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July 17, 2012 @ 2:18 pm
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Getting To Know Editor-In-Chief Mark Cook

Written by Pewter
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Pewter Report Staff

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PewterReport.com's editor-in-chief Mark Cook has witnessed nearly every game in Buccaneers history which gives him a unique perspective covering the team on a daily basis. Learn more about Cook, his family and how he became part of the Pewter Report staff last year, as PewterReport.com enters 25 years of covering Tampa Bay football.
Sometimes it takes a while to find what a person truly loves to do as a profession. In the case of PewterReport.com editor-in-chief Mark Cook, the journey was 40 years long. No matter how long it took to get there, Cook loves where the journey ended.

“I had grand plans growing up to do this or do that,” Cook said. “My initial goal was to be a teacher, so that I could have summers off to hang at the beach. But my passion for sports, radio and writing ended up distracting me from my pursuit of free time. I’m not complaining.”

While publisher Scott Reynolds is the most tenured of all local writers with 17 years of Buccaneers coverage, few can boast that they have witnessed the history of the franchise the way Cook has.

“I have attended, watched, or listened on the radio to every single Buccaneers game since late 1977, when I watched a terrible team in orange and white uniforms beat the Saints for its first win,” Cook said. “If that had been any game other than the first win, I might never have become interested in football or the Buccaneers. I might have saved myself years of frustration and misery.

"Some of my fondest childhood memories were from the late 70’s and early 80’s. We’d get the Tampa Tribune on Sunday mornings, and I’d fight my Dad to get the sports page,” Cook said. “I was blown away with the Lamar Sparkman artwork on game day and by Tom McEwen’s columns.

“Then after church – and sometimes during – I prayed that we wouldn’t go out to dinner. I had to get home to watch the games. If they weren’t on television, I would hole myself up in my room with Mark Champion on the radio and not come out until after the post-game wrap up."

Cook was obsessed with football from that point on, something that continues to this day.

“To me, football is the greatest sport, ever,” Cook said. “To paraphrase Vince Lombardi, football is ‘eleven guys working as one cohesive unit in military precision.’ Rarely in football can one person take over and carry a team on his back; you need all eleven working as one. If one person doesn’t carry out his assignment, then the whole play is usually doomed to failure.”

Admittedly not the most gifted of athletes, Cook’s own football career ended after high school. His love of sports and of teaching led him to coach at his high school alma mater, Plant City High School, from 1998 to 2004. Cook worked under Todd Long, who was Cook’s junior varsity coach in 1985.

“Coaching certainly put things in greater perspective than playing ever did,” Cook said. “As a player, you concentrate primarily on your own job. But to be successful as a coach you really must see the entire field. The game of football is often like a chess match. ‘If I do this, how will they react?’ Trying to stay one step ahead and getting into the mind of the other team is always fascinating to me.”

Cook’s journey into the field of journalism also began in high school, when he signed up for both a creative writing class and the school newspaper, although not for reasons of dedication to the craft.

“I figured that those would be the easiest of the elective choices; I had already burned up all my P.E. electives,” Cook said. “But I soon realized that it was fun and exciting to see that you could influence and inform someone with just words on paper.

“I was an avid reader even back then, so I knew how powerful words could be. I remembered the McEwen columns and was a big Lewis Grizzard fan, and I can still quote lines from both of them. I especially like articles that make you laugh, cry and get angry, all in the same column.”

As high school was ending, Cook took an opportunity to get into radio broadcasting.

“I started working for free at the old WPLA-910 in Plant City, learning the business and practice of radio,” Cook said. “It paid off. I ended up with a paying job the summer after graduation in 1988 at WWBF-1130.The Thornburg family, who owned the station, really took me under their wing and allowed me to grow.

“They even let me broadcast Dixie Youth League baseball games. On Tuesday nights, I lugged remote broadcast equipment up to the press box and pretended I was Vin Scully. There were maybe 100 people listening and 20 of those were at the ball park wearing those big earphone radios, and I occasionally got dirty looks from the stands when I mispronounced their child’s name.”

