By Chris Lane
By Jeff Balke
By Aaron Reiss
By Angelica Leicht
By Dianna Wray
By Aaron Reiss
By Camilo Smith
By Craig Malisow
The Chronicle reported June 21 that former Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Golden Richards was alive and unarrested in Utah, and that the man taken into custody in Houston the day before "had apparently been misleading people by falsely claiming" to be the former footballer.
The arrested bus driver's name is Gordon "Golden" Richards, according to his Metro job application; the former Cowboy's name is John Golden Richards.
The bus driver told some of his co-workers he was the semifamous Cowboy, says Metro spokeswoman Julie Gilbert. On April 20 Fox station KRIV called her saying it had a tip that the former Cowboy, who caught a touchdown pass that sealed a win in Super Bowl XII, was now driving a bus and it wanted to interview him. A piece ran that night, with the driver saying how he had changed his life and now was giving back to the community (the real Golden Richards has said he once had a drug problem, and he once pleaded guilty to forgery charges).
Calls poured in to Metro after that Fox piece, Gilbert says, from wire services, Dallas television stations and even the Cowboys' fan magazine, but the bus-driving Richards told Metro publicists he was turning down interviews in order to concentrate on his new job.
He did agree to speak a few weeks ago to Sports Illustrated for a where-are-they-now piece that hasn't run and, we're guessing, never will.
Someone tipped Metro police about the bus driver's criminal past -- three home-burglary convictions -- and he was arrested June 19 and fired for not listing the convictions on his application. He had been with Metro seven months.
There's some difference of opinion between the Chron and Metro as to how the fake football past of the bus driver saw print. The Chron's follow-up piece by Jerry Urban reported that Gilbert and another Metro flack "suggested to the Chronicle and other media several months ago that they do feature stories on a former Dallas Cowboy driving a Metro bus."
Reporter Mike Glenn, who did the original story, echoes that view.
"The topic had been floating around as a potential story, and I picked up on a rumor that he had been arrested and followed up on it," Glenn says. He talked to Gilbert, who pointed him to a 1995 Texas Monthly story about the Cowboy's hard times.
He and Gilbert agree that Glenn never asked directly if Richards was the real Richards; both assumed he was. Gilbert disagrees, though, that she or her staff ever "pitched" a feature story on Richards. "We never did a news release I talked to one, maybe two, of my friends at the Chronicle after the [Fox] piece came out and said how funny it was this guy was working for us, but I never pitched it as a story," she says.
She's adamant that Metro never pitched it to any "other media," as the Chron reported.
"It doesn't benefit Metro to do that story -- it would look like 'He's fallen on such hard times that he's now a bus driver,' like it's a bad job, and we don't believe it is," Gilbert says. She says the agency had no reason to check out the driver's story, since they issued no press release on it.
Glenn says the mistake was "mortifying" for him, but he doesn't blame Metro. "I did try to call [the former Cowboy's] brother," he says. "If I had a full day to work the story it might've been different."
He says he plans to call Richards in Utah and apologize.
Lost in the Flood
How 'bout all that flood coverage?
The truth is, we saw hardly any of it, having been quite a victim of Allison ourselves. (You may revel in the gory details in next week's issue.)
What we did see seemed to consist of two things: reporters up to their waists in water, solemnly informing viewers that under no circumstances should anyone go waist-deep into the water; and a constant, relentless, mindless repetition of the bromide that you should never drive your car through water unless you know how deep it is.
The stations we saw insisted on repeating this, for the benefit of all those drivers out there watching TV in their cars, when they could perhaps have better served their viewers at home by telling them what they needed to do if the flood was headed their way. Should they wade through already rising waters to turn off electricity and gas, or let it go? We never heard, but we did know that if we decided to hop into a car, by gum, we shouldn't drive through high water. Even though by doing so, we would apparently just about guarantee getting on television, since all that seemed to be making the air was pictures of cars driving through high water.
We didn't hear any radio coverage, either, but one reader did and e-mailed to say that he was listening to KTRH about 10 p.m. on June 8. The station was having listeners call in to describe the scene in their neighborhoods.