Occasionally in this space, I’ll reminisce. Because that’s what you do when you get to be my age – you reminisce. And you hope your memories are something close to reality.
My wife, by the way, hates it when I say or write that I’m old. She claims to want me around for a lot longer, although I’m still not 100 percent sure she’s telling the truth. I know I’m not old, really. Just older than you, most likely.
Anyway, back when I was a cub reporter working my way up to . . . well, to this . . . I did a lot of different things. I covered high school sports. I covered minor league baseball. I covered a little bit of this and a little bit of that. But in 1985, I believe it was, I made a decision to do something outside of sports. I wanted to show the people at The Eagle that I was capable of being a news reporter. So I was assigned to a section that in those days we called “Neighbors.” I had the bake sale beat.
Not really, but “Neighbors” in those days wasn’t known for its hard-hitting reporting. Although that wasn’t really fair, because we did some good work. One of my proudest accomplishments at the newspaper was a dropouts series I did that ran in the A section and also in Neighbors. It was extensive and exhausting. But that one project, more than anything I’ve done here, helped me feel like I could hold my own as a journalist. Then it was back to bake sales.
I left “Neighbors” in the summer of 1986 to take over the cops beat. Now that’s serious stuff, as you know. Covering law enforcement was a huge challenge for me because it is one of the most important beats at any newspaper and because I had never done anything like that before. I lasted eight months. I hated every second of it. I found out I wasn’t made for covering death and mayhem. I’m as sweet and fluffy on the inside as I am on the outside. Give me a bake sale any day.
Just one problem: I had been out of sports for more than two years by then. Our sports department, hard as it is for me to fathom, had gone on without me. And there was no guarantee that I could find a spot in sports after my time on the police beat.
I set up a meeting with our editor at the time, Buzz Merritt. Buzz is one of most intimidating people we’ve ever had at The Eagle. Good guy and great journalist, but really intense. And at that time – I was 32 or so – he scared me.
But I was desperate to get back to sports. And at about that time, the sports department was preparing to kick off a new high school sports publication called “Score” that we distributed everywhere except the Wichita-metro area. That was my ticket back in. Thank goodness for “Score,” although working on that weekly publication was the toughest work I’ve ever done. But it also provided some of the most fun I’ve ever had and some of the most satisfying teamwork I’ve ever been associated with.
Best of all, though, it provided me a plank back to the sports department, where I have been ever since. No more bake sales, no more mayhem. I’m where I belong.