Nevius: Back from long sportswriting break, but always a fan

Almost 20 years ago, when I left the sports pages, it didn’t seem like I’d be back.

First, there were other opportunities. I wrote film reviews, features and a column on the city and politics of San Francisco.

But there was also a sense - and I understand that this sounds smug and entitled - that sports were played out for me. I’d been there and done that. I was reminded of that four years ago when we members of the Northern California media went to the Super Bowl in New Orleans to cover the 49ers.

I think it was my ninth or 10th Super Bowl week, and all I could think is what a parody it has become. There are the daily chaotic press gaggles with players. There are the self-consciously wacky questions - Which Disney princess do you identify with? - from zany media personalities. And there is vapid, non-stop chatter along radio row.

And I’m not stupid. I get it. A lot of people would love to have that opportunity. But when you aren’t excited to go to the Super Bowl, it is pretty obvious you are losing your sports mojo.

However, a funny thing happened