The Football Writers Association of America is celebrating its 75th anniversary in 2015. Founded in 1941, the FWAA has served the writing profession and college football during a time when the world has changed greatly and the sport of football has along with it. In an effort to tell the stories of the members of the organization, we will publish sketches of the FWAA’s most important leaders — all Bert McGrane Award winners.
The Bert McGrane Award, symbolic of the association’s Hall of Fame, is presented to an FWAA member who has performed great service to the organization and/or the writing profession. It is named after McGrane, a Des Moines, Iowa, writer who was the executive secretary of the FWAA from the early 1940s until 1973. The McGrane Award was first bestowed on an FWAA member in 1974.
For a list of all the winners go to: http://www.sportswriters.net/fwaa/awards/mcgrane/index.html.
The following is the 22nd installment of the Pillars of the FWAA series. Bob Hentzen was the 1993 winner of the Bert McGrane Award. Thanks to FWAA member Gene Duffey for writing and researching this sketch.
By Gene Duffey
His license plate probably described Bob Hentzen best. It read “GOBBH,” which stood for Good ‘Ol Boy Bob Hentzen.
He worked in a different era, when access to athletes was much easier, when writers and coaches could become friends, and the smaller the paper you worked for, the more you did.
“His idea of a perfect weekend was covering a prep game Friday night, a college game Saturday and a Chiefs or Royals game Sunday,” said Rick Dean, a colleague of Hentzen’s for years with the Topeka Capital- Journal. “He got to know coaches really well, when you could do that, without ever being a homer.”
Hentzen was named sports editor of the Topeka paper in 1968 and didn’t retire until 1996. He wrote approximately 8,500 columns in those years, in addition to writing game stories and still working the desk one night a week into his 50s. He continued to write a weekly column in retirement.
He covered the first Super Bowl in January 1967 at the Los Angeles Coliseum between Kansas City and Green Bay. The game was known as the World Championship Game: NFL vs. AFL. The term Super Bowl hadn’t been invented yet.
“He interviewed (Chiefs coach) Hank Stram in his hotel room the week of the game,” said Dean.