When I left my last paper after a little more than seven years covering sports there, I didn't write a going-away column - or, more to the point these days, blog. At the time, it seemed sanctimonious and presumptuous. Who cared that I was leaving, or why?
Turns out I may have been wrong, and for a not-unusual reason - I failed to realize it wasn't about me.
I should have written something, and the something should have been thank you.
Throughout my career, I have often been struck by the fact that I get to ask the most personal, probing questions - and people answer them. Usually with amazing grace, a pluck of humor, or a hard-won insight that my journalist brain immediately pegs as a possible end quote. Other times, the responses are clipped, or formulaic. But for almost 20 years, people have always answered.
Such as the mother whose handsome, intelligent, full-of-promise son - the kind of kid who would have one day changed the world - died three days after Christmas, but whose dream of a lacrosse team at a historically black college was realized because of that mother's indomitable will and fierce love. Such as the mother who, despite multiple surgeries to battle breast cancer, was not only in the stands for every football game her two sons played that season, but was also there for every sweltering summer practice.
Such as the 19-year-old college sophomore whose father died months earlier, leaving her orphaned but far from abandoned among a team and a community whose layers of support lifted her up and helped keep the pain at bay. Such as the group of young men, taller than your average college students but otherwise so much the same, who gathered in their coach's office to speak of loss and learning to move forward with more eloquence and been-there wisdom than men twice their age.
Such as the future Olympians - plural - who let me, and various photographers, be a part (often intrusive, I'm sure) of the early stages of their journeys. Such as a young woman with a spirit brighter than her auburn hair who told me a riveting story of personal growth that began with a girl barely able to walk and ended on a snow-covered mountaintop, then was genuinely surprised I thought people would want to hear it.
And that's naming just a few. That's why I love this job so much, the one I no longer technically have, and why it's so hard for me to accept the well-intentioned and sadly true comments I hear about it: There's no future in this business. Find something else. You can write about anything.
I hope that's true. It's just I've been so privileged to write about people who happened to play sports, and they - not me - have set a pretty high standard.