Thank you for everything, Miami County

Honestly, I wasn’t going to write a farewell column.

I always kind of saw them as self-serving, a little too much tooting of one’s own horn. But the more I thought about what I’d potentially say, the more I realized that it wasn’t necessarily about me — rather, it was more about how I’d miss all of you.

But yes, this is the final thing I will write for the Miami Valley Today. After a combined 14 years at the Troy Daily News and its new moniker — and 16 years total in sports journalism — I will be moving on to a completely new career field. As great as my time covering sports has been, it’s just time to focus on my own family and do what’s best for us.

Having the opportunity to write about sports as a career had been one of my life’s dream, and it’s difficult to put into words all of the conflicting feelings I have now as I leave it behind after so long living it and excelling at it. The job and the circumstances around it have changed a great deal over the years, and it’s gotten more and more difficult to do at the level that not only the community expects, but that I expect out of myself.

But in the end, my favorite part of actually doing the job was and will always be just being out at games and spending time with people in the community, and — other than having adventures double-covering events with former TDN sports editor David Fong — it’s the thing I will miss the most.

Early on in my time at the paper, it was more of a statement than anything else. I was a young punk kid — literally, since I showed up to events wearing baggy black pants covered in chains, nerdy T-shirts and a big black trenchcoat, which evidently brought with it a ton of preconceived notions of what people that looked like me were like. So naturally, I’d seek out the person that gave me the most disgusted side-eye look and strike up a conversation about the game we were watching in an effort to smash those misconceptions, to varying degrees of success.

After a short while, though, none of that felt like it mattered anymore. I quickly began to feel accepted by the community. Gone was the side-eye. People began to be glad to see me at games and came up to me to talk about my last article, the game we were about to watch, other sports, anything really. And over the years, even though I ditched the trenchcoat for a series of Superman hoodies, people were never afraid to come up and chat with me about whatever.

It’s funny and maybe a little ironic, given how much I learned from Fong and how much he hated small talk, that it became the part that I looked forward to the most on any given night.

So those will end up being my favorite memories from my time at the paper — not all of the state champions I’ve had the honor of covering, not the awards I’ve won. Instead, it’s hanging out in the press box with Roger at soccer games, distracting him with chatter about whatever nerdy TV shows we’re watching or books we’re reading. Or hanging out with the Kadel family at whatever game they happened to be taking in that night. It’s chatting with Miami East’s old volleyball coach about comics or the newest Marvel movies. Or giving Troy’s volleyball coaches recommendations on video games to get for their kids (“Untitled Goose Game,” guys, seriously). Or catching up with the baseball team’s announcer, Bruce, at random games in the county about who the strongest teams around are. Or being invited by Troy’s baseball team to throw out a ceremonial first pitch. Chatting with colleagues and competitors about games we’ve seen recently. And just too many more to even attempt to name.

Thank you, Miami County, for making me feel welcome all this time, and for giving me so many amazing stories to share.

I will miss you.