Monday, January 23, 2006

My last sports column

I've relinquished the reins of the Turret sports section to an old hand at the job who's hired on as a DA civilian. While I'm happy to be moving back into straight news, it isn't without a strong hint of nostalgia that I leave the sports section -- and my weekly column -- behind. That came through in the final column I did last week. Here it is.

Sports beat has been an education

Turret Sports Editor

Farewell columns are -- apparently -- difficult to write, and they have a tendency toward being blatantly self-serving.

That's probably why I've been sitting here staring at a blank screen for quite some time, trying to come up with something appropriate to say.

Here goes.

Before I arrived at the Turret in April 2004, sports writing had never been something I'd considered as a career option. But timing worked out in my favor, and I wound up with an entire section and a column of my own each week.

The problem was, as I saw it, that I'd never written sports before.

In my first column I mistakenly tipped my hand to the fact that I was a newcomer to the sports beat -- a misstep that would have consequences later. Sports fans, I learned, have long memories.

The prospect of taking on the section was intimidating, to say the least. But the assignment has proven to be one I'll value for the rest of my career.

It's not difficult to gain entrance to a football game or use a press pass to get a ringside seat at a Mike Tyson fight. But how exactly do you take that experience and translate it into a story that will bring readers to that same front-row seat?

The learning curve is on the steep side, and the hours could be considered long and less-than-predictable. However, figuring out how to adapt to these challenges has been an opportunity that I know will have benefits in the long run.

Sometimes in conversations during off-hours I'll be asked what I do for a living, and I've been proud to say that I'm the sports editor for the Turret, which I can legitimately claim is one of the -- if not THE -- best newspapers the Army has. I'll also usually say that I have one of the best jobs the Army offers. I don't think that's an exaggeration.

Columns are traditionally reserved for veterans in the business, and it's thanks to the Army's public affairs program -- and the continuing good faith of Turret editor Larry Barnes -- that I've had the chance to have one of my own.

I've learned a lot here, too.

The fact that my tenure as sports editor has been a crucible is well-taken; I'm as keenly aware of my mistakes and omissions as I am proud of the pieces and projects that have worked out well.

With that, I thank everyone I've had the pleasure of meeting, interviewing, photographing, and writing about over the course of my time as sports editor. It's been a great experience -- and a genuine education.

I'm handing the reins over to William "Ski" Wilczewski, who many of our readers will remember as a Turret sports editor himself in days of yore. Since leaving the Turret in 2002, he's worked for newspapers in Alaska and Arizona, and now he's returning as an extremely well-qualified DA civilian employee.

In addition to his skills as a sports writer, Wilczewski will also provide a more permanent fill for the position. As the last Soldier on the Turret staff, it's anybody's guess as to when I might wind up on orders.

So, once again, thanks to everyone who's helped me through this amazing past year and a half. I won't be leaving the paper, but I'll still miss the sports beat -- especially on those still-warm autumn Friday nights when I know there will be bright lights and cheering crowds above football games all across the state.


UPDATE: Open Post at the Mudville Gazette.