2017-08-16 / Sports

Bleacher Bum: Bittersweet farewell


By now, many of you have seen the sports editor ad being published on the bottom of page B1. Yes, it's true. I am leaving the Eagle Times. Friday will be my final day.

My decision to step down was primarily family-motivated. Since coming to New England in late June 2015, my parents (both in their 80s) have had to deal with major medical issues. I've made several trips, a 5-hour drive back to the New York Southern Tier area, but recently was made aware of a job opening about 1 ½ hours from my hometown.

This new sports editor position on the northern tip of Seneca Lake offers a beautiful upstate N.Y. backdrop. How could I possibly pick anything else after spending two years basking in the treasures that New Hampshire and Vermont offer?

However, it wasn't just the family situation that helped make a tough decision a little easier. My new job will offer greater challenges with a larger number of schools and communities to cover. Of course, it also offers pluses in the areas of salary, benefits and time off — factors which certainly caught my attention.

When the ownership of the Eagle Times chose to eliminate the sports reporter position last August, I grumbled my disapproval then set my sights on building a stringer pool. Thankfully, Zabrina Campney, Pete Fry, Patrick Gordon, Paul Howe, Doug MacPhee and Christopher Shaban came to the rescue.

At the beginning of the 2016-17 school year, only photographers Paul and Doug were in what was pretty much a non-existent stringer pool. Paul provided photos from Newport and Sunapee, while Doug sent in shots from Bellows Falls, as well as an occasional photo from Fall Mountain and Green Mountain.

Still, it would have been a major struggle had we not been able to add the other four stringers.

Christopher's focus was primarily on the New Hampshire side as a photojournalist, but he did step over to Vermont to help out occasionally. Zabrina and Patrick provided most of their coverage at Windsor with Pete helping out at BF.

We were also able to add a paginator after the Laconia paper shut down and I also received help from Eagle staffers Amy Cotton, Tori Denis (now at the Message for the Week), Hillary Walsh, Jason Guyer, and Cameron Paquette.

Of course, keeping the sports section going wouldn't have been possible without the assistance of the coaches and athletic directors at the eight schools in our coverage area. To those coaches who were responsive to our needs, thank you.

Despite my many years in sports journalism, I was fortunate to witness something I've never seen before — Unified sports.I spent the majority of my 31-year journalism career covering sports, but had never witnessed Unified sports until I came to New England. I have to tell you, seeing the emphasis removed from winning and being placed on sportsmanship and having fun was enjoyable and very nice to see. And I didn't have to listen to that parent who sits in the bleachers or stands on the sideline and insists on acting like jerk.

Still, the success of the individual athletes and the teams was what made my brief stint in New England so enjoyable. The kids were just incredible at all eight high schools I covered — a bunch of respectful, talented, dedicated and hard-working teens.

The efforts of the athletes, the emphasis on teamwork and the coaching was what made this a great run for me. There were numerous individual state championships claimed in golf, bowling, alpine skiing, ski jumping, wrestling, and boys and girls track & field (indoor and outdoor) — and two dozen more state titles in team sports.

This past school year alone brought at least one team state championship to each of our eight schools. Bellows Falls garnered four state titles and Sunapee chalked up three. Fall Mountain, Green Mountain, Newport, Springfield, Stevens and Windsor each boasted one championship squad.

All I can say to you younger athletes is continue to rock the NHIAA and the VPA the way your predecessors have.

Even though I leave here with a bit of a heavy heart, I leave here truly inspired. Farewell my friends.

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