What we learned: Tom Archdeacon’s podcast chat on his (unintended) career, Miami Vice and more

Tom Archdeacon waves to the crowd after being honored during a Dayton game against Rhode Island on Friday, Jan. 6, 2017, at UD Arena. David Jablonski/Staff
Tom Archdeacon waves to the crowd after being honored during a Dayton game against Rhode Island on Friday, Jan. 6, 2017, at UD Arena. David Jablonski/Staff

Award-winning Dayton Daily News columnist Tom Archdeacon has covered sports for decades, and he has plenty stories of his own to tell.

“What Had Happened Was” podcast host Amelia Robinson interviewed Archdeacon for the show’s 10th episode. The podcast is for Dayton by Dayton.com, and Robinson shares the best tales from the Gem City, Land of Funk and Birthplace of Aviation: Dayton, Ohio.

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Archdeacon is a nationally recognized Dayton Daily News sports columnist who writes about sports, Dayton and more. Before coming to the Dayton Daily News, he was a sports columnist and boxing writer with the Miami News and the South Dade News Leader in Homestead.

His story about UD Hall of Famer Bucky Bockhorn and the brothers he lost in World War II and the Korean War won first place in the moderate-length features category in the U.S. Basketball Writer's Association's best-writing contest.

Archdeacon shared tales of Miami, his failed romances and his thoughts on sports journalism today.

His unexpected start in journalism … and the four diamond rings

Archdeacon didn’t expect to start out in journalism. He was an English major at University of Dayton who planned to become a teacher, and he followed a girlfriend to Miami.

He arrived to discover the girlfriend had found a new boyfriend. Out of pity, the now ex-girlfriend’s family allowed him to stay in the home and the mother found an ad in the newspaper for an opening for a sports reporter at the Miami News.

Before following the ex-girlfriend to Miami, he had given the woman a diamond ring. He joked it was one of four rings he gave to women before meeting his wife.

“They weren’t the most expensive rings,” he said.

Archdeacon didn’t know how to type, so in exchange for the ring he’d given her, the Miami ex-girlfriend typed his stories at night. Every morning he’d sit and pretend to type them, but one day she refused to continue the deal.

Archdeacon’s Miami Vice days

The Miami News was an evening newspaper, so Archdeacon started work in the afternoon and worked until 3 a.m. After that, he would enjoy the nightlife.

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He said he met many interesting people in the bars – businessmen, drug dealers and prostitutes all in the same place. Though he never adopted the signature Miami style of dress, he wore a lot of Hawaiian shirts.

“I liked both Miami and vice, which may be a reason I’m Dayton now,” he said to Robinson.

The first stories Archdeacon wrote were coverage of high school games, then the Miami Hurricanes. When the Miami News closed in 1988, he had the opportunity to transfer to other Cox Media Group papers in cities including Palm Beach, Atlanta, Austin and Dayton.

After a month, no one had signed up to move to Dayton, he told Robinson, so Cox offered a bonus to go there. He planned to stay in Dayton for about six months, but ended up meeting his wife there and has remained since.

His run-in with LeBron James’ mom

LeBron James is one of the athletes Archdeacon respects the most. He finds him to be sincere and a strong voice for the community.

Archdeacon said James doesn’t know him well, but he covered his high-school career. He told Robinson that James’ mom once yelled at him.

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On one assignment, a manager told all media to leave the gym so one “big shot” media outlet could have an exclusive interview.

“I just thought, ‘To hell with that,’” Archdeacon told Robinson.

He snuck into the top of the arena to listen, but James’ mother saw and began marching up the steps toward him, yelling at him for sneaking in. James watched as Archdeacon backed away from his shouting mother.

His advice for young sports journalists

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The field has changed since Archdeacon started. He used to travel more, covering big fights in Las Vegas, NCAA championships and the Olympics. Now he said coverage tends to focus on local sports news and social media use.

He has always been a fan of in-person interviews, and that’s an area where he said younger journalists tend to struggle. They spend so much time on social media, which can affect how they carry on a face-to-face conversation for 40 minutes or more, he said.

“Today you’re just communicating in 140-word bursts, and you’re never really looking up from your screen, so you never really go out and talk to someone,” he said.

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