One of the biggest news stories of this week was the announcement by the Oakland Raiders that they will move their NFL franchise to Las Vegas.

In its coverage, ESPN recounted the story of our Connecting colleague Norm Clarke and the time he met the legendary coach and owner of the Raiders – the late Al Davis, who thought the eye patch Norm wears was a way of mocking the Raiders and their eye-patched mascot.

At Connecting’s request, Norm recounts the story in today’s edition. He now writes about the Las Vegas celebrity scene in a column – Norm! – Norm Clarke’s Vegas Diary – that can be found at – http://norm.vegas/  Norm was based in the Cincinnati AP office from 1973 to 1978, San Diego from 1979 to 1983 and Los Angeles, as AP’s coordinator of coverage of the 1984 Los Angeles Summer Olympics.

Legendary Fort Worth AP correspondent journalist (and Connecting colleague) Mike Cochran (Email) received a standing ovation at the annual convention of the Texas Associated Press Managing Editors convention last weekend.

As John Lumpkin reports in today’s issue, the applause was not for the excellence of his reporting and writing over the years – but to recognize Mike, 80, for his attendance and hosting duties at the group’s hospitality suite – beginning when he was in his 20s. Well, maybe it was for both.

Connecting would welcome your own stories of the hospitality suites that once were – and in some cases like Texas still are – staples of AP newspaper and broadcast state conventions. In my experience, these gatherings strengthened the bond of members with the AP. I hope to hear of your own experiences.

Have a great weekend! And don’t be fooled tomorrow!

Paul

The Raiders are coming to Las Vegas – but Norm Clarke beat them by 18 years

I was in Phoenix this week for the NFL owners spring meetings, covering the possibility that the Raiders’ request for relocation would be approved.

Since January, I’ve been working for the Musburger family’s Vegas Stats and Information network (VSIN.com), a startup created to provide the latest information for the betting public.

I’m writing a hybrid version of the Vegas Confidential column I wrote for the Las Vegas-Review Journal until my retirement last July for medical reasons. Hybrid because I’m still covering the Las Vegas celebrity scene (ala Vegas Confidential) but also incorporating the latest sports developments patterned after the sports notes column I did at the Rocky Mountain News from 1989 to 1996 before the Rocky offered me the man-about-town column.

It’s the best of both worlds and I’m grateful for the opportunity Brent offered me shortly before his retirement from ESPN in late January.

We go back many years. We’re both proud Montanans and when I was sports editor of the Billings Gazette, I often came in contact with Brent’s father Cec Musburger, who organized the Little League baseball program in Billings. It would have pleased him to high heaven to see Brent at the mic for the Little League World Series over many years.

Well, when Brent offered me the job I wasn’t sure what I had left in the tank as I approach 75. I’m dealing with advancing prostate cancer, but I didn’t want to miss being part of a historic startup.

During retirement I realized you never stop being a journalist. I was doing features on Facebook and breaking news on Twitter, where I have 30,000 followers.

As the Raiders-to-Las Vegas process headed toward a vote, I wanted to cover that special moment when it happened.

This was my fourth such occasion, and they are among the highlights of my career.

I covered the birth of the Colorado Rockies from conception and broke the story on June 5, 1991 that the National League was awarding Denver a franchise.

Five years later I was part of the Rocky team that covered the arrival of the NHL, when the Quebec Nordiques relocated to Denver.

Last June I was in my final month at the R-J when the NHL awarded Las Vegas a franchise, which became the Vegas Golden Knights.

So, of course, I leaped at the opportunity to cover the NFL owners meetings this week and Roger Goodell’s announcement that we were confident was coming on Monday.

A few hours after he delivered the news, I received a text from a friend in Las Vegas who said ESPN anchor Steve Levy was going to mention my, umm, resemblance to the Raiders logo.

Earlier in the day I had tweeted a link to a 2011 column by Orange County Register columnist Mark Whicker.

Writing about the death that week of Al Davis, the Raiders iconic owner, Whicker wrote: “Al Davis collected three Super Bowl rings on the strength of an us-against-them mentality he preached to the Raiders.

“On occasion the fierce competitive streak of the legendary NFL coach and owner morphed into psychotic paranoia.”

Whicker continued, “In 1990 Davis entered the Mile High Stadium press box and saw Norm Clarke of Denver’s Rocky Mountain News.

“Davis did not know Clarke wore an eye patch out of necessity.

“Who is that (fellow)?’ Davis sputtered. “What the (heck) is he doing?’

“He immediately thought Clarke was ridiculing the Raiders’ logo.”

Levy, whom I have not met, opened his Sport Center segment with a photo of Al Davis then moved to side-by-side photos of the Raiders logo and a headshot of me.

Levy recounted the above excerpts from Whicker’s column and added, “Norm would beat the Raiders to Las Vegas by 18 years where, until last year, he wrote the powerful gossip column, Vegas Confidential for the Review-Journal.”

Of course, my wife, Cara, was ahead of everyone when news broke a year ago that the Raiders might be coming to Las Vegas.

She suggested it might be my next career move. “A mascot opportunity, maybe?”

I’m a die-hard Broncos fan so there will be mixed feelings, but there’s no mistaking I’m incredibly excited about what this means for Las Vegas.