It’s been 14 years: Thanks for the memoriesSeptember 20, 2017
Safe to say, I’d consider myself a fairly private person. I’ve sent a lifetime total of 25 tweets. In the last year, I’ve made five Facebook status updates. And only one of those really counts, because four of them were authored last October in a Cubs-induced state of World Series hysteria that’s most definitely still festering (I may or may not have watched the Bryant-to-Rizzo final out of the World Series three days ago on DVR).
Likewise, I’m not exactly The Most Interesting Man in the World that you see on the beer commercial. The quirkiest things about me are that I once ran a half-marathon without having run for six weeks leading up to it (not advisable), I once subsisted for four straight days solely on Oatmeal Creme Pies to win a bet (also not advisable), and a photo of my dad appeared in Playboy in the late ’80s (long story, I can fill you in). For the most part, low-key is my thing.
There’s an irony in all of this, because ever since I came to The Herald right out of college in 2003, I’ve made a living of trying to find and unearth people’s stories and sharing a little piece of their lives with the public. And I’ve come to a realization: You all make way better story subjects than I would, and your openness to share wows me even more. I’ve written 2,776 stories in my time at The Herald, and a few final tallies will be added before my last day Friday. I’m jumping to a new line of work in the marketing department at the French Lick Resort. But, man, I’ll have so many stories to take with me thanks to the stories that this community has generously shared with me.
Us reporters and our mini tape recorders and nagging questions tend to strike when you least want to talk, like Northeast Dubois’ five-set loss in the volleyball state finals, or Heritage Hills’ one-touchdown defeat in the football semistate, or Jasper’s runner-up finishes at the baseball state finals. But then Jeep volleyball player Jill Reckelhoff puts aside the tears the best she can and soldiers through an interview. Patriot quarterback Logan Wilkerson answers questions with the type of poise and thoughtfulness as if he’s reading them off a note card. And Jasper slugger Evan Aders provides a measured analysis with the maturity of someone twice his age. Even in those most downcast of moments that sports inevitably bring, athletes and coaches shared and shared bountifully.
People shared things deeply personal, like Jasper cross country runners Grace Mehringer and Noelle Weyer and their respective fights with ovarian cancer and the rare Nutcracker Syndrome. Heritage Hills football Gabe Hitz shared about the death of his father. Southridge hoops player Ben Weber opened up about the passing of both his parents. And people shared even when they had to be thinking, why is this weirdo asking me so many questions about this? Like Forest Park tennis player Collin Hochgesang, who played along with my funky line of questioning when I dug into the story behind the team’s “Frustration Racket,” the old frame the Rangers whack against a tree to expunge all that’s angering them.
But those quirky stories are everywhere, and that’s what makes writing sports so tantalizing, especially in a place like this that takes them so seriously. And story gold often just falls conveniently in your lap when you work with some of the coaches we do.
Forest Park tennis coach Dean Blessinger will take a few minutes out of the match just to shoot the breeze. Chats with Northeast Dubois girls basketball coach Andy Chinn make it seem like you’ve been lifetime bros, even though he’s only been coaching a few seasons. Jasper tennis coach Scott Yarbrough and Southridge football coach Scott Buening will tell you everything you need to know — and more — by asking like one question. Just turn on the recorder and let them work their magic. Journalism made simple. Buening and football coaching counterparts Ross Fuhs at Forest Park and Todd Wilkerson at Heritage Hills reply to all emails within an average of seven minutes. It’s like they’ve replied before you even click “send.”
As fun as it’s been, I’ve got to admit, the prospect of having Friday nights and weekends freed up makes me want to do a little dance (and I never dance until minimum six beers deep). Sports writing is a young man’s gig. When the game ends, your work is only beginning. I’ve been eyed by the cops a time or two leaving the office past 2:30 a.m. while walking to my house a block away from the office after a night spent writing, editing, designing pages, writing some more and editing some more. My circadian rhythm will thank me, after navigating the late nights and early mornings of the sports grind for 14 years — which is kind of like dog years when it comes to average length of stay in the sports realm, which demands gobs of time and energy.
There are other things I surely won’t miss. (Lookin’ at you, Huntingburg train, 8 p.m. football kickoffs and overtime JV basketball games.) But I’ll miss the newsroom relationships with people like Colin Likas and Hendrix Magley, the new torchbearers for the sports section, as well as Jason Recker, my former sports editor who remains the MVP of The Herald for his ability to do so many things so well. The Rumbach family deserves an emphatic shout-out, too, for remaining a family-owned newspaper that gives its staff freedom and flexibility — especially in an era where so many newspapers are being gobbled up by chains and jettisoning employees.
At least for now, I’ll still be living in Jasper so I might pinch-hit for occasions like what our sports staff has termed “Doomsday” — the first Saturday of October where boys and girls cross country sectionals, boys and girls soccer sectional finals and tennis semistate fall on the same day (significant coffee/Midwest Cafe muffin intake required for survival).
Either way, it’s been a blast to have one of the best seats in the house. Moments like Ruxer Field going collectively bonkers after Jasper threw out Northview’s tying run at the plate to win the semistate. Northeast Dubois fans pouring onto the floor, almost with choreographed speed and precision, after a steal-and-layup sequence to beat Bloomfield at the buzzer in the girls hoops semistate. Forest Park fans rowdily rocking Huntingburg Memorial Gym with such volume in the basketball regional that it creates a slight tremor and a little chill up your spine.
Thanks for sharing it all.
Herald Sports Editor Brendan Perkins, still nursing a wicked stomach ache from those Oatmeal Creme Pies, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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