NOTE: I posted this blog entry first on social media after I suddenly lost my job as sports editor of the Evansville Courier & Press in Indiana without warning in the latest job purge by Gannett. Unfortunately, it was the second time in 10 years that I found myself leaving a job as sports editor at a Gannett paper under protest. That wasn’t the plan, of course. When I joined the Evansville staff, it was a Scripps newspaper.
So, after 41 years, this is how my career in journalism ends.
I filed for Social Security today so I can be guaranteed some pittance of income going forward. If that doesn’t support my jet-setting lifestyle, I’ll worry about supplementing it with a part-time job later.
Heck, I’ll even consider suspending that “government entitlement” if the right full-time position falls in my lap. Maybe chairing President Trump’s alternative facts/history committee would keep my creative juices flowing?
But for now, I think I’m fine with the idea of being retired.
I’m going to use the time to focus on getting in the best shape possible. I’m not getting any younger, after all. I also haven’t been getting to the gym as often as I should. And, yes, I did have aortic valve replacement surgery in October 2014.
Since former Western Kentucky football coach Jack Harbaugh underwent bypass surgery last year, I’m told he has been claiming to have the heart of a 7-year-old. Throw in retirement, and I’m ready to dabble in a second childhood myself. A lot more reading for pleasure. More field trips to interesting places. Teaching the dogs new tricks. And more frequent play dates with my favorite kids – Theresa, Jeremy and Justin.
In short, it’s time for Marie – my bride of 37 years – and I to focus on what’s most important in life.
I imagine I’ll still find time to write, whether it’s an occasional freelance assignment or tackling the book that’s supposed to be lurking in all of us.
My love of writing dates back to high school when I earned an A for a paper on T.S. Eliot. Somehow that eventually led me down this path (that’s now become cursed for so many of us, largely because of Gannett, the evil empire of journalism).
But I prefer to focus on the good memories; most recently that would be topped by swimmer Lilly King’s golden experience in Rio.
But turning back the clock, I spent seven years chasing stories in the old North American Soccer League with Pele, George Best, Johan Cruyff and a cast of characters known as the Tampa Bay Rowdies when I was in St. Petersburg. Since I played soccer, the highlight of those days was spending a day and a half with Best when he played for the Fort Lauderdale Strikers.
From there, I went on to cover college teams in the ACC, Big Ten and SEC. I was in Jacksonville for Vince Dooley’s last game at Georgia and in New Orleans for Bobby Bowden’s last national championship at Florida State. And yes, I covered too many final games of too many basketball and football coaches at Clemson and South Carolina.
My resume also includes multiple Super Bowls, The Masters, an Olympics, a World Cup, a Soccer Bowl, dozens of NCAA basketball tournament games, two women’s Final Fours, some 19 college football bowl games and numerous NCAA soccer championship games.
And before I forget, I once sat in a golf cart with Jan Stephenson. There’s way more memories than that, and I even had a second “date” with Jan a few years ago.
But if I had a true strength, it was recognizing talent on this side of the keyboard. That’s a knack that came in handy as a sports editor at three newspapers in three states over a 25-year span.
I was smart enough to hire most of those folks and even smarter to stay out of their way. Many of them have gone on to have careers far greater than mine and they have their own writing and design awards to prove it. So while I won’t take credit for all the success stories, I must have done something right along the way.
Heck, I even have my own sports editor tree. I also was honored to serve in various roles with the Associated Press Sports Editors, including terms as APSE third vice president and Atlantic Region chairman. Unfortunately, I haven’t been at a paper that’s supportive of attending conventions the past decade or so.
But that’s OK. If this is the last chapter of my journalism career, I think I’m OK with that.
I’m definitely not done with sports, though, so you may see me at a game near you soon.