To the clacking of typewriters add a new journalistic sound this week: sneezing. Staff Writer Doug Looney is acutely allergic to hay and horses, but beginning on page 40, you will find his story—valiantly researched—on rodeo star Jim Shoulders and his family. Shoulders calls Looney "the world's greatest sneezer." On page 62 Looney, continuing to earn his title, reports on last week's Little Brown Jug. Achoo! Achoo! But in the days before the race, he was seen grinning behind his handkerchief. Famed trotting trainer Delvin Miller had just named a colt Meadow Looney and had said, "He looks like a winner to me."
That is how we feel about the colt's namesake. Looney's two stories this week are his 23rd and 24th for SPORTS ILLUSTRATED since he joined the staff last October after five years at The National Observer. According to his editor at the Observer, one of Looney's last articles for the weekly paper was "too stylish, too much like SPORTS ILLUSTRATED." Looney believed him. He applied to us, we hired him and since then he has survived three other harness races and breezed—or, at least, breathed—through stories on football, baseball, basketball, skiing, paddle tennis and wrestling. That kind of versatility is not to be sneezed at.
Versatility has been Looney's journalistic hallmark. As a student at the University of Colorado, he wrote for the school daily and covered high school sports for the Boulder Daily Camera. After graduating and teaching journalism in the Army for two years, Looney spent 1½ years as a police reporter on the Nashville Banner. Once, just before deadline, he rushed to the scene of a murder and began questioning a reserved-looking lady in a rocking chair, who did not reply. He soon realized the woman was the victim of the crime. "She was my toughest interview," he says.
Looney really wanted to cover politics in Washington, so he eventually moved to The National Observer, which is published there. But he was assigned to the sports beat—a turn of events he never regretted. "I fell in love with a new sport every week," he says.
October 3, 1976
Now Looney lives in Westport, Conn. with his wife Mary Ann and their children, Mark, 9, and Shannon, 6. Mark is a rabid Yankee fan, but Mary Ann's sports are needlepoint and gardening. She knows nothing of baseball, or any ball. Once, during a particularly exciting football game at the University of Nebraska, the stadium all but came apart when the Cornhuskers scored. Doug reached over to clap Mary Ann on the back and found her asleep. These days she cannot even remember whether her husband is covering a harness race or a wrestling match. She keeps busy with her plants but, of course, she does not raise hay. The world's greatest sneezer needs his rest. Achoo!