The Inside Pitch ...
"You can't go home again, you can't recover the past," wrote Thomas Wolfe.
He was wrong.
For those of you who may have missed that ridiculous ad that my coworkers (with a little help from my mom) ran to embarrass me on Friday, I am leaving the Havre Daily News for a job covering Idaho State University football for the Idaho State Journal in Pocatello, Idaho.
Almost three years after returning to Havre, I am leaving again. But in that span, I've learned something very important - you can go home again.
I'll admit I hesitated at first to return. If you grew up here, you know that some people hold a certain stigm about people returning to Havre after being gone, especially after college. I don't understand it. What makes it wrong to come back to Havre, or want to spend your life here? There are certainly worse places.
I knew that coming back here may have raised some eyebrows among skeptical people, but it's never been a decision I've regretted. My return has been interesting and educational to say the least.
Supposedly what they teach you in college prepares you for all you will come across in your professional life. What they don't teach you is that the professional life is only half your life, or in my case three-quarters of it.
They don't teach you how to live from paycheck to paycheck. They don't teach you how to be the boss of your best friend since kindergarten. They don't teach you how to find something to do on the weekend when all of your friends are married.
There have been moments where I questioned my sanity at the time of my decision. Moments like staying up for 28 hours straight, trying to get the fall sports preview done, while some of my coworkers secretly plotted my death. Moments like driving from Havre to Butte to Billings to Havre in two days to cover track and tennis, and having complaints about it not being enough. Moments like living in my parents' basement for more than eight months and then writing about it in this column.
Even in those moments, I still believed I was doing the right thing.
Obviously, what I was doing wasn't always something that people agreed with. Coming into the situation, I understood there would be complaints. In the newspaper business, there are always complaints. No one is completely satisfied. It's part of what makes newspapers strive to be better. It's part of what made our sports page better.
I'll admit that I wasn't the most popular person with certain readers or certain groups of readers. During my time here, I made choices and decisions people not only disagreed with, but despised. The choices you make are your own, and I stand by mine. If I had to, I'd make them again.
Sure, there are plenty of things I wish we could have done a little differently. In a perfect world, we would have had one more writer on staff to generate more coverage where readers thought it was lacking. But in a perfect world, I, not Ben Affleck, would be married to Jennifer Garner. We had certain limits and we either tried to stretch them a little further or do our best within them.
I won't say what we did was perfect or the best, but I do think that we brought some positive changes to the sports page, while having a little fun. Remember, we are covering activities invented to be played by children, so it all needs to be taken with a little perspective.
I tried to have fun with my job when I could. If you take yourself too seriously, no one else will. I don't think anybody will ever accuse me of being too serious.
For as much as I've learned professionally in this time, I have also learned just as much personally. I've learned a lot about the people you keep in your life and the ones you let go. The people who will always be your friends and the people who are destined to be acquaintances. The people you can count on to help you, and the people who always seem to need your help.
Even more, I learned about the person I want, and expect, myself to be. God forbid, I may be growing up a little bit, but at some point, you do a little self-examination about the priorities in your life. And moving up professionally and moving on personally were two of them.
Three years ago, if you would have told me I'd be here this long, I would have asked if you'd been drug tested lately. Really, it seems like it has gone by so fast.
Maybe it's because I've been spoiled in the last three years. And it's time to thank people for it.
Thank you to my family. I couldn't list all of the things that my parents have done for me in 60 columns. Call me a mama's boy if you want, but I know people who don't get that type of support from their family, and they would gladly take it.
Thank you to my bosses, Harvey Brock and Karen Datko, who have been unconditionally supportive, despite my temper tantrums, my massive ego, my desire for total control of the sports section and my constant nagging to do things like play fast pitch, go to Griz games and have things completely my way. They have the patience of saints.
Thank you to my coworkers. I'll admit I'm not always the easiest person to work with. I wear gigantic headphones to block out all outside noise, rendering me mute in the office, except for smart aleck comments and volcanic eruptions of rage when my computer won't cooperate. Still, my coworkers have worked hard to care about sports in the office even when they don't outside of it.
Thank you to the readers. Taking the time to write me with either positive or negative comments is important. They are taken with equal consideration. Either way, it means you are reading what we are writing, and that's always a good thing.
Thank you to the coaches that I have worked with. You have made my job infinitely easier by being more than gracious to do interviews and talk with me even when I'm interrupting your family dinner, practice with your athletes or your few precious moments of sleep. While you are supposed to maintain a relationship as colleagues, many of the coaches I have worked with I now consider true friends.
Thank you to the all the athletes we've covered. Perhaps the best part has been seeing you grow over the past three years. Whether they were kids I knew at age 7, or young adults from other places that I just met, the athletes we cover are good competitors, but even better people. Between the coaches and athletes, it's easy to write about quality people.
These last three years have made as much of an impact on my life as the 20 some years I spent here before. I will take all of those years with me.
I haven't even left, and I am starting to miss this place. No matter how far I travel from here, or how long I am gone, Havre will always be my home. That will never change. You can can't go home again? It's wrong. You never really leave home at all.