leach. He broke my heart as a Ducks fan more than once, but who else can I turn to now for a hilarious, interesting stream of consciousness regarding...well...anything? — @glenwoods
A: Bill Walton will be on Tuesday’s radio show. Be there. Bring popcorn.
A: This is the perfect question for Bill Walton.
Q: Why don’t you cover college baseball? — @richmay212011
A: I plan on doing more baseball this season. I’ll go where the great stories are and there are plenty on the diamond.
Q: You have so many irons in the fire now- columns, radio, on site for big games, running this new enterprise, oh, & the family. What's your typical day like start to finish? — @TheCarlClick
A: Ha! My daughters are currently waiting patiently for me to finish this mailbag so we can go to breakfast. I’m having a lot of fun being a dad, husband, and sharing so much of myself in this new endeavor. There’s a lot of synergy for me between the columns and radio show and family. The girls pop up all the time in this space. Typical day? Help get the girls off to school in the morning… I start writing… post my column… then launch into radio-show preparation. There’s lots of reporting in between, but you get the picture. I’ll bet you can tell I’m having a blast.
Now, what’s for breakfast?
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I have to admit that I'm still reeling from the news--it doesn't take much for my eyes to well up just thinking about Bill.
I want to thank you, John, for providing a prior opportunity to allow a few of your audience to meet and have drinks with Bill, through your BFT auction. I won the auction bid three years ago.
I invited some family members and we spent the evening captivated by Bill's stories and him answering our questions. I even have a photo, showing all of us mesmerized during one of his stories--as wallpaper on my computer monitor! It was a magical night--one I will never forget!!!
When I am in church today, I will be praying for Dottie and the entire family!!
Dear God, please watch over Bill's family. Keep them safe; comfort them through this sad and difficult time. May your love settle upon them, that they may dwell in your acceptance and truth. May they experience peace and restoration in your care.
KEN WOODY:John, when I was in junior high school, I used to listen to Bill Schonley every time I could not go to a Seattle Totems hockey game in person. I remember a playoff game against the San Francisco Seals in the Bay area where he was broadcasting, it seemed from the stands--there was no separate press box. As the game wore on and the Seals were pulling ahead, Schonley became more and more agitated. Near the end of the game he got into a shouting match while on the air with an unruly fan who was agitating him from right behind him in the stands. He was famous for having an "always his" table at a restaurant, (the Derby I believe) near the Seattle Post Intelligencer, a newspaper I worked for in the summer as a substitute sports writer while I was in college. All the sports writers, including some famous ones, had an annual golf tournament called the "PI Sweeps" and Schonley was always an invited favorite. More than once he was observed missing his ball entirely, but not necessarily counting the stroke on the scorecard, earning the nickname "Whiff" Schonley. He was famous and my classmates and I listened to him on the radio when he came up with "Rip City!" covering the Blazers. He was good to me. It's not a surprise to see the extent of his good will and fellowship since I first listened to him; he was a generous superstar who gave from the heart. I smile every time I think of him.