After a few years in the radio business Cook went back to school, and it was while working in Lakeland, and attending college, he met his future wife Erin Holt. Married in 1993, Mark and Erin are approaching 20 years together.

“She has always been my biggest fan,” Cook said. “Supportive, but honest and not afraid to hurt my feelings. She gave me the confidence to get back into journalism and encouraged me to keep plugging at it.”

Over the next few years, Cook worked at a number of local radio stations, even becoming the football radio voice of the Lake Region Thunder, which was then led by former Florida Gators coach Charlie Pell. Cook soon joined Tampa’s first all sports station, WFNS-910, where he worked with former high school classmate Darek Sharp, Whitney Johnson, Jim Lighthall, former Buc Scot Brantley, and future Tampa radio fixture Steve Duemig.

“It was around that time that I was able to obtain media credentials to cover the Bucs,” Cook said. “At the old Sombrero, space in the press box was limited, but not so in the stands. So the Bucs’ public relations department gave me a credential. But I had to sit outside in the stands. In the fourth quarter, the media was allowed on the field. That is where Scott Reynolds and I became acquainted and became friends.

“I began covering the post-game locker room for Buccaneer Magazine, and afterwards we would head back to the office where Scott would spend hours putting it all together. Those lessons were invaluable to me and helped me land new opportunities.”

One such opportunity was becoming part of the Tampa Tribune family. In 1998, Cook was hired by former prep editor Rozel Swain as a correspondent to cover high school sports, eventually branching into outdoor writing. From 1998 until 2011, Cook worked for the Tribune on a freelance basis, while also writing for other local and national publications. One of Cook’s feature articles was about novelist and television creator and writer Earl Hamner, of The Walton’s fame. Cook and Hamner became friends and still speak on a regular basis, and Hamner continues to be a mentor and literary hero.

In 1999, a devastating twist took place in the Cook family’s life when Erin was diagnosed with end-stage renal failure. Many years of juvenile diabetes had taken a toll on her kidneys, and Erin needed dialysis to keep her alive. In 2001, a life-changing phone call came from Shands Hospital in Gainesville, and on October 23, 2001, Erin underwent a kidney and pancreas transplant that saved her life.

“That was a dark few years for us,” Mark said. “Not knowing if she would live to see the transplant or if it would be successful was certainly troubling; it was hard to keep my sanity. But last October made 10 years since the surgery, and not only does her new kidney continue to work, her 24 years of diabetes ended when she received the new pancreas.”

After her recovery, Mark and Erin discussed expanding the Cook family from two to three.

“With Erin’s diabetes and kidney failure, having children was not an option,” Cook said. “But we looked into adoption and decided to go through the foster-to-adoption route. In 2003, we were blessed to add our son Douglas to the family. He was 3 years old then and is now 11.  Douglas has been one of the most amazing blessings we have ever received. Regardless of the biological laws of nature, he is my blood and my son.”

Over the years, Scott and Mark kept in touch, and in the summer of 2011, Reynolds called Cook to see if he was interested in joining PewterReport.com.

“Because of my longtime relationship with Scott, I assumed that I was ahead of the pack as far as getting the job,” Cook said. “But I was mistaken. He and Charlie Campbell put me through a grueling month-long interview process. But it was worth it. I was hired just before 2011 camp opened.

“Initially I was to spend a season under Charlie learning the ropes, but it didn’t work out that way. Unfortunately for me, and the readers, Charlie took another job, so I was thrust into a more prominent role. I still remember Scott pulling me to the side after Charlie announced he was leaving and telling me, ‘I need you to step up.’”

“I have tried over the last year to provide the best insight I can to the readers. Scott, Kim Roper, Hugh MacArthur and PR’s largely-unheralded support staff have helped me tremendously. I am especially attuned to the feedback from the readers, even the criticism, which makes me work harder and inspires me to improve.”

