SUBSCRIBING TO THE theory that the best defense is a good offense, allow me to introduce Ernest Hemingway, George Plimpton, Oscar Madison, Craig Kilbourn, Kurt Vonnegut and, of course, Ronald Reagan.

All of whom started out as sports writers and/or sportscasters, or they played one in a movie, and then moved on to other things, such as writing about the Spanish civil war, fighting Archie Moore, dismantling the Iron Curtain and hosting Comedy Central.Sports writers don't die; they retire and write "Slaughterhouse Five."

And while it's true that many never do steer their way out of the fraternity, with its endless supply of press box food, preferred parking, trips to the Masters, complimentary casual wear with logos and access to millionaires glad to talk to you - providing the conversation begins with, "Nice game" - it is possible to walk away from sports. Look at Pat O'Brien.

For more than 20 years I wrote newspaper sports, going to games and thinking, Wow! Not only do you get in free and sit in the expensive seats, but you get paid!The euphoria was disrupted only by the rude awakening that you can't go home until you write about what you just saw.

All jobs have their downside. Ask Karl Malone. Ask Bill Clinton.

I spent the past four years circumventing those daily deadlines by moving to California and collaborating on a number of book projects with sports figures.

I wrote a book with LaVell Edwards, I wrote a book with Henry Marsh, I wrote a book with Peter Vidmar. I wrote two books on the Olympic Games. I liked my subjects. I got to know Rincon Point, County Line, Colorado Boulevard - places the Beach Boys sang about. I bought a surfboard, and while I never did hang 10, I did master the art of hanging my entire body off the board.

It was a good life. Pleasant working conditions, no major earthquakes while I was there, only an occasional flood, and whenever I went to a sporting event, I left early. I once left a Dodgers game in the seventh inning with the score tied. Sailed out of the parking lot. Real happy.

I eventually busted loose from all-sports-all-the-time and wrote a book on the sordid affair of Enid and Joe Waldholtz. This was new ground. Greed, ambition, power and deceit. Athletes never got this carried away. I shuttled between Washington, Salt Lake City and Pittsburgh - scenes of the crimes - and wrote a nonfiction novel I titled "Blind Trust, The true story of Enid Greene and Joe Waldholtz."

The media panned "Blind Trust," Enid hated it, her parents hated it, and I never heard from Joe, all of which I chose to take as a compliment and harbinger of good things to come. But the publishing business is a crap shoot, and it wasn't long before my initial high hopes sank into harsh reality.

After reading the manuscript and seriously considering playing Enid in "Blind Trust, the movie," Demi Moore (honest) reconsidered and went on to film "G.I. Jane."

Then, the company distributing the book went out of business (honest).

It was becoming apparent that "Blind Trust" was not going to supplant "Midnight in the Garden of Good & Evil" at the top of the true-crime best-sellers list.

My plans for the gated house at Rincon Point (southwest facing, toward the Channel Islands, 20 paces from the blue Pacific; I had my eye on Kevin Costner's old place) had to be put on hold.

That's when the Deseret News editors called. They said they had a general column position open. They said Salt Lake City was the most vibrant, exciting city in America. They said the world could be my press box. They said I could write about the Olympics (my request). They said I could leave sports. I could do what Hemingway did. They said they'd include health insurance.

I took the job.

Your fault.

You should've bought more books.