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Racing's loss isn't lost on 'the other Poole' either

Saturday, May. 02, 2009

I was eager to make my mark when I arrived in Chapel Hill as in August 1979. But I quickly learned that I’d have to settle for being nothing more than “the other David Poole.”

During freshman orientation, I tried out for the city news desk of The Daily Tar Heel. A few days later, when the city desk staff list was posted, I was heartbroken to find my name missing. My dismay turned to delight when I scanned the other desks and saw my name on the sports staff.

I phoned the news home to Florida, and soon my parents were bragging to their friends. “David hasn’t been on campus a week, and he’s already found a career.”

Eager to get started, I arrived earlier for the first meeting of the sports staff. Soon, I was joined by friendly, heavyset guy. We chatted a while – I discovered he’d been on the paper the year before and was happy to show me the ropes.

After a few minutes, I asked his name.

“David,” he said.

“Yeah, that’s my name, too. What’s your last name?”

“Poole.”

The blood rushed from my face. I leapt from my chair and fled the newsroom and certain humiliation.

I needed another life path, one in which I could blaze myself. But it was hard to avoid the “original” David Poole for the next three years, particularly after he became the DTH sports editor and author of the coveted Monday morning humor column.

Living in David Poole’s shadow was a lesson in humility. Hardly a week went by without someone telling me how much they'd enjoyed my latest column. I should have used this to my advantage, particularly with the women. But I’d explain how I was just the “other” David Poole.

The funny thing is that both of us did end up in journalism. I toiled in relative anonymity in papers in Virginia, while the original David Poole landed at the Charlotte Observer just as NASCAR was becoming big time. He soon had a national audience. People said David Poole was the best – and that was OK, even if it wasn’t me.

I never could shake the guy. When I started seriously dating a woman six years ago, one of her friends did a little Internet sleuthing to make sure Clare was not mixed up with someone featured on the sex offender registry.

Everything checked out, but the friend gave Clare this word of caution. “What’s with the NASCAR thing?”

I’m happy to report that Clare agreed to marry me anyway, despite the fact that I had a distant connection to racin’.

Hard to believe David is gone. His untimely death leaves a huge void in the NASCAR press corps. As for me, it’s kind of scary to think of myself out there on my own, the only David Poole.

David Poole (UNC 1983) is executive director of the Virginia Public Access Project, a nonprofit group that tracks money in Virginia politics.

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