Can't believe this will be year No. 39 in McPherson

By Steve Sell
August 11, 2017

Monday can’t get here fast enough.

Practices for high school and college sports get under way and the excitement is palpable.

Even for an old dog like me.

Saturday will mark the completion of 38 years of having covered the McPherson and area sports scene.

So when Monday rolls around, so will the beginning of my 39th year.

Wow. It seems like only yesterday I was a skinny cub reporter with scraggly long hair entering the uncertainty of the real working world.

Now I had been a sports writer at The Independence Daily Reporter during my senior year of high school and two years of junior college. I was also on The University Daily Kansan my junior and senior years at KU as a staff writer.

But suddenly I was solely responsible for putting out a viable sports section six days a week in McPherson, a town I knew nothing about until the week before I rolled in. All I knew was that two of my classmates at Indy Juco, Rick Stout and Jeff Kline, were from McPherson and were star basketball players for three state championship teams. And my fraternity brother at KU, Rick Johnson, was from there.

First day on the job, I was given a couple of weeks to put together a fall sports preview and I knew nothing about such a task as they didn’t teach that in college. I struggled through it (it was pitiful) and immediately word around town was The Sentinel needed to throw more money at Brad Catt and entice him to come back as he had taken employment at The Salina Journal. It was like following John Wooden at UCLA, he was that much of a legend.

But once I got my footing, I settled in. I learned quickly that McPherson and the surrounding area were bonkers about sports. And that made me up my game.

For 33 years and change, I felt like I put out a pretty darn good sports section. The emphasis was always on local and as McPherson High Athletic Director Shane Backhus constantly reminds me, “it’s all about the kids.”

I didn’t make everybody happy during those three-plus decades, but at least my sports sections spurred on conversation.

In October of 2012, I decided to make a career move to KBBE as sports editor of the station’s website along some announcing duties. If anything, the move has expanded my horizons as I may be the only five-day-a-week columnist in Kansas in addition to covering eight high schools and three colleges, while opining on KU, K-State, Wichita State, the Royals and the Chiefs.

Also, we started the Mid Kansas Sports Magazine, which is published four times a year and the editions are snapped up in a hurry, for which I’m thankful.

I have been blessed to work for great bosses and with such cooperative coaches and athletic directors. Unfortunately, most of the ones I started with back in 1979 have retired or passed. I have also covered some of the greatest athletes in Kansas history and have written about more state championships than I can count.

Most of all, I’ve been fortunate to have such a loyal audience, first in print and then on the web. I still get stopped in public about stories or columns I’ve written, either being praised or criticized. And that’s good, because I don’t want readers to agree with everything I say because in no way am I an expert.

The McPherson community has been very good to me. For a guy who was going to be here two years and move on, it grew on me early, reminding so much of the town I grew up in as a kid. I know it has given back to me far more than I’ve given it.

At this point the fire still burns to cover local sports. Even though I’m in the twilight of my career, my heart still beats a little faster when the first events of the fall season roll around. All I’ve ever tried to do in my job is the best I can. I get paid to cover sports, how good is that?

Like I’ve always said, when this becomes an actual “job,” then I’ll know it’s time to get out and smell the roses.