Somebody told me it’s time to retire. Actually, that’s my inner voice speaking loudly and distinctively:
Got to go.
Yes, the moment is right. In sports — and sometimes life — it’s all about timing. I’m convinced it’s the appropriate opportunity to say farewell.
How do you say goodbye?
I don’t know because I’ve never done it.
It sure was easy to say hello 45 years ago when I started working at the Collinsville Herald and met high school basketball legends like Vergil Fletcher of Collinsville and Louis “Pick” Dehner of East St. Louis my first year. What a way to begin a career that started in Madison County and ended in MadCo.
There were characters galore and individuals with ample character — from A to Z and back again.
The stories started flowing and they never stopped. That’s the way I liked it, continuing through 43 more years working in Alton, 40 at the Telegraph and the final three at AdVantage News.
And even though the last gig was a part-time one, I enjoyed it immensely because it enabled me to keep in touch with sports and fans throughout the Greater Alton area.
A sincere salute to AdVantage News for a wonderful retirement party on Aug. 28. It couldn’t have been orchestrated any finer.
As for the readers, your final tip for today is this: Make the most of every chance. The window of opportunity isn’t always open. And when it is, it can close quickly.
I know the feeling. There was little desire to get into this business because of the money. It paid enough, thus there was no need to starve or work two jobs. Others may not be as fortunate and I understand how difficult it can be to carve out a living these days.
Nothing comes easy and believe me, I’ve been fortunate. A little luck can go a long way and sometimes luck is the residue of good design. I learned that reading about Branch Rickey.
It’s not true he told me that in person. Or that I saw Abner Doubleday play. Let’s just say I’m young at heart and leave it at that.
What fascinates me about sports are the events themselves, plus the guys and gals playing them. It’s all about people, why they do the things they do and how they react to different situations.
It’s a lot like life. You can apply the lessons of sports to things you do every day, whether it’s teamwork, encouragement, accountability or compassion. There’s also room for irony and humor, two of my favorite items. Punishable puns come to mind.
Former SIUE sports information director Al Barnes once called me the “Prince of Puns.”
Bad News Barnes strikes again, I’d tell him. And then we’d laugh and go about our business. While at SIUE, I learned a lot in a hurry. Nothing like having NBA Hall of Famer Harry Gallatin as a bowling instructor.
Yet the four-plus decades in Alton were unforgettable. Time goes fast when you are having fun. And those were the days, my friends. I thought they would never end.
There are countless people I can thank for befriending me, working with me and showing me the way. All of them will remain close to my heart. I don’t have enough space here to list all of them, so a gracious tip of the cap will have to do. I genuinely tried to cultivate a special relationship with the readers.
Nevertheless, family comes first and I appreciate my wife, Cheryl, and son, Corey, the most.
When did I consider writing sports?
All my life is the best answer.
By the time I reached the fifth grade, sports started tugging at me. I did what I could athletically, but focused more on writing or broadcasting the games people play.
Frankly, I couldn’t imagine spending most of life doing anything else. It has been a rollicking ride, thanks mainly to the players and the fans. It reminds me of that story about the late impresario Ed Sullivan, whose popular TV variety show ran from 1948-71.
A comedian once asked Ed if he could sing.
“No,” Sullivan said.
Can you dance?
Can you tell jokes.
So what do you do?
Sullivan said, “I introduce the acts and get out of the way.”
That’s sort of what I tried to do — let the readers know what was going on and stay out of their path in absorbing it. You report what’s going on and sometimes you get to tell an entertaining and informative story, one that resonates with them.
It has been said, and sung, that every picture tells a story. Yet one sentence — or a single word — can sometimes paint a lively picture of people and the games they enjoy.
At least that’s what I have attempted to convey, beginning all those years ago.
So thanks for all of the memories and the opportunity of a lifetime.
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