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George Ferguson Column: 2018 was a much more personal sports journey

From the Fringe...


December 28, 2018

Sports, like life in general, are filled with emotions. Sports make you smile, they make you scream, they make your heart beat fast. Sports make you laugh and they make you cry.

If you loves sports, they can illicit the gamut of emotions inside you.

And yet, just because sports feed emotions, it doesn’t mean they’re always personal. In fact, often times, for many sports fans they can be very impersonal, and actually, that’s the way many people prefer it. They can like their favorite team, but when the game or season is over, they can go on about their lives.

I’m not one of those people when it comes to sports. For me, sports is very personal. After all, sports are a part of my every day life. They’re my job, they’re my means of living. Of course they’re going to be personal.

So, when I started to reflect on the last 12 months, I started to realize that, my best moments, the one’s I will cherish forever, were about as personal and emotional as it gets. The year 2018 was about the most personal sports year I’ve ever had, and maybe, just maybe, that’s because I keep getting older.

Yes, I’m starting to see that, working at the Havre Daily for as long as I have, coaching tennis for as long as I have, just being involved for as long as I have, it’s actually making things more and more personal as the years go by. In other words, for me, the highs and lows of sports aren’t really about the wins and losses, it’s not really about trophies and medals or All-Conference and All-American awards.

Now, being the competitor I am, don’t get me wrong, those things are all great, and I still cherish them all when I get to see, cover or coach them.

But I’m really starting to see that, it’s the personal side of sports, it’s the relationships and the connections that I’ve built and forged over the years of doing this — that’s the good stuff, that’s what makes it special. That’s what really gets my emotions going.

And 2018 seemed to be overly emotional and very personal for me.

For instance, when most people look back on 2018, rightfully, they’re going to remember the undefeated run to the Class A state championship by the Havre High girls basketball team. And so will I. It was an incredible accomplishment. When I look back on it, however, I think, wow, I’ve known Havre head coach Dustin Kraske since I was in the second grade. We’ve been friends and colleagues for a very long time now, so when I see him achieve something like that, it’s very personal to me. To me, there’s a lot more to it than just a piece of wood shaped in the state of Montana. It really is personal.

And at every turn this last year, it seemed that way for me.

In May, I got to help Trey Murphy and Kennedy McKay win the Class A state championship in doubles. Coaching kids to state championships is a very rewarding feeling, but it’s always deeply personal, too, and this one was.

Like Kraske, I’ve known Kennedy’s mom Karley since I was in the second grade. We played high school tennis together, we spent hours and hours on bus trips together, and now, here I was, hugging her son after he achieved one of his biggest dreams.

His partner Trey, I have known his parents since I was in high school. I have worked closely with Trey’s dad Dennis for my entire coaching career, and I covered him when he was leading the Havre High girls to greatness during his time on the sidelines. I was there, alone with him in his office when he retired from coaching. Suffice to say, Dennis and I go way back. Now, here I was hugging his son after he achieved one of his biggest dreams. Talk about emotional.

And on the subject of Havre High tennis, anyone who knows me knows I’m pretty emotional about it anyway. And this past spring was especially emotional. The emotions I felt seeing so many people volunteer to help us shovel the tennis courts after that horrific winter, it’s something I’m never going to forget. And, getting to coach with one of the people I’m closest to in this world, Jeff Miller, yeah, that’s emotional, too.

Again, 2018 was just that way for me.

In the summer, I interviewed Jeff Ament. He’s a hero of mine. It was an amazing experience for me both professionally and personally. But, that day, the grand opening of the Rocky Boy Skate Park, turned into much more than I anticipated. It wasn’t just my chance to interview Jeff that was personal and emotional for me, it was the entire day spent out there. It was seeing all of those young kids so happy, so excited, so filled with joy. It was an overwhelming day, and one that certainly stood out in a year filled with personal moments.

Of course, later that summer, my wife and I also took in three Pearl Jam concerts. All I’ll say about that is, if you love Pearl Jam, then you already know why I’m including them in a column about personal emotion.

Yes, it seems like I couldn’t get away from personal emotions intertwined with my sports life.

I’ll say this, attending the wedding of Gary Wagner and Morgan McCann, that was another one that really hit me. I know, weddings are always emotional, but when you stand there watching two amazing people you love, care about and watched grow up before your very eyes, and had the pleasure of coaching them in the sport you love the most, it gets you. And that wedding got me, that’s for sure. It was a very emotional night for me indeed.

And as a I continue to reflect on 2018, I could keep finding those types of personal moments throughout the year. That’s because I have so many personal relationships with so many different people in our sports community. Again, that’s what happens when you do this for as long as I have. And even if I didn’t mention them all here, it doesn’t mean they were any less special. Because I truly do cherish all of those relationships, with all of my coaching friends, all of the people I’ve grown up with, and with every team from all over our coverage area.

But I would also be remise if I didn’t mention, in this goodbye to 2018 column, the relationships that are the most important — family.

I’m sure most of you wouldn’t be shocked to know this, but I’ll say it anyway, in my family, sports are a big part of our lives. Stunned right?

In my family, we share sports experiences. Whether it’s my dad Dick loving the Griz as much as I do, or my mother-in-law, Susie, and her husband, Bob, being on the other side of the rivalry, or of course, my own mom’s love of tennis, sports certainly help keep us bonded. We talk about them, we meet at Havre High and MSU-Northern games, they ready my articles (hopefully) and we share them as something we all love. It’s the way it’s always been.

Then there’s Amy. What we share goes beyond personal. She loves sports, too, mostly on her own terms, but for us, for me, it’s deeper. Because of the sports world I live in, she’s my support system. She’s my backbone. She’s the one who keeps me going, and she is the one who also helps me see just how personal and emotional all of this is.

And in 2018, whether, it was the highs and emotions of another incredible tennis season, or the triumphs of our hikes in Glacier National Park together, or the maddening low of the last play in the Cat-Griz game, she was the one person who was there next to me for every single emotional, personal moment that happened in 2018. She’s the one who’s been there next to me for every single personal moment I’ve had in the last 19 years. She’s the one who truly makes this sports journey I’m on remarkable and special.

So you see, the longer I do this, the more I realize, appreciate and cherish the deeper part of sports. The part of sports that can’t be measured in a box score, or a record book, on a trophy or on Youtube, that’s the good stuff.

It’s the part of sports that makes you feel, makes you smile, makes you cry, the part you can share with other people, the relationships, the part of sports that bonds you to teammates, coaches, friends and family, that’s the part I love the most anymore.

In 2018, that part of my sports life was front and center. In every season, at every level, and in so many different ways, this was the most personal and emotional sports year I’ve had. It was incredible, and I’m sure, 2019 will hold many more personal and emotional moments.

And with that, I want to thank every single one of you who was a part of this incredible last 12 months. It was a year I’m going to cherish for the rest of my life. And, Happy New Year to all of you.


Reader Comments

Linda Hoover writes:

Very good article George. Keep on keepin on!!!!


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