People will probably pose for selfies with Neil Devlin until the end of time, but unfortunately they won’t be able to read his stories in the Denver Post anymore.
On Thursday night, the longtime prep sports editor announced his departure from the Post after 36 years as he and veteran scribe Irv Moss — who has been there since 1956 — accepted buyouts as part of the latest round of casualties of an ownership group that has gutted much of what was once a juggernaut of a newspaper.
I still know a handful of incredible writers, editors, web people and photographers at the Post who continue to shine, but the number continues to dwindle and my stomach hurts for each and every one of them each time the news of more impending cuts comes down. While anybody who has worked in newspapers for 36 years has the end of a career in sight, I never would have dreamed it would end like this for Neil.
Yo: W/ position termination looming & layoff/buyout, I’ve left da Post. Thanks 4 da ride w/ Colo. kids. My pleasure, I did my best. #copreps
— Neil Devlin (@neildevlin) June 24, 2016
As a budding sports writer with the Spotlight — Denver East High School’s student newspaper — in the 1990s, I vividly remember reading Neil’s game stories and Sunday columns religiously after I snatched the sports section of the Post — which used to be massive — while my parents read the rest of the paper. Sometimes Neil covered the Angels at a game I went to and I matched his take with mine. It was also hard to ignore the long hair that made him so unique.
It was just five or six years after that when I first covered a game with Neil, though I don’t remember our first encounter. Since then, I can’t begin to count how many times I covered games with him on the sidelines, in a gym or behind a backstop and took pride in becoming one of his peers (and actually knowing why he always uses Yo! in texts, tweets and emails).
The last game we covered together was a month ago when Cherokee Trail won the Class 5A state baseball championship and Neil watched the proceedings from the top of the bleachers at All-City Field wearing a classic Star Trek T-shirt and shades (the lingering byproduct of his questioning of the powers that be who resided in the press box). It was another memory of many laugh-filled encounters and times I watched kids ask to take pictures with Neil, hold up cutouts of his face at games or encourage him to take a half court shot like he did many times with good humility at Regis Jesuit.
Is it possible for somebody to know everybody at a prep game? Chances are Neil did. He’d hug table workers, give a nod to just about every referee and have a chat with just about anybody who approached him like he knew them forever.
The admiration for Neil shone through in the reaction to his announcement on Twitter. A large number of his 8,056 followers — which gives him a commanding lead over me, as he continually has reminded me this season, ha! — reached out to support him and share memories. I strongly encourage you to check out his heartfelt string of tweets (@neildevlin) about his time with the paper.
The best part about Neil is as much as he covered Denver and the entire state, his heart was and still is clearly in Aurora. In the 1980s, Neil’s brother, John, was the standard by which all Aurora Sentinel sportswriters should ever be measured and Neil always had a soft spot for Aurora squads and athletes, especially during this past boys basketball season.
The tougher part is losing the voice of another person who was so dedicated to celebrating community accomplishments and shining light on the best and brightest in a time with so much turmoil. I urge everyone to continue to consume and care about local news and those who dedicate themselves to trying to tell you stories. It’s something we can’t afford to lose.
So to keep it short, Neil, enjoy a Guinness or two, indulge at Fontana Sushi, play 18 holes (and shoot under 80 again) and know how appreciated you have been and still are. I have no doubts you’ll be back at it in some capacity before we know it.
And hopefully I’ll see you around and maybe get my picture with you for the first time!
— Sports Editor Courtney Oakes