When we hired Doug Looney as a staff writer in October 1975, we were under the impression that he was one person. Now we aren't so sure we didn't get Looney and a clone. How else explain the fact that the man seems to be able to cover, say, football in Arkansas and harness racing in Illinois at one and the very same time? In his first year with SI, Looney wrote 24 articles, and when we introduced him to you two years ago in this space, he had two pieces in that issue. He has also written two pieces for this issue—one on the Hambletonian (page 26) and the other on Razorback Football Coach Lou Holtz (page 40).
The truth is that beneath the lanky, easygoing Looney exterior, there thrums a dynamo. The reporters who have gone on the road with Doug will tell you that it's hazardous to your health. "The man never eats," says Senior Reporter Demmie Stathoplos, veteran of a number of Looney road trips. "When we were down in Hialeah in the spring of 1977, dogging the Seattle Slew crew, we were up at 6 a.m. every day, and I was grateful to Doug for allowing me to grab breakfast in the track kitchen. I actually saw him eat some eggs and toast once, but lunch did not exist. Dinner was unheard of. He works like crazy."
Looney seems to have more than met his match in Holtz, who is also a perpetual-motion machine and, like Looney, a fount of one-liners. "I was with him for days," Doug says. "After one particularly strenuous siege, when we'd been jumping all over the country, I struggled home to Westport, Conn. absolutely exhausted. I was sitting with my head in my hands, and my wife was commiserating with me, when the phone rang. She picked it up. 'Hey, Mary Ann,' the caller said, 'this is Lou Holtz. I was wondering where your husband is. He called me a week or so ago and said he was coming to see me, and he hasn't showed up yet.' Just Holtz' way of making my home a happy one. The call probably was collect."
Reviewing the past two years, Looney says that his favorite sport is whichever one he is writing about at the moment, and his alltime favorite game will turn out to be the one they are playing in front of him.
Looney downplays his own athletic career, terming it "abysmal." "My best sport was basketball," he says, "and I was diligent about shoveling snow from my backyard court [in Boulder, Colo.] so I could practice. But I was better at the shoveling than shooting. I did think I would be selected for my high school team, because one of my folks' best friends, Merle Lefferdink, was the coach, but he cut me. Today he says if he had it all to do over again, he would cut me."
About his story on Holtz, Looney says, "When a subject opens himself up to an interviewer as completely as Lou did to me, the risk is all his. It evidences a certain self-confidence, but few coaches are better than he is. Or better company. It will be a long time before I forget Lou What's-his-name."
LOONEY, AT HIS UNACCUSTOMED EASE