On August 22, 1993 my first column was published in The Thomaston Times. Yep, I’ve been writing this column for 20 years! You think it’s hard for you to believe? I can’t fathom that it’s been that long.
At that time I was doing a few things on the side for the paper, and Phyl Gatlin, who was The Times’ photographer at the time, suggested that I write a weekly column. I laughed at the idea. She didn’t give in however, and I eventually went to the paper’s editor at the time, Chris Smith, with the concept. Chris was a big sports fan whom I had gotten to know well and he thought that it was a wonderful idea. We went over a few simple guidelines, I composed my first column, and 20 years later here we are.
The guidelines were not really restrictive and I’ve always been given a great deal of liberty to write what I want to. I’ve never been “called on the carpet” for anything that I have written. Now, I don’t know if that comes from the editor’s failure to read my columns, a blind trust in my ideas, or the idea that what I say doesn’t matter much anyway.
My column has given me the unique opportunity to publicly express my ideas on a weekly basis. I fully understand that I am writing for a paper in a small town. The people who read my column can read about pro and college athletics in larger, big-city papers and they would generally prefer that I not concentrate on those areas. Most of my readers want to read about local athletics and athletes, especially about athletes, games, and events from the past. Folks like to read about history!
This weekly space has given me the chance to write about many special people and to express my thoughts about them and gratitude towards them. Many of these people have had a profound impact on my personal life and I appreciate the opportunity that I have been afforded to express my feelings.
My goal has always been to never be critical of local athletes, coaches, teams, or individuals. I feel that I have been able to meet that goal. I want to be supportive of our local folks and if I can’t do so, I will simply not write about them. Now sometimes I will criticize or offer suggestions to the colleges and pros. They should be able to take it even though I am sure that they never know what I say. It does make for good conversation though.
One column a week for 20 years multiplies out to about 1040 columns. When I look at it that way, it’s even more amazing. I really didn’t know that I had that much to say. I haven’t really! I must admit that on many evenings when I sit down at the computer to write, I have no earthly idea what I am going to write about. I start looking at on-line sites just trying to come up with an idea for a column. Something usually pops!
On other occasions, I will have about four or five column topics rambling around in my head just waiting for the right time to put them on paper. I try to be as observant as possible when going to local sports events or when talking to people about local athletics. I also admit that I really like some of my columns and feel that “I nail it” some weeks. On other weeks, I don’t even like my column myself. They just don’t “feel right”. I apologize for those poor efforts!
I’ve worked with a number of sports editors at The Times and they have all been very supportive and accommodating. I normally meet my deadline but when I haven’t, they have all been understanding. I don’t know that I can remember them all but thanks to Bridge Turner, Mike Yon, Andy Johnson, Ben Thrasher, and Wes McCard. They always accepted me and helped me in so many ways.
I’ve seen numerous changes at The Thomaston Times in my 20-year tenure. Many employees have come and gone and the location of the paper has even changed. To all whom I have worked with at the paper, I express my sincere thanks for your help and support. Thanks for accepting me as a part of the family!
My most genuine thanks go to my readers!!! I am truly amazed that people still tell me on a regular basis that they enjoy my column. Many even want to discuss a particular column or idea. This has been going on for 20 years. You would think that people would be tired of me by now! I don’t get that feeling at all. I sincerely thank every one who reads my column and I could never express my gratitude for your taking the time and trouble to tell me personally. It means so much to me!
Well, I’m not ready to quit yet! As long as the paper allows me I will continue to put together a weekly column, good or bad. I’ll keep researching local sports history, remembering sports anniversaries, writing about people, and just presenting my ideas.
I hope that you’ll continue to read my ramblings. I’d love to write a column like this on my 30th anniversary! THANKS!