Archive for Thursday, March 27, 2008

Wristen: There’s still a lot to talk about

March 27, 2008

These days it seems like people don't talk much anymore.

With the creation of things like AOL Instant Messenger and text messaging, people would rather punch a few buttons and click "send" than have a conversation.

That's why I've loved my three and a half years as the sports editor of The Current. Few things motivate people to talk, debate and come together like sports. Everybody has an opinion. Everybody has a different vantage point. Complete strangers can feel like old friends after a hearty discussion about their favorite football or basketball team.

My time in Lansing has been filled with conversations, most of them memorable for some reason or another. They are the reasons I've felt so at home here, and they are some of the things I will miss the most.

One of the first conversations took place Nov. 6, 2004. I was standing outside of the football locker room after Lansing High's regional playoff loss at Holton. LHS assistant coach Kyle Deere came up to me. The inaugural edition of The Current came out two days earlier, and he wanted me to know he liked it and hoped to see it thrive.

In the years that followed, he and I shared numerous other conversations. I met his wife Debbie, a loyal supporter of all of the kids in Lansing; I covered his daughter Riann's stellar volleyball and track careers; I pestered his other daughter, Taylar, for stats during baseball season when she managed the team; and I got to know his son, Blake, through the Sean Ryan Memorial Football Classic.

I've grown to know dozens more families quite well during that time, too. Not a sporting event has gone by - be it a tennis tournament in Topeka, a softball game at Lansing City Park or a Friday night football game - that I haven't spent at least 15 or 30 minutes chatting with parents of Lansing students. Some have just arrived at the game from work and want a quick run-down of what they missed. Some are curious about how other sports teams are doing. Some want to debate a column I've written or discuss how they would coach their child's team differently. I've enjoyed all of those topics and debates. The truth is whether people have agreed or disagreed with what I've written, there never has been a doubt how much they care about their kids.

And the kids really are what this is all about.

They are the reason my job existed, and they are what made it so much fun to come to work every day. I've covered this year's seniors since they were freshmen, and I've covered some kids since elementary school. I've literally seen them grow up.

Part of watching them grow has included chronicling it in the paper and on the Web site, and most of that information has come from thousands of conversations. They told me about their hopes and dreams, and they vented their frustrations. Some asked me for advice, and others used what I wrote as motivation.

They've always appreciated honesty, and I respect that.

Through our conversations, I've heard them admit their shortcomings and discover their potential. I've listened to them transform mentally, and then watched that transformation take place on the playing field.

I've covered four straight football playoff appearances, seen the first 40-win season in Lansing's storied volleyball history, watched the soccer teams make the Class 5A state quarterfinals for the first time, witnessed the explosion of interest in the tennis program, watched the wrestling team stock up for a state championship push and seen a crop of young runners take the cross country program by storm.

Lansing sports are on the rise, and they will be a major player on the state scene during the next few years. I just wish I could be there to chronicle them in the pages of our paper.

I spoke with sophomore distance runner Lauren Jaqua on Tuesday and reminded her that she was a fast runner before I was writing about it, and she will still be fast when I'm gone. I think she understood my point.

The paper might stop, but the athletes in this community won't. I am thankful that they have shared their lives and stories with me for the past three and a half years, but their work isn't done. They have goals and dreams to pursue, and they're going to give you plenty to talk about in the coming years.

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