February 5, 2012
Fisher DeBerry told the truth about Lee Douglas.
“I never met a man who didn’t like Lee Douglas,” DeBerry said Sunday afternoon. “I don’t think he ever met a person he didn’t like.”
Like many of you, I was stunned Sunday to hear the news of Lee’s death. For years, Lee had been a presence in our living rooms, delivering sports news from the Pikes Peak region for KOAA.
He wasn’t perky. His gravelly voice made sure of that. But he did have an authoritative, unpretentious, friendly air about him.
This was no performance. There was nothing fake about Lee Douglas.
I worked alongside Lee at games for nearly a decade. Never saw him lose his temper. Never heard him criticize a colleague. Never heard anyone – coach, player, rival journalist – utter a bad word about him.
Fisher is right. Everyone liked Lee Douglas. And Lee Douglas liked everyone.
When Air Force hockey coach Frank Serratore heard the news, he was saddened but soon couldn’t help but smile. He thought back to a October trip to Pepsi Center for a Jimmy Buffett concert. He and Lee sat in lawn chairs in the parking lot, enjoying a few beers and a few hours of laughter.
“He was just a genuine good guy, you know what I mean?” Serratore said. “I know a lot of people, but I don’t really have a lot of friends. I considered Lee a friend, but I think everybody did. He had that way about him. He just had that easygoing, comfortable way about him. He was so genuine.”
Serratore paused for several seconds, gathering his emotions and his thoughts.
“To be honest with you, I loved the guy.”
I didn’t know Lee well, but we had a ritual after Broncos games at Mile High. We almost always enjoyed, or suffered through, the same weekend experience. He covered Air Force football games, home and away, as a radio color commentator while I worked beside the newspaper writers.
Lee was not especially hard-hitting on the air. His criticism was guarded. That was his style, and that’s the nature of most sports broadcasting.
I’ve been told my criticism can be hard-hitting, and at times I’ve injured the egos of various coaches and administrators at Air Force.
Lee served as my critic. After Broncos games, we talked about what I had written, and a few times he told me I had gone too far. (He never told me I had not gone far enough.) He was gentle in his observations, and there was always straightforward wisdom in what he said. I trusted him. I respected him.
There will be a moment at Mile High next season when I’ll look to the second row of the pressbox. I’ll be looking for Lee.
He won’t be there.
And that makes me sad.