After about five decades of covering, explaining and analyzing Houston professional football, John McClain is stepping away from the Houston Chronicle.
In sports we sometimes talk about eras too casually. But with McClain, this truly is the end of an era. It spans five decades and more significant moments and memories than we can possibly list here.
McClain covered the Oilers' appearances in the AFC Championship games in the late 70s. He also covered the Texans four bids to get to one.
He is Luv Ya Blue and Deep Steel Blue and everything around and in between.
I rolled into Houston for the expansion draft in February of 2002. That morning, at my hotel, I turned on SportsRadio 610. John Granato and Lance Zierlein did the morning show back then. I was familiar with their show from online listening from Miami. Their guest's voice jumped out of the radio. He sounded like Texas. It was McClain skillfully explaining what was about to go down in the expansion draft.
I wouldn't be doing shows with him until 2004 when I joined the afternoon program with Rich Lord. Hosting a show with McClain is like having Earl Campbell in your backfield. Give him the ball and get out of the way. I would feed him question after question, topic after topic. McClain is always prepared and knowledgeable. For years, his sports opinion has carried more weight than any other in this town.
The General has always been more than a football expert. Every time he's on the air it's felt like a celebration of the game and of all sports.
In my early days at SportsRadio 610, McClain was on his run of movie appearances. He's played sports reporters in brief moments of The Rookie, The Longest Yard, Secretariat, The Game Plan, Invincible and had speaking roles in Spring Breakers and Cook County.
I used to joke when introducing him at public events that the General has been in many Hollywood movies but only for a grand total of 27 seconds. It doesn't matter. I still watch these films from time to time and there he is, immortalized.
He's in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the Texas Sports Hall of Fame and probably some others I didn't know about.
Another thing that stands out is how many careers he's helped launch. I don't even have to ask but I'll bet he's as proud of this as anything. There are dozens of professionals in this industry who have either worked directly for or with McClain or have gotten their job through a contact he made for them.
He's always been great to me. I came here from Miami and didn't know a soul. He reached out and offered to help in any way he could.
McClain is larger than life. I've been asked on occasion 'who will be the next McClain when he retires?' The answer is 'no one.' There is nobody who comes close to the depth of knowledge and the amount of experience he has.
But it's not just that. It's the delivery, the charisma, the care and the concern for others - the things he has done for so many charities, causes and individuals, many of which have gotten no publicity.
This is not a goodbye. It's a hearty congratulations on a phenomenal run at the largest newspaper in one of America's largest markets. It's also an acknowledgement of the tireless work that we've been able to enjoy since the 1970s. John McClain IS football to so many.
Thank you, General!