It was late in 2009 and the East Valley Tribune had just announced another round of layoffs. I was among the casualties.
I was 49 years old and I had no idea what my next job would be. I had been a sports writer and columnist for 27 years. I didn’t know how to do anything else and newspapers, slammed by the recession, weren’t hiring. My wife and I sat down and talked about the possibility of trying to get a public relations job or moving out of state, something we didn’t want to do given our extended families lived in the Valley.
Then I got an unexpected phone call. Would I be interested in becoming the high school sports columnist for The Arizona Republic and azcentral.com?
Other than an occasional column from a state championship game, I hadn’t covered high school sports for more than two decades. Frankly, I still wanted to cover college and pro sports, to travel and report from playoff series or bowl games.
But I was hardly in a position to negotiate. So when the offer formally came, I accepted, thankful I could stay in the business, take care of my family and remain in Arizona.
Little did I know how the next seven years would unfold.
You might have heard by now that my assignment at azcentral sports is changing. Starting this summer I’ll be covering the Phoenix Suns. I’m excited and anxious and wondering how much cold-weather clothing I’ll need to buy for a long road trip in January.
Thanks to the high school community
But before I move on I wanted to say thank you to the high school community. We didn’t know each other very well when I started back in January of 2010 but I’d like to think we have a greater appreciation for each other now.
I know I’m grateful to the athletes, coaches, parents and administrators who opened their office doors and sometimes their homes to me. I think of the road trips I took to rural football programs in August, soaking in the scene and collecting stories from places like Bagdad, Nogales and River Valley. Amazingly, not once did I get a speeding ticket. Thankful for that, too.
I think of coaches like Mesa Mountain View’s Gary Ernst and Chandler Seton Catholic’s Karen Self, coaches who work hundreds and hundreds of hours for little pay, their devotion to their jobs and their kids unwavering. I don’t know how – or sometimes why – they continue to do it but I’m glad they do.
I think of the kids, the student-athletes who care so much about their teams and their schools. I’ve written a lot these last seven years about open enrollment and transfers and the advantages enjoyed by more affluent schools, but the most endearing memory I’ll have are the tears that flow upon a season’s end.
I thought I’d get over it, seeing kids cry, their hearts broken. I never did. I never will. But I know: Within that devastation there is a spirit of team that often doesn’t exist in college and pro sports. It’s something to be treasured.
I even think of the Arizona Interscholastic Association. There were times the AIA’s top officials and I didn’t see eye-to-eye or, frankly, get along very well. I didn’t always agree with their decisions or their methodology but it’s not easy to run an association of 260 or so schools. And, no matter what, they always took my phone calls and answered my questions. I’m thinking that might not happen with Gregg Popovich.
I still have some work to do. I’ll be at the state softball and baseball championships Monday and Tuesday and then finish up on the spring all-state teams. But because the sports season is coming to a close I thought it was an appropriate time to say thank you.
Thanks for reading
You took an outsider in and made him feel welcome. You fed me stories, sent me appreciative e-mails and told me where I’d find the best burger joints and Mexican food dives by your schools. (Which reminds me: I have to get back to Rocket Burger). Even when you hated what I wrote – which happened on more than a few occasions – I was thankful you were reading.
So again, thanks.
One last thing: The high school years go by quickly. Too quickly. Enjoy them. Savor them.
I know I did.
Reach Bordow at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at Twitter.com/sBordow. He can be reached at 602-448-8716.
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