Reynolds appreciate what Cook brings to PewterReport.com.

"What sets him apart from a lot of the writers is his knowledge of this team since nearly the beginning," Reynolds said. "When someone talks about the Bucs beating the Eagles in 1979 Mark remembers it. He saw it. Just having that perspective is really unique. No one can question his passion in covering this team and we are happy he came aboard last season."

As Cook heads into his second season with Pewter Report, he is excited about the future.

“Those who transformed Buccaneer Magazine into PewterReport.com were really visionaries in the future of sports journalism,” Cook said. “I’m an old school newspaper guy, but I have seen firsthand how media has changed, and we’re not heading back.  While I am biased, I don’t think anyone does it better than we do. That isn’t to say we can’t get better. We must become better, and we will. That is part of what makes our jobs so exciting.

“I appreciate my job and always try to remember to say a prayer of thanks at least once a day. Even on those long game days, when everyone is going to bed and we are still in the press box working, I remind myself how blessed I truly am. Not many people can say that they make a living doing what they are passionate about. Fortunately I am one who can.”

See our other staff bios:
Scott Reynolds: A Life Covering The Buccaneers

Last modified on Thursday, 19 July 2012 20:59

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  • avatar

    You've been doing a great job MC. Keep it up!
  • avatar

    Totally agree with you FreemanMVP, what a breath of fresh air, PR show rocks on 1010.Can't believe I listened to that jerk on that other station a.k.a. MR.RIGHT ALL THE TIME, UNLESS YOUR AN EXPERT THAN HE BROWN NOSES THE WHOLE SHOW..THE SAME JERK WHO CALLED REHEEM THE NEXT TOMLIN, We all know who I'm talking about..1010 after work Mon-Fri. is totally the way to go unless you don't mind not being able to express your opinion without being hung up on!
  • avatar

    Ive enjoyed your work since you've joined the best Bucs site and you have helped to keep it the best Bucs site.But my favorite is you and Scott on PR radio on 1010am.You guys do an awesome job on the radio show also and IMO is the best Buc Ball show on the radio.Thanks for all your work.From a Buc Fan since moving to Tampa Bay in 1980.
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    I AM old, and there was nothing sudden about it. I remember a downpour that funneled about 4 or 5 inches of water on the brand new carpet in the Bucs' locker room during a Rowdies match one night. I was an electrician on standby. IIRC that was before the team had even played a game in the old stadium. A friend of mine had a huge dish (12-15 ft,) in his backyard, and he also had diabetes. After several amputations of his toes and then his feet, it killed him. He was like a brother to me. I still think about him now and then. Your story triggered the memory. I very much enjoy your articles and responses on the chats. People that enjoy their work do a better job. You do, and it shows. Thank you for your efforts. Good luck and good health to you and your family.
  • avatar

    I think these past 2 personal stories from Scott and Mark have been a great way to chat about remember "the good ole days"...Everything from very humble Buccaneer beginings to the reminder of nasa satellites and wrestlemanias...MAN I SUDDENLY FEEL OLD...This has all been great conversational pieces that I think is helping everyone here to get even that much more excited to see our Bucs on the field again...7 more days right?? GO BUCS!!!!!
  • avatar

    Mark, thanks for the insight into your personal side. This last year must not have been easy, but i think you can tell from the comments that you cleared the bar with room to spare. We're all delighted that you are exactly where you are now. Thanks for bringing it every week- even in the dog days of summer. I live in LA but am from Tampa. PR is one of my primary touchstones to home and my favorite team every week. Thank you for that.
  • avatar

    Thank you for sharing your personal story Mark. Regarding your son Douglas, who looks a lot like your lovely wife; "nurture" is more important than "nature". As I remember hearing someone who had an adopted child say, "He didn't grow in my womb...he grew in my heart." Love remembering the early days with Mark Champion on the radio. The team seemed much more accessible then. Without all of the sports on TV and radio we have now, every bit of information was exciting.
  • avatar

