In the past seven years as sports editor of the Salem News, when it comes down to telling people what I've been doing as opposed to doing, which is usually drinking something, I get a great deal of response from said bar stool quarterbacks in whatever watering hole I've ended up at after the last relevant game I've had to wait for the conclusion of.
When I explain my day to day it typically results in questions regarding professional sports coverage and who and when I've talked to whom and when I talked to them.
Don't get me wrong, it's always with a bit of self confidence I can freely admit to interviewing not only some of my idols in the sports world (John Daly, Rocco Mediate, Casey Blake) but also some of the biggest sports figures on the planet (Tiger Woods, LeBron James, etc.).
One of the perks of journalism is press passes and the access they often grant. Admittedly, when I made the decision to move on from my world as sports editor of a small, daily newspaper that often times I had to explain in more depth than I wanted to the exact location of, I got a lot of second guessing from people who jump to the conclusion what I've made a living at involves only talking to sports celebrities and hanging around in professional locker rooms. Most things in life are questionable regardless of whatever the circumstance and often times make semi-to-little sense. Neither does anything else, and a lot of what I went to was catered.
Truth be told, I will miss having access to events most people have to buy a ticket for. It was one of the perks of a job only the most dedicated sports enthusiasts can survive in. A lot of it is opposite hours of the normal world, failing miserably at personal relationships, never getting to watch the Super Bowl outside of the office, and always having to say you're working when the rest of the free world finished their 9-to-5s hours ago and are letting off steam.
But little of what I'll miss comes in the professional sports world sense or the simple drawbacks that come with not only this job, but every other one on the planet.
I'll miss the high school sidelines, dugouts, court-side at the gym and chasing down cross country runners, crouching behind hundreds of parents, referees, officials and players to get the best photo.
I'll miss the competition. Not just that of the every evening, but that of the one-on-one challenges I subjected myself to garnering a better understanding of exactly just how good and dedicated these "kids" I cover are. Kids they are by definition only. If most of us adults had to do what they did on a regular basis, we'd do so with the frequent loss of limbs, mobility and dignity.
I'll miss the inspiration. The work ethic and dedication to achieving goals we as "grown-ups" have either long forgotten about or taken for granted.
I'll miss the tears. Not those shed by the athlete who fell just short of his or her goal, but those shed by said sports writer who was moved by the persistence of which young men and women just short of half his age showed perseverance in shooting for their dreams.
I'll miss the camaraderie. Not only of the teams who came together, but of the communities who supported their children, grandchildren, nephews, nieces, cousins, brothers, sisters and friends.
I'll miss the miracles. The people who cried on one another's shoulders in the most improbable and tragic of situations, but through the sheer power of support, love and hope made it possible to continue. To not only stand up in the face of adversity but to say we as a community will be stronger, will love more passionately, will cherish more vehemently, and will reach the other side better, smarter and more compassionate than we ever thought possible before.
I'll miss the parents. The awesome ones, the crazy ones, the mothers and fathers who thought I had an agenda and hated my guts, to the ones who never said a word, to the ones who said far more than they ever needed to. You all love your children, and it's a love and protection I as a single man in his early 30s can't even fathom but perhaps one day will be lucky enough to understand.
I'll miss the coaches. Those who sacrificed their time to mold and shape young minds, not only in sports but in life.
I'll miss my co-workers. The kids straight out of college I tried to help guide, to the journalism lifers who deserve more from a field struggling to maintain its identity, to the managing editor who just might be the coolest boss in the world, but most importantly is an even cooler father to his daughters. He personifies the definition of "sacrifice."
I'll miss you. The reader who told me what he or she thought, good, bad or indifferent. You read. You followed my work. And for that I will be forever grateful.
Thank you all for the experience. I'm wiser for it. I'm better for it. And I love you all for it.
I'll see you soon. And I'll certainly be rooting for you all from afar.
'til next time
"This is a very simple game. You throw the ball, you catch the ball, you hit the ball. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, sometimes, it rains. Think about that for a while."