Last night I worked my last Friday night at the newspaper -- and maybe at any newspaper. A little more than two years after moving here to be the sports editor at a wonderful twice-weekly paper in the Willamette Valley in Oregon, I accepted an editor position with CBSSports.com. One of many benefits of the position is I can work at home, which means I don't have to leave the beautiful Pacific Northwest.
For most of the past 29 years, I worked in newspapers. You think it's hard to get the ink off your fingers? Try getting it out of your blood.
My journalism career is now entirely in the digital world. It's an odd feeling, with mixed emotions. The opportunities ahead of me are exciting, but there's a sadness about leaving newspapers. When I walked out the door late last night after putting the paper to bed, it was hard to believe it might be the last time. After handing the new sports editor my key and my final time sheet, I told the story about how I started in the business in August 1983 at the American Press. It was not the most direct route to newspapers, and I won't bore you with all of the details.
What I didn't say was that a decade earlier, I'd unwittingly created the karmic echo that would bounce back to me and reward me with the bittersweet blessing and the crazy curse that is nearly 30 years of newspaper work. After one of many basketball games featuring Reigel's Roadrunners, the McNeese State Cowboys of the Lake Charles Civic Center days, I wandered down near the court for a closer look. A few feet from press row, something caught my eye. It was a small book about the basketball team, with pictures, statistics, stories and much more. For a boy who loved to read and loved sports, it was a revelation. "What is this? Where do you get one of these?"
It was a McNeese State basketball media guide. Louis Bonnette, the sports information director at McNeese who retired in July, called them brochures, but as I got into sports journalism, the prevailing term was media guide. Holding one in my hands near the Civic Center court, I was fascinated. And I quickly walked away, taking it home with me.
Yes, I stole it. My apologies to the reporter who needed it on deadline that night and couldn't find it (although I'm confident Louis gladly gave him another brochure).
Funny how this karmic thing works. The media guide stole something from me -- a big piece of my heart and mind. The seed was planted for many years of sports writing, even if the launch party was a decade away. Many days and long nights later, there were times when I couldn't tell you if the career was a reward for being opportunistic and resourceful or a punishment for my thievery. Maybe it was a mostly sweet mixture of both.
Somewhere along the way, I misplaced that media guide. Who knows? Maybe someone copped it from me when I wasn't looking. That would only be appropriate.
The ink is still in the blood, if not on the fingers. Well, hold on there: I still see some residue, and I'm in no hurry to completely wash it away, even if it's a dead giveaway of my fittingly rewarded guilt.