Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas

Sports

June 14, 2013

It’s a long road back to the Lone Star state

Corsicana — Just got here.

Sorry I missed the year of the Polar Bear and Olivia Farmer’s remarkable career at Mildred. Sorry I wasn’t around for the Kerens’ fastbreak or Holden Grounds’ fastball. Sure would’ve liked to have seen Nic Shomonek thread a pass in traffic or Danial Steels break a tackle in the open field.

But I just got here.

I’ve been to this part of Texas before.

My first job in the newspaper business was at the Palestine Herald Press, where I spent three of the best years of my life.

Priceless. It was just priceless.

I found a career, fell in love, got married and wrote about everything from Cayuga to Crockett, from Frankston to Fairfield, from Jewett to Grapeland and back again. The Boys from Bethel and Sandiettes were a part of my daily vocabulary back then.

I couldn’t have had more fun.

The very first football game I covered for the Herald Press was in September of 1982, a game on the road between Palestine and Corsicana — in the old stadium.

Palestine got hammered that night, and it was a long ride back home on Highway 287.

It’s taken me even longer to make the ride back to this part of Texas and the Daily Sun.

Just got here.

I left Texas in 1984 for a job at The Miami Herald, where I spent 25 years covering everything. If you don’t think there’s a God, I can tell you you’re wrong. I know because He has a sense of humor.

My dream job was to cover a major league baseball team in the National League (I grew up in Chicago as a Cubs fan so I’ve always been partial to the NL). When I got to Miami they didn’t have a baseball team and and had no chance of getting one. But I spent more than a dozen years covering big league baseball and the Marlins, who just happened to land in the National League.

When I covered my first World Series in 1995, I called Jim Goodson, who was my first boss at Palestine, and said, “Thanks Jim, I wouldn’t be here without you.’’

I did just about everything in Miami, from high school sports to covering the Florida Gators and the SEC, and have been to countless bowl games, BCS title games and a handful of Super Bowls. I helped out with the NHL and have been at home and on the road with the Florida Panthers (is there any place colder than Montreal in the winter?). I still can’t believe I got to the World Series before the Cubs (and yes, I was one of the guys that night who wrote the Steve Bartman story in 2003).

I even spent one year helping cover the Heat when they won it all in 2006. I covered every round of the NCAA Tournament and the Final Four for a few years, and was lucky enough to cover several Kentucky Derbys. I spent one day helping cover the Daytona 500 just for the experience of being at the race, and a few years ago I covered the Masters.

I have covered every major sporting event I ever dreamed of covering.

I always used to tell my wife that one day I would leave Miami and find a nice town like Palestine and live the good life again. She never believed me. A few years ago I was having dinner with some other sports writers and they were talking about the Marlins opening up their new stadium in 2012, and I told them, “I’ll never cover a game there. I’ll be gone by then. I’m going to find a small paper and go back to my roots.’’

They didn’t believe me, either.

I found a great paper in Albany, Ga., and spent the last 3 1/2 years there. I cherished every moment. It was better than advertised and I loved writing about local kids and town ball and the state football and basketball playoffs. It was almost perfect.

I told my boss in Albany, Danny Aller, who is a great boss and better friend, that the only way I would leave would be for the perfect job in Texas.

Just got here.

There’s nothing better than Friday Night Lights, and the lights in Texas are bigger and brighter than anywhere on the planet, and is there a better town with a richer football heritage than Corsicana?

I’ve got enough family in Texas and western Arkansas to run for office, and always wanted to come back to Texas to work and to live. My family is celebrating having me on this side of the Mississippi, and thanks to my son, Robert, I’ve got a couple of recent additions over the last 2 1/2 years — grandsons Noah and Jonah Phillips. My son also married a girl from Texas. He’s in the Army but when he gets a long leave he comes to Dallas, and when he gets out he’ll live in Texas.

My ex-wife, who is from Ennis, lives in Carrollton.

Somewhere between the first Marlins World Series and the second Marlins World Series we got a divorce (my fault, not hers).

But I’m where I want to be. I’m one of those guys who would rather watch Corsicana play Ennis on a Friday night than watch the Cowboys on Sunday.

I can say it and mean it. I loved covering professional sports, but I left with no regrets, and I’ve always understood that some of the richest, most meaningful and compelling stories can be found in high school sports. It’s still all about you, the kids and coaches and people who believe in the kids and coaches.

It’s your story. I’m just the guy telling it.

I’m going to fall in love with your team. I always do (it’s the hopeless romantic in me — I told you I was a Cubs fan) and when you lose I will hurt and when you win I will laugh. At least I’m honest about it.

 It’s never about the game — there’s always so much more, and that’s why I’m here to tell those stories.

It will take time, but you will get to know me and I’ll get to know you, and that’s when the fun really starts, because we’re in this together.

 It’ll take some time, but we’ll get there.

Just got here...

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