It’s time to do something I rarely thought about doing during my career here at The Eagle.
It’s time to retire.
Not immediately, not until the spring, not until after the basketball season.
But it’s time.
I am one lucky you-know-what. I decided when I was 16 that I wanted to be a sportswriter and 45 years later I’m preparing to wrap up a career as a sportswriter.
It wasn’t all luck. I buckled down to learn this craft and all that goes with it. I came to love journalism as much as I love sports. I was never satisfied with my writing and worked hard to improve.
I took this career seriously. But it’s time to move on.
There are other things in my life that mean as much to me as journalism, and writing about sports, always have.
League 42, a youth baseball league in Wichita that serves urban families, is my passion. I am the chairman and it gives me tremendous satisfaction because of my love for baseball and kids.
I’m a volunteer for League 42, but the time necessary to do my part in making it work is growing. And nothing is more important to me than doing what I can to help make League 42, starting its fourth year, a success.
We have wonderful kids and families in our league and they deserve that my attention be more undivided.
That doesn’t mean this is an easy decision. Working at the Eagle, a newspaper I grew up reading, has been an honor. I was a Sports page kid, familiar with writers like Max Seibel, John Swagerty and Bill Hodge while growing up in Derby. I read every bit of Shocker news that appeared in the paper and followed City League basketball.
I started in newspapers at the Derby Daily Reporter when I was a junior in high school, covering games in which I played. That was weird, but the experience was great training. I always had my eye on the Eagle, however. I must have called Rod Smith, who at the time was leading the Eagle’s high school sports coverage, 100 times during my two-plus years working in Derby to bug him for a job. Finally, in November 1974, he hired me to work on the sports phone crew.
It paid practically nothing, but I was in awe that first night. I wanted to impress and eventually show the right people that I could not only work on the phone crew, answering calls and typing in box scores, but had what it took to be more.
The Eagle assigned me to cover my first game — Cheney at Andale basketball — less than a month after I started on the phone crew. Seeing that first Eagle byline was one of the highlights of my life. By the summer of 1975, I was hired full-time to cover high school sports. My dream was coming true.
Working for the Eagle is all I ever wanted. I never pursued other jobs, never got myself on the city-to-city newspaper track that many do. I was content, although like any job this one had its ups and downs.
After more than 20 years of covering high school sports, Wichita State, minor-league baseball, general assignment sports, the police beat and an 18-month stint in Neighbors, which covered community news, I was named sports columnist in 1996. In my first column, I advocated that then-WSU basketball coach Scott Thompson be fired after four years of dismal returns. In another early column, I made light of the 1996 U.S. Olympic women’s gymnastics team.
That column was displayed on page 1A of the newspaper, for some reason, and reaction was swift. And it wasn’t polite. I was off and running in the most interesting and gratifying job I’ve ever had.
It has been my pleasure to write columns and to share opinions on a variety of sports topics. Sometimes readers agree, often they don’t. That give and take has been, once I became accustomed, a career highlight.
After some thin-skinned early moments, I learned that banter with readers is what being a columnist is all about. It’s been fun, believe it or not, even when being viciously attacked.
This job is about the readers. I’ve tried to serve you for more than four decades and do the best job I can. It’s been important to me to write as much as necessary. And I’ve tried to be engaging, funny and informative while always being appreciative that readers have plunked down money for our product, so we should do our best to give them a return.
I’m going to miss the readers. I could go on and on about all the cool things I’ve gotten to write about and see over the years. But it’s the readers who have fueled my passion.
My retirement is not imminent. I’m looking forward to the rest of the basketball season and covering the NCAA Tournament has always been a highlight. But the end is coming and I’m excited to do other things.
I’ll continue to do the weekday radio show I do with my son from 4-6 p.m. on KFH radio. That’s a blast. I’ll work as hard as I can for League 42. And sometime after the first of the year, I’ll release a book of some of my columns, designed to provide a 20-year historic perspective on sports in Wichita and Kansas.
It’s been my good fortune to write for readers all these years. I’ve met some incredible people and working for the Eagle has afforded me many wonderful opportunities. I’ll miss this place. But most of all, I’ll miss you.