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San Diego Sportscene / Dave Distel

Giving Some Credit Where Credit Is Due

September 25, 1985|DAVE DISTEL

So-called celebrity books remind me of that old ethnic joke about how many guys it takes to screw in a light bulb.

You know the answer. One guy holds the bulb and the other guy rotates the house.

That is the way it is with celebrity books. One guy holds the bulb, and stands in the spotlight, and the other guy does all the work.

The guy holding the light bulb must be handsome, charismatic, controversial and humble. Ted Leitner is all of the above. If you have any doubt, ask him.

I am sure you know by now that Leitner is the author of a 167-page paperback called "Leitner Strikes." There he is on the cover, eyebrows arched, tie askew and left forefinger pointed as it points when Leitner is making a point.

However, we also know that celebrities rarely sit down at a typewriter or computer terminal and put their words and sentences together. For this chore, a ghostwriter is hired. This chap doesn't have to be a high-profile type, and usually isn't. He need only be literate.

The ghostwriter for "Leitner Strikes" was my colleague Chris Cobbs. He gets his name on one of the inside sheets. You know, "By Ted Leitner with Chris Cobbs . " He also gets a two-sentence "biography" at the back of the book.

Somehow, I came away feeling that poor Cobbs did not get his fair share of recognition. Didn't the publishers realize Cobbs is a celebrity too? How many times has Leitner been on national television? Cobbs has. Cobbs was once on "Good Morning America," sitting right there on a couch chatting with David Hartman.

Maybe it all should have been reversed. Maybe Cobbs should have been out there on the cover. Maybe the book should have been called "Corn and Cobbs" by Chris Cobbs with Ted Leitner .

If Ted Leitner had ghostwritten a book on Chris Cobbs, these might have been some of the chapters . . .

"Good Morning America"--This was my taste of stardom. This was a limo ride from an exclusive hotel to the studio and makeup on my face and a microphone on my lapel. This was The Big Apple. New York City. Not bad for a guy from Alabama who thought Raleigh, N.C., was a sprawling metropolis.

And why did David Hartman beg a sportswriter from San Diego to appear on his show? It might have been good looks, but it wasn't.

What really happened was that I wrote a story about the proliferation of cocaine use in the National Basketball Assn. This was The Granddaddy of cocaine stories. When this one broke, the players guffawed at the suggestion that coke was it in the NBA. Don't you think my information has since been proven quite accurate?

My friends will probably claim I'm a nervous sort, but I showed 'em back in New York. It was like I had been in front of a camera all my life--or at least should have been.

I even said the word "remuneration." Try that at 6 o'clock in the morning on national television. Leitner should have such a command of the language.

Of Things Mechanical--I'm having an affair. No, don't worry, my wife knows about it, though I'm not sure she's too excited about it.

You see, I'm having an affair with computers. I love 'em. I've got two of them, which probably sounds like one more than I really need. I like one of them so much that I carry it around on one of those little carts like flight attendants use. That way, it's never very far away.

However, you should know it wasn't love at first sight. When we first got portable terminals at the office, they were rather temperamental--which probably meant we were well matched.

I was writing on deadline in the Sports Arena press room one night when the darn thing short-circuited on me. It wouldn't do a thing, and the next thing I knew it had erased my story.

I was angry. I picked it up and prepared to launch it across the room, but alertly recognized that being fired for destroying a computer wouldn't look good on a resume.

So I picked up a chair, and rearranged it against the wall. In the Sports Arena, no one would ever notice the difference.

The Battle of Rancho Penasquitos--When I moved to Rancho Penasquitos, I didn't realize how dangerous it was. I didn't realize how much time I would spend under siege.

I have had a running battle with rattlesnakes. Yes, they do rattle me.

I went after them with hoes and shovels, the conventional weapons, but finally decided to get serious. I bought an MX shotgun and went after them.

Word must have gotten around down in the canyon, because they haven't invaded my yard lately.

I miss them, just like I miss Don Sterling.

"But Don ... "--I covered the Clippers when they were in town, which meant I covered Donald T. Sterling. It was a dirty job, but somebody had to do it.

I think it only appropriate that I confess to my role in the Clippers' departure for Los Angeles. I didn't mean to be a part of it. It just happened.

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