August 13 is always a day of reflection for me.
It was on this date in 1979 that I began my first day of covering the McPherson and area sports scene.
It was supposed to be a two-year gig. I would gain some much-needed experience, say my thank yous and move on down the pike. That’s how it generally works in my profession as you start at the bottom of the ladder and move up a rung at a time.
I’ll admit I was skeptical when I started. I’d never been to McPherson and really didn’t know anything about its teams as my concentration had been on my native Southeast Kansas.
It didn’t take long for me to realize that McPherson is the poster child for what a true sports town should be, from its great athletes to great coaches to great teams to the phenomenal fan support.
I couldn’t have landed in a better place. I have had the honor of covering many of the 54 state championship teams whose banners adorn the legendary Roundhouse rafters. I have written about many of those who have their plaques on the Wall of Fame (of which I’m proud to say I was inducted to, still one of the highlights of my career). I have covered some of the greatest and most exciting events in area history, such as the legendary Little River and Moundridge basketball teams who rolled off championships like cars off an assembly line. I have worked with some of greatest coaches in Kansas history who were even better men and women as they always treated me with the upmost respect and I considered all of them friends.
I’m sure there are sports writers in Kansas who look at me with envy. How was I the lucky one? McPherson has been blessed to be so successful in athletics and so many of these kids have gone on to unmatched success in their adult lives.
It was always my dream to become a beat writer for the St. Louis baseball Cardinals. But growing up in Independence and then working in McPherson, I guess I’m just a small-town guy at heart. Covering kids from the time they begin sports to watching their high school (or college) careers conclude is inspiring. I look at the first class I covered at McPherson High and some of those athletes are now grandparents. That tells me how long I’ve been at this.
I worked for 33 years in print media and what a transformation there’s been during my time. When I first started, newspapers had a monopoly on information. ESPN was just born and it featured wrestling and truck-pulls. Cable TV was barely a thought in our consciousness. So it was up to newspapers to report the daily events.
I’m thankful I worked in the newspaper business, but I don’t miss it. The long nights and pressure to meet deadlines was taxing. I always worried if the press was going to break down and everytime there was a storm, I prayed the electricity wouldn’t get knocked out. I worked with some wonderful people, but burnout made me evaluate my life and I made a career move at 55, which some would consider dangerous. I joined the online world because that's where we are headed and it was the best choice I could have made.
What I do now is enjoyable beyond words. I believe it has allowed me to expand my horizons as nowhere can you find a writer who produces five columns a week, which hopefully gets people thinking. You may not agree with what I write, but as long as I can provoke a response I’ve done my job.
Did I say job? This isn’t a job. How can it be a job when you get paid to write and talk about sports? What I do keeps me young. I've been asked when I'm going to retire and I generally say, “to do what?" I still find time to play golf as much as I want and enjoy life. Living in McPherson has been wonderful, people here have been good to me and I have many friends. I appreciate all the comments I receive, even if some are negative. That tells me I’m presenting both sides of a story as nobody should agree with everything I write.
How much longer will I do this? At this point in my life I can't imagine doing anything else. I'm blessed that I work for people who believe that what I do matters and every week we get our website numbers, I'm thankful that so many people still follow what I write. I know I put my heart and soul into my stories and though sometimes I'm negative, I write what I believe.
I also thank my readers for commenting on my stories that don't focus on sports. I've written a lot about my hometown, my friends and family. I shared my thoughts on losing two parents and appreciated the support during those difficult times. I think those stories are something everybody can relate to.
So with another season nearly upon us, I'm gearing up for another year. The batteries have been recharged and the mind is fresh. I'm ready to report on the success that is McPherson and area sports. Hope you enjoy it.