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I’ve had as much fun as athletes

Recently discharged from the Army following a tour in Vietnam and just back from a trip with my brother to the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City, I typed my first column at the Spokane Valley Herald.

Today, I submit my last with The Spokesman-Review after 41 years and two months of walking the sidelines and sitting under baskets at high school sporting events, clipboard in hand, and for many of those years with a camera around my neck.

This has not just been an occupation, but also my avocation, recreation and, literally, vacation. I met my wife, most of my friends, and pursued hobbies, all within circumstances related to this job.

The career seemed ordained. Out of the blue a call came to become sports editor of the Daily Evergreen at Washington State University even though I had not yet declared intent to major in communications and had taken but one journalism class.

Nepotism, I admit, factored in working for my father at the Herald. I’m sure it was a disappointment to him that I didn’t have his business savvy and drive. But he allowed me to find my niche.

Ah, the memories of years spent photographing games, often sitting under a basket atop the covered ice at the old Coliseum with my wife, Tambra, by my side. We were in the Kingdome covering a state football final as our week-old son Jared slept through the din (but not later in the motel). We’ll never forget at state basketball three years later his mournful wail – “M-O-M-MMmmm” – tailing off as an elevator we had exited at the Westin Hotel, to our dismay, shot upward twenty-some floors with him still aboard. State basketball and American Legion baseball became our vacations.

Tam encouraged – nay insisted – that I apply here when our business ended in 1992. The S-R has been home for 17 years. Hopefully, I continued to grow.

It’s rare that a sportswriter spends an entire career covering high schools. The times I’ve been fortunate enough to write about NCAA basketball, World Cup wrestling, college football and Spokane Indians baseball it’s easy to understand why.

High school sports are the grassiest of roots. Unlike the big time, you do your own play-by-plays, tally up your own stats, pack your lunch and chase down your own interviews.

Wrestling coach Charlie Miller pleaded for coverage of his sport, which I’d covered in college. He convinced me that every sport is valid in the eyes of its supporters. A contemporary once said he believed I was the first sportswriter in Spokane to cover girls sports. My philosophy was and still is to be at as many sports and games as possible, because that is where the stories are.

Young athletes deserve the recognition they get because it is they who are out in public for their schools risking scrutiny – even in these times when armchair experts safely criticize in their anonymity.

The first high school athletes I covered are now approaching age 60. They’ve aged, but I haven’t because for five decades covering 16- to 18-year-olds has made this job a Never Land.

Indelible are the memorable games, special and tragic athletes I’ve known, coaches I’ve studied and learned from, friends I’ve met and state tournaments covered.

But life has always taken me where it will and it’s murmuring that the time has come in this changing industry to step aside for Greg Lee and the crew.

Hopefully, not entirely. It’s been too much fun.