I was standing beside Jane Roos, founder of the Can Fund, when I heard the sad news of Randy Starkman's passing. Randy was loved by every amateur athlete in this country. When he called, my assistant would simply say "Randy called" and I would know that Randy would want my perspective, my reaction, my historical memory on something to do with sports and the athletes he so meticulously and fairly followed. I always, always called him back, even if I was on vacation, even if it was a topic I wasn't thrilled about, because he was Randy and he had earned my time and my respect. Randy was a journalist, in the old fashioned and well respected form of the word. He got stories, followed athletes, heard perspectives and researched them. Many times he called early in the morning, or late at night for a final quote, a final perspective before putting his story to bed. Covering amateur athletics wasn't just something he did every four years; like Scott Russell, Brian Williams, and other great Olympic journalists, he followed the sports between seasons, he knew the athletes and their trials and tribulations and he was always fair and meticulous in his work. Randy wrote great stories about the athletes we see before and after the games, he wrote about their heart breaks and their missteps, he wrote about the politics of sport but never to the expense of the athletes. He was courageous in his journalism, pushing hard but fairly in asking questions about VANOC, about the IOC, about sponsorship and athletes rights. He was willing to stick his neck out to get the story right, and I don't know if he really knew how much his truthfulness, he commitment to the real story was appreciated.
Randy was an exceptional journalist, and yet as a person he was humble if not self effacing. I don't know if he knew how good he was, or how much he meant to the athletes. Everybody took Randy's calls, and they often told him things that they wouldn't tell others, because we knew Randy respected us and would get the story right. After I double false started and lost my right to race for a gold medal at the world championship, I talked to Randy and I told him how crappy it felt, what a sense of failure and confusion I was wrestling with, how pissed off I was at the new racing rules. In his signature voice he we ended the interview with "man Silken, this is really hard. It’s ok, everybody screws up." I came back to those words again and again in the following years as the pressure mounted towards the 1996 Olympic Games.
I came to visualize Randy, when I spoke to him on the telephone, with his two girls, Mary and Ella. He loved Mary, his wife, an exceptional journalist herself, and their daughter Ella. He spoke so often about them, and was proud beyond measure of their accomplishments and their integrity as people. I had a growing family of four myself and he would always ask about William and Kate's lives as well as those of my step kids Tygre and Kilee. I feel so much sadness for Ella and Mary. They had lost a husband, a father and a friend.
The out pouring from athletes will continue, as we all grapple with a man who simply cannot be replaced. We will miss you Randy.