For N&O’s Stevens, dean of high school writers, Hall of Fame call ‘humbling’by Luke DeCock
News & Observer
JANUARY 22, 2020 10:34 AM
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Hard to believe there was a hall of fame out there that didn’t already have Tim Stevens as a member. The North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame made that call Wednesday to Stevens, who in his five decades at the News & Observer and Raleigh Times became the unquestioned authority among writers covering high school sports in the state.
Stevens, who retired in 2015, is one of 12 in the 2020 class to be inducted in Raleigh in May. Already a member of the National High School Hall of Fame and the NCHSAA Hall of Fame — the latter organization long ago named its annual media award after Stevens — the 67-year-old Stevens will join so many of the athletes he wrote about as teenagers in receiving his home state’s highest sports honor.
“The people in that hall are people I grew up watching,” Stevens said. “Some of them I covered. But then it goes farther back, to when I was little, just hearing about them. To be put in that group is kind of astounding. It’s very, very humbling.”
COVERING SONS AND DAUGHTERS
When Stevens walked away after 48 years at the N&O and Times, the last 25 as high schools editor, he threw the same energy into the theater. He continues to bring national musical stars to Garner as part of the Broadway Voices series and he has written and produced six plays about the history of Garner, winning the awards for multimedia presentation from the NC Society of Historians four straight years.
In researching his play about Garner and the Vietnam War, his interviews with more than 40 veterans left Stevens feeling empty about how many still felt their service went unappreciated. In response, he applied to bring the Wall That Heals, a replica of the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, to Garner on its national tour this spring. It will be at Lake Benson Park in April.
Between his theater commitments and his work at Aversboro Road Baptist Church, Stevens stays as busy now as he did as a journalist. That kind of initiative and sense of purpose characterized Stevens’ newspaper career.
Covering high school sports was a calling for Stevens, who believed strongly in its mission, in his words, “the only level of competition whose sole purpose is to make better people.” It was a philosophy that always shone through his work. Over his tenure, he found himself covering the sons and daughters of people he had covered years earlier. He never got to a third generation, as far as he knows.
“I always thought that I worked for the boys and girls but was paid by the N&O,” Stevens said. “You were working for something bigger than yourself. That’s why you worked hard at it.”
He still goes to football games at Garner, where his son Jacob is a teacher and assistant coach. (Stevens also has two daughters, Susanna, a medical researcher, and Elizabeth, a family counselor, with his wife of 44 years, Donna.) But he doesn’t bring a clipboard or laptop, and he doesn’t have to go when it’s cold or rainy.
“As you get older, you hope that you’ve made a difference, someway, somehow,’ Stevens said. “You hope you’ve made the world a better place. For something like this to come by and happen, at least somebody thinks you’ve made a contribution. That’s what I always wanted to do. There’s enough pain and hurt in the world as it is. To go into something like this, I must have done something good.”
By Luke DeCock
Sports columnist Luke DeCock has covered four Final Fours, the Summer Olympics, the Super Bowl and the Carolina Hurricanes’ Stanley Cup. He joined The News & Observer in 2000 to cover the Hurricanes and the NHL before becoming a columnist in 2008. A native of Evanston, Ill., he graduated from the University of Pennsylvania and has won multiple national and state awards for his columns and feature writing while twice being named North Carolina Sportswriter of the Year.