Back in the 1980s, when newspapers were the thing in the written word, I used to write a blog-like column for the NC State student newspaper, Technician. The goal was to be funny, on the front page, three days a week. It was surprisingly hard.
It resulted in a few laughs, along with about $200 in parking fines after I wrote a not-so-kind story about the NC State campus parking attendants (who remain a fine group of extraordinarily nice people even as we speak) and a couple of trips to the Chancellor's office to explain, in Dr. Poulton's words, "just what the hell I was thinking."
The column was called "One Brick Shy" because NC State at that time was pretty much paved in red masonry from one end of Hillsborough Street to the other end of Western Boulevard. Back then, it was mutually agreed that I was about a block short of a load, so the column sig was the overwhelming choice of the two people I asked for approval.
Some people from Sampson County didn't, and that was the cause of the great Raleigh Police Department Stakeout of 1987, which began in the parking lot of the Burger King on Avent Ferry Road and ended up with three of my roommates being apprehended at a Food Lion a couple of miles away in a case of badly mistaken identity. That might make for a good blog post one day when Tracy Fulghum, Craig Moss and Marshall Ratledge sign the necessary release forms.
After graduation, I pursued a career in sports journalism, working at several newspapers in the Carolinas, contributing to wire services and magazines all over the country and getting in on the ground floor on something called "The Internet." Sports reporting took me from the national tug-of-war championships in rural Rowan County, N.C., to the Centennial Olympics in Atlanta to the West Wing of the White House. It couldn't have been more fun.
Recently, though, I left the day-to-day grind of college athletics to take writing and editing position for University Communications at NC State. There were many reasons for the transition, but the biggest was the need to spend more time with the kids (ages 11 and 9) at this critical time in their lives. My days as a newspaper reporter and athletics communications assistant required up to 45 working weekends a year, covering high school, college and professional sports for newspapers and handling day-to-day media relations duties for several varsity athletics teams. That didn't leave much time for fishing in the neighborhood pond or digging up arrowheads and sheets of micah at my family's home in Lincoln County.
There are no regrets about any of the time with The Salisbury Post, The Greenville (S.C.) News and The Piedmont, the Durham Herald-Sun and the Greensboro News & Record. I saw live and reported on Kerri Strug's one-legged vault to win the U.S. women's gymnastics team a gold medal, Payne Stewart's putt on the 18th hole of Pinehurst No. 2 at the 1999 U.S. Open and more than two dozen ACC men's basketball tournaments, my favorite event on the annual sports calendar.
I played golf at Augusta National and Royal Dornoch, put money on the horses at Churchill Downs, saw Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Jorge Bell hit three home runs on Opening Day 1988 in Kansas City, covered six Final Fours and, count 'em two Stanley Cup finals, no small feat for someone who grew up so far in the woods of western North Carolina that we got most of our news from reading the weeks-old newspapers used as packing materials for the stuff we ordered from the Sears catalogue. In nearly nine years working with NC State athletics, you can't imagine how enjoyable it was to get to know so many great student-athletes before they hit prime time or went on to be perfectly respectable grownups.
For now, though, that's enough.
Trying to squeeze in that much weekend and night-time work while raising two kids wasn't particularly fair to them or to my wife, and this new gig has adult hours, which means there might be some time to do the things that always got put aside, like traveling, playing an occasional round of golf, putzing around in the yard with tomato plants and aphids and finally forming that long-discussed quartet of fellow sousaphone players (proposed name: The Tuba Four).
And maybe I'll even dig up that brick that has been missing for too many years.
Following the footsteps of former colleagues, rivals and ex-patriate sportswriters and newspaper reporters, I wanted to have a place to house some off-the-cuff thoughts and comments that were longer than a Facebook post or a tweet. Don't worry, there are no plans to go political. I figure enough people dislike me already without knowing my stance on immigration reform or school board elections. There won't be too much sports, either, except for the endlessly boring chronicles of my attempts to run in four or five road races a year. God, I hate exercising.
Mostly, this will be a few paragraphs now and again about things that might make me laugh, even if no one else does.
Follow along, if you like.