    Great read Mark... Thanks for giving us a little insight as to what makes you tick. You're doing a great job, and enjoy your point of view. Definitely deserve your own radio show! Thanks...
  • avatar

    Thnaks for sharing with us some of your background and always doing such a good job bringing us stories of our beloved Bucs.You and Scott always take the sting out of a loss a little.So keep up the good work.
  • avatar

    Lol, yeah my grandfather had one of those NASA satellites also..now your bringing back wrestlemania memories as well..I used to go to his house and enjoy ppvs and Bucs local blackout games..Hogan vs Macho Man unforgettable also..
  • avatar

    October 21,1990 to be exact, Aikman to Irvin before they became a dynasty..that one still hurts!
  • avatar

    Awesome story Mark! I'm glad your covering my favorite team, keep up the good work!..I was born in 1980, my dad took me to bucs games when all knew was to root for the orange team, lol..one memory that sticks out the most was the cowboys 1st visit to Tampa stadium, we had them beat and they broke our hearts at the end on a deep pass..remember that one?
  • avatar

    My first game was a birthday present from my Dad in 1981. Bucs-Broncos. Tampa Bay lost 24-7 and only scored on a Cedric Brown INT return from...Steve DeBerg who had replaced Morton if my memory serves me. Top 5 day of my life. First game, with my Dad. Life was perfect that November day. Yes I remember that one. Was with Derek Sharp, an old friend and we went to someones house who had one of those giant NASA style satellites! Remember those?
  • avatar

    There has always seemed to be a big void left at PR since Jim Flynn left. You have certainly helped fill that void more so than any of your predecessors. Your enthusiasm for the Bucs is infectious. Keep up the good work!
  • avatar

    Appreciate it Mr. Hicks. What you did as a career was a heck of a lot more important than writing about sports. Thank you for that, from myself, Pewter Report and all of our readers. Hope to shake your hand one day.
  • avatar

    Mark appreciate all you hard work..you truly are blessed to have a great family and a job that you can say that you love...that pretty rare especially these days! good luck to you in the future and Go Bucs!!!
  • avatar

    Well Mark I've never Knewyou But You and Scott is a heck of a combo. If I didn't get involved with over 23 years of swerving my country. I may have tried the sports writing. But by going into the service I did two things one I serve my country during the Vietnam Era didn't see combat but I took care of all the heroes that served and went to Viet Nam, and did volunteer FREE youth sports through-out the world espically 17 years in Europe when I was a Meddic, As a Meddic and off my off time I work in the community teaching kids basket ball and baseball and some soccer. So in a way I was involved with sports in my own way. GO BUCS again when I taught the kids I didnot ask for nothing only a handshake and a pat on the back for a good job.
  • avatar

    Mark, you brought back a lot of memories of the old days with the Bucs. I have and will continue to enjoy your Articles. Keep up the good work.
  • avatar

    Thanks everybody. I really appreciate the kind words. it is funny when you start making notes, and you are the one being interviewed, how much you remember and reflect on. Seeing it in writing makes me feel even more blessed.Now if I can hit Powerball this week life will be perfect! Kidding of course, although I wouldn't give it back.
  • avatar

    Mark, I thought that this was a very interesting story about your life, and it was especially touching regarding what took place with Erin. I pray that the good health continues and that nothing but good days are ahead. It was also interesting regarding your son Douglas, that is just a wonderful family story. May all of you enjoy long life, much happiness, good health and continue to support and enjoy your time together. GO BUCS.....Randy
  • avatar

    Great story! Very interesting read. The last two lines are true beyond the expression of words. Congratulations MC and enjoy every day.
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    Good looking family. Thanks for the great work!
  • avatar

    "There was a dark van that pulled up beside me, a man in a ski-mask emerged from the van and pulled me in. They told me I cannot leave. The man said he was Scott Reynolds and that I was to be the editor of PewterReport." <--- The true story of how Scott demanded Mark become a writer with PR.
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