Parting is such sweet sorrow, so said Juliet to Romeo.
Not for me.
Ain't no sorrow here, folks.
How could there be? When I look into the mirror all I do is see myself smiling when I think of the people I have gotten to know. Sarah Sumpter, John Goelz, J.T. Snow, Reed Carter, Brian Sabean, Arthur Webb, Art Howe, Lenny Wagner, Dusty Baker, Julia Stamps, Jill McCormick, Jerry Robinson, Jay Higgins, Chris Mullin, Jason Franci and, hey, I'm just getting warmed up.
For the first time since the spring of 1964, when I was a high school senior, I will not be working for a daily newspaper. I am retiring from The Press Democrat after 26 years and from the business after 50.
Terrific, people say. Now you get to do what you want to do. There's only one problem — I'm already doing it.
"I am offering you a job as a crime reporter at the Miami Herald," George Beebe told me when I was 21. George was the managing editor of the Herald and on a recruiting trip to the University of Florida. It was 1968. I was a senior.
"What?" said George, looking more confused than insulted. "Why do you want to stay in sports? Nothing happens there. It's games. It's kids PLAYING."
I remember George emphasized "playing."
I so wish I could talk to George now. I'd talk to him about real courage I have seen in my life in sports.
I would tell him about Cassie Petersen, how she was born deaf, without a left ear, and yet was a star softball pitcher for Analy. George should have met St. Vincent's Jacalyn Murphy, who gets up early every day to undergo an hour's worth of treatment for her cystic fibrosis, so she can go to school and play basketball. George should have met Windsor's Xerxes Whitney. Xerxes is the high school's tennis coach, loved, no, adored by all because he refuses to carp, complain or otherwise draw sympathy to the fact he has cerebral palsy.
Back in the day when I covered pro sports exclusively, I thought courage was hanging in there when 6-foot-10 Randy Johnson released that missile fastball. I was wrong. That batter was paid to stand in there to take his hacks.
Mendocino football player Reed Carter, on the other hand, has the kind of courage I have not seen in the NFL, NBA or MLB. In a 13-month period that started when he was 12, Reed's mother died in a car accident, his brother spent six months in a body brace, and his father was diagnosed with cancer that required him to live apart from the family for five months. Reed has gone through hell and back and he didn't do it for money or fame or acclaim. He refused to submit because he wanted to make something of his life. And he has, stunningly.
Someone once asked me which teams I root for.
"I don't," I replied. "I root for people."
Look, I won't kid you. I hate the Yankees. But after 10 minutes speaking with Derek Jeter for the first time, I became a fan, a fan of his dignity, class and integrity. Subsequent multiple interviews confirmed that. I would never apologize for having Derek Jeter playing shortstop on my baseball team.