Column: Indiana departure filled with gratitude

I still remember the moment as if it happened yesterday. And as I get set to leave The Herald at the end of the week, it seems particularly relevant now more than ever.

Patishnock

I was sitting in my apartment in Bloomington, a few weeks from earning my master’s degree from Indiana University. My lease was expiring in about two months and the only real prospect in front of me was the possibility of doing some writing and broadcasting at a radio station in Iowa; later, I’d also have a job interview in Maryland to cover ACC basketball, but this was not known at the time.

I had sent my résumé to more than 50 employers. I seriously considered moving to Hawaii and doing freelance work. I also thought of buying a one-way ticket to Utah and doing whatever it took to gain an entry-level position with the Sundance Film Festival, something I should have done after I received my undergraduate degree from Penn State and something I’m absolutely planning to do in the future.

Anyway, back to Bloomington. Despite not having any real reason to feel this way, I sensed everything would work out for me. It did.

I checked my phone and saw an email from Tim Franklin, a current editor at Bloomberg who at the time oversaw the National Sports Journalism Center in Indianapolis and who chose me to be part of the student bureau team that covered the NCAA Men’s Final Four in Indianapolis a few years ago. He told me a position had opened up at “a pretty reputable daily” newspaper and that I should apply for the job.

I sent in my résumé and some samples, was selected for an interview at The Herald and drove 70 miles southwest of Bloomington to a town I’d never heard of before: Jasper. Soon enough, the neighboring towns and communities became as familiar as Jasper quickly felt in the months after I moved here and began writing.

At first, it was strange. I almost hit a parked car the first time I drove down Jackson Street and saw youngsters hand-delivering newspapers. Do places like this still exist? I remember asking myself.

Other small-town distinctions followed. I got my hair cut at a one-chair barber shop and complete strangers approached me on the Riverwalk not to just say hello, but to start an actual conversation.

After a while, I fell into a routine, made a few friends and sometimes actually enjoyed working until 3 a.m. on a Friday night. I know that sounds weird, but one of my favorite parts of the job was driving back to the office on a Friday night after a football or basketball game and listening to the rundown of scores on the radio.

My three-year stay in the area also included other highlights. I wrote a screenplay of which I’m particularly proud, went kayaking for the first time and matured as a music listener: I became obsessed with the Rolling Stones, stopped changing the station whenever Led Zeppelin blared through the speakers and finally figured out what Springsteen has been singing about all these years.

I also met some amazing friends and stockpiled plenty of great memories. And I can’t wait to check the progress on all the local sports teams any way I can from back home. If John Harrell has access to demographic information and wonders why someone in central Pennsylvania is logging onto his high school sports website every Friday night in the fall and winter, I’m the answer.

I went home to Penn State last week on vacation and enjoyed one of the most productive weeks of my life. I met with a screenwriter/filmmaker and was able to secure freelance work on his production crews. I dropped in unannounced on Penn State’s College of Communications career adviser and enjoyed one of the most energizing conversations of my life. I left the meeting thinking I could come back to Happy Valley and make a real difference as a filmmaker and journalist. I also was fortunate enough to secure an opportunity to write for an up-and-coming weekly newspaper, covering Penn State sports, including football, men’s basketball and men’s ice hockey (the university just built a new ice hockey arena and I can’t wait to see as many games as possible there this winter).

I’ll also cover Penn State baseball as well as the St. Louis Cardinals A-affiliate, the Spikes, who play across the road from Beaver Stadium in the 10th-best college stadium in the country, according to a recent article from College Baseball Daily.

There’s plenty of other freelance and videography work I found last week and it was all too much to pass up. As I met with the local filmmaker/screenwriter last week in State College, he began asking me about my time in southern Indiana. I shared some high points and also some regrets, spun from the notion that there may have been missed opportunities for me elsewhere.

He quickly dismissed the notion, saying that even though it may not seem like it at the time, there’s an interconnectedness to all of our lives. Everything is woven together.

I’m supremely upbeat about my future, so that means the last three years covering prep sports in southern Indiana was time well spent. The newsroom made me a better writer, but so did all of the players, coaches and fans that I met and interviewed. You forced me to become better. You lifted expectations with your words and actions, and for that I’m grateful.

Thanks. The last three years have been a fun ride.

Herald sports writer John Patishnock, whose move home will make his dad immensely happy because now they can go to Pittsburgh Pirates games together, can be reached at 482-2626 ext. 118 or at jpatishnock@dcherald.com.




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