Column: He’s the new guy in town

{This is my column in The Commercial Review from Thursday, July 11.]

Hey, I’m the new sports editor.

It is with great pleasure I can introduce myself to you as the new sports editor of The Commercial Review. I’m from Saginaw, Mich., and I have been writing in some capacity since I was in high school.

My goals as sports editor are simple; cover as much local sports as possible.

I know what it takes to play sports as a child. I’ve been part of winning teams and losing teams, and everything in between. I’ve seen friends work their tail off every day to barely make the roster, and I’ve had friends (and relatives) make it to the professional level. I even know first-hand what it’s like to try and follow in the footsteps of a legacy left by an older sibling.

But what draws me the most to local sports is heart and determination. The drive, the will to succeed and the leave-it-all-on-the-field mindset that keeps kids playing no matter the outcome, are all what pique my interest.

And it’s getting to witness the trials and tribulations — all while telling their story — that led me to becoming a journalist.

I’m fortunate enough that I will get to work alongside the award-winning staff here at The CR. I look forward to learning everything they have to offer about the community, and meeting you all in the process.

I have been active in sports all my life. I grew up playing baseball and football. But outside of organized sports, I was always playing some sort of game with the 20 or so kids in my neighborhood.

Whether it was a pick-up game of baseball or football in my back yard, street hockey at our elementary school, or a random game we made up that day, we spent our entire time outdoors.

Needless to say, I am proud of my childhood.

When it comes to the teams I support, my allegiances have taken somewhat of a wild ride, and I’ll start with college sports.

Given the close proximity of the families in my neighborhood and the amount of time we spent together, it was easy to get caught up in the Michigan-Ohio State rivalry. The Sweneys down the road were Buckeyes, and the Greens and Madays around the corner were Michigan fans. I personally didn’t have any specific team I rooted for in the rivalry, but rather individual players.

It wasn’t until things hit home that I decided on a team.

The University of Michigan recruited my brother John to play defensive line during the 1998 season. During this time, I feel I enjoyed his visits to the university more than he did.

I got to see some successful future NFL players during his visits: Tom Brady, Jeff Backus, and Dhani Jones all played for the Wolverines that year. I also got to see Donovan McNabb, Plaxico Burress and LaVarr Arrington on the opposing sidelines.

I got to meet Lloyd Carr on a handful of occasions as well, and despite the numerous people he met on a daily basis, he always remembered my name from one week to the next. At that age, I thought it was a really big deal.

Michigan didn’t offer my brother a scholarship, and I took it personal. So I flip-flopped at the ripe age of 13 to in-state rival Michigan State University, and I’ve been with them since.

Growing up, football was my favorite sport to watch and play, but in the early stages of my adult life I have grown to appreciate baseball more than when I was a child.

And, just like with college sports, my favorite team is anything out of the ordinary.

I really started watching baseball on TV with my oldest brother, Ben, and at that time the Atlanta Braves were always shown on TBS. I’d sit down and watch a game or two a week with him. That’s where Chipper Jones caught my eye. He played the same position I did, so naturally I gravitated to him as my favorite player.

The Braves won the 1995 World Series, and after their victory in game six over the Cleveland Indians I had chosen the Braves as my favorite team. You can say I jumped on the bandwagon, but I never got off.

Although the Braves are no longer shown nationally on TBS, I still follow them to this day and still consider them my favorite team. But, I still have love for my home state team, Detroit Tigers.

My love for the Braves over the Tigers is so extreme that for a weekend this past April, I caught an Atlanta-Detroit series and wore nothing by the tomahawk at Comerica Park in Detroit.

Football, on the other hand, is a sensitive subject.

It’s not easy being a Detroit Lions fan.

The Lions have yet to make a super bowl appearance. They’ve been to the playoffs once and had two winning seasons this millennium. They haven’t won a playoff game since 1991. They are the only team in history to go three consecutive years without a road victory. And then there’s the 0-16 season from 2008.

It’s frustrating being a Lions fan, even so that I once wrote a letter on my blog after their winless season denouncing myself as a fan. But with the recent resurgence of the offense and excitement on defense, I couldn’t help but continue to wear the Honolulu blue and consider myself a Lions fan again.

My favorite sports moment, however, isn’t tied to the Braves or Lions, but rather the Detroit Tigers.

I can still remember where I was and what I was doing on October 14, 2006 when outfielder Magglio Ordonez hit the walk-off, three-run home run in Game Four of the 2006 ALCS to send the Tigers into the fall classic.

I even remember what FOX announcer Thom Brennaman said when the ball left Ordonez’s bat.

“In the air left field, and the Tigers march to the World Series!”

But it’s quotes like Brennaman’s, or the crazy things John Madden says, or Chris Berman’s “Back, back, back…” that make journalists like me have an impact.

And maybe, just maybe, I’ll create something of my own while I’m here, so when someone sees me out at the grocery store or covering an event they can yell my way and repeat back my words.

That is what writing is all about.

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