Creativity to camaraderie, editor understood it all


I am crying at work and I probably should not be crying at work.

It’s not even Friday — or next Monday — yet. I will cry then, probably both days, because The Herald will become less of itself on those days. Less creative. Less dedicated. Less appreciative. Sports Editor Brendan Perkins has worked here since the summer of 2003 but he’s moving on, escaping journalism because these days, that’s what most journalists do. The hours, especially in sports, do not relent. The pay, no matter the publication, lags. The criticism, no matter the intent, looms.

So off he goes, leaving a hole in a sports department that has long been a champion. I grew up on Michael Rubino, probably the best pure writer The Herald has or ever will see. I got hired by Jim Priest, a master of organization and purveyor of fun on the job. I’ve heard stories about the days of Hak Haskins and Bill Huddleston, who wrote when there were no rules and, even as husbands and fathers with priorities superior to the weight of high school sports, understood the value of chronicling high school sports, especially in Herald country.

Perkins is all of them. The prototype.

Even after I ceased being his boss and handed sports department leadership to him in January 2010, I read everything he wrote, not because I genuinely cared about Southridge tennis or Heritage Hills volleyball, but because he wrote it. What did he think? What did he find? Whose story did he tell and how did he tell it?

Saturday mornings were my favorite. I went to sleep knowing at least a little about Friday night’s football and basketball games and woke up to read his take. I have lived all my life in Jasper and graduated from Jasper High School and am thus predisposed to rummage first for all stories about the Wildcats. But on Saturday mornings, I went first to Perkins’ stories about whatever team he covered. Forest Park beats Tecumseh by four touchdowns? Bring on Perkins’ story. Northeast Dubois nips Vincennes Rivet in overtime? Check out Perkins’ story.

I was always entertained. That’s among the author’s goals. I was sometimes jealous, wishing I’d written what he’d written. That’s the ultimate writing compliment.

Dubois County is home to plenty of people like me, the ones enthralled by high school sports even if they don’t make it to that many games, the ones who care most about their community’s school but pay attention to everybody else just because.

He got that. He understood that sports matter not because of victory and defeat but because of the stories of the people who bind those contests and everything the precedes and follows wins and losses. 

What stands out most to me are two things.

First, from the moment he arrived, he appreciated the opportunity made available to him at The Herald. He embraced the freedom to write whatever he wanted and however he wanted. He capitalized on the chance to do it all — writing, editing, page design, leadership, public relations. He invested in all sports and all teams and all towns. We worry often here that whomever we hire will not like the quiet life, the delayed pace, the mandate that we cover what to many might seem trivial. Dubois County and The Herald was never beneath Perkins. He liked us. He became one of us.

The best part, though, and the reason I’m crying (still and again), is his friendship.

We built the bond on late Friday nights after football blowouts and long car trips to state finals and arguing the finer points of the fifth paragraph of whatever one of us wrote. There were streams of text messages and inside jokes and the feeling that because we are both quiet and 5-foot-9 and sarcastic and meticulous and addicted to eating entire packages of cookies in one sitting, that maybe we’re actually related (there was one coach who actually could not tell us apart).

I’ll miss that. If you read anything in our sports section, you’ll miss him, too.

There’s always been the sense that everything was fine at long as Perkins was over there on the east side of the newsroom steps. There are capable replacements. But, boys, those standards are high.

I have never respected a co-worker more. I have never trusted a co-worker more. I have never had more fun working with anyone.

For 14 years, “By BRENDAN PERKINS” made The Herald better.

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