In an era when daily sportswriting was becoming increasingly factual and statistically oriented, Jim Taylor successfully fused wit, sarcasm, and creativity while frequently posing the most overlooked question in sports journalism: “What if?”
Few writers attained such popularity and longevity writing on events that spanned the sporting spectrum from the drama of the 1972 Summit Series to the ridiculous Mike Tyson-Evander Holyfield ear-biting fiasco. In between, he presented philosophical discussions to the reader on why Donald Duck wears no pants and what if the Lone Ranger kissed a girl. Tough subjects were tackled as well that inevitably tugged on the heartstrings.
Beginning with his first column for the Victoria Times-Colonist on senior men’s softball that he had to rewrite eleven times to serving as the preeminent writer for the short-lived weekly sports magazine Sports Only in the mid-1990s, Taylor grew to be an anticipated part of many British Columbians’ everyday lives. He noted that the public came to expect his opinions, his wit, and above all, his humour on a daily basis.
“If I wrote four really tough ones in a row, we’d get calls,” he says. “‘Why isn’t Taylor makin’ me laugh?’”
After starting at the Times-Colonist in 1955 for a decade and returning for a short stint after a brief period at the old Vancouver Times, he moved to the Vancouver Sun for thirteen years and then to the Province for seventeen years. After moving on from the Province and the shut down of Sports Only a year later, he wrote a nationally syndicated column with the Calgary Sun for six years, choosing to retire in 2001 rather than move to Calgary and leave behind a lifetime of memories on the West Coast.
In his written wanderings, Taylor crossed paths with many of the most important sporting figures and writers of the past fifty years. He wrote books on Wayne Gretzky, Rick Hansen, Jim Young, Igor Larionov, Dan Kepley, Greg Moore, Jim Coleman, Matt Dunigan, Dal Richards, and Bob Lenarduzzi in addition to three column collections. Some of his best work ever might be on the CFL Traditions DVD series. He singles out walking with Walter and Wayne Gretzky reminiscing about the days on the backyard rink before Wayne’s final NHL game in New York as his favourite memory.
Taylor cites the legendary Jim Coleman and humour writer Eric Nicol as the two biggest influences upon him in developing his own unique style. Taylor, as he says, “went to school” soaking up the wisdom these two fine writers possessed and learning to perfect his craft.
As Taylor related recently, Nicol once advised him that, “Nobody can write five great columns a week. Two will be garbage. But it’s got to be the best garbage you’ve got in you that particular day, ‘cause if you don’t do that, three will be garbage.”
It was a piece of advice he never forgot, even when, for instance, he had eight minutes to get his column on the Tyson-Holyfield fight in under the deadline “and every second guy in the crowd has a gun.”
It had to be good and it had to be 1st edition. No exceptions.
Written and researched by Jason Beck, Curator of the BC Sports Hall of Fame.