farewell, general

Legendary Houston Chronicle sportswriter John McClain retires after storied, 47-year career

Houston Chronicle columnist John McClain retires after 47-year career

John McClain Houston Chronicle
McClain is honored in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Photo by Kathryn Krueger

Earl Campbell bulldozing and crushing hapless opponents in the mid-’80s. Warren Moon leading the Houston Oilers in a playoff rout against the Buffalo Bills — only to lose in a historic and heart-wrenching comeback (or choke, as it’s otherwise known). The Oilers’ move to Tennessee. The continuous drama surrounding the Houston Texans.

Houston Chronicle columnist, NFL writer, and radio and TV personality John McClain — known here as “The General” — has covered it all over 47 years in the Bayou City. If it was pro pigskin, McClain had a hot take. (He once even ate a Chronicle newspaper to fulfill a pledge he made in a column that he would do so if the Texans picked Jadeveon Clowney with the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft.)

But now, the esteemed scribe who boasts a plaque in the Pro Football Hall of Fame is closing his laptop after nearly half a century of covering football for the city’s daily newspaper — and 51 years as a sportswriter.

In his last piece for the Chronicle on March 31, a long, thoughtful column, McClain reflects on his decades covering the original Houston Aeros hockey team, the Oilers, and Texans (he plans to author a top-10 list on Sunday, April 3). He recounts his early days as a freshman at McLennan Community College in 1971 working Friday night football.

He would then move to Waco and the Waco Tribune Herald from 1973 to 1976, before taking his initial post with the Chronicle to cover the original Houston Aeros (then of the World Hockey Association).

McClain lists a host of players, owners, coaches, front office and media and public relations professionals, and friends who helped him along his storied career, including SportsMap Radio radio host and SportsMap founding editor Fred Faour, who served as McClain’s editor at the Chronicle.

“‘Legend’ doesn’t even begin to describe John McClain,” Faour tells CultureMap. “I first met him when he started at the Chronicle 47 years ago and I was a brat kid my dad had to bring to work. John helped me learn the trade as a teenager, and was always kind and supportive of everything I did as I grew in the business. It was my greatest honor to be his’“boss’ my final few years at the Chronicle — I always joked John never had or needed a boss, but I got to pretend. He is a great reporter, a better person, and an amazing friend. I am glad I will still hear him on the radio and hope this gives him time for the occasional lunch — Mexican food, of course.”

Even Faour’s father gets some love in McClain’s column. “Fred Faour Sr., ‘Big Fred,’ was an unbelievable character with a great sense of news judgment who helped a snot-nosed, 24-year-old sportswriter from Waco make the transition to the Chronicle,” McClain recalls. “I’ve never been around a better copy editor or headline writer. He knew how to get the best out of our writers.”

“John told the story of Houston football,” Kevin Cooper, founder and CEO of FanEase and former communications director for the Texans, tells CultureMap. “He narrated the love affair this city had with its sport. The heartbreak and triumph, he reported it all. He grew from a writer to a radio personality to a major social media contributor.  He met his audience where they were and did his job: deliver the news. Congrats to him and his family on one of the greatest runs in journalism in NFL history.” 

What’s next for The General? He’ll be inducted to the Texas Sports Hall of Fame in May and will continue his work on myriad sports radio channels. His fans can follow him on Twitter as he promises to track the Texans, Houston Astros, and Chronicle writers, and tweet about them.

And with that, The General bids farewell in his piece, with a simple, “I’ll see you when I see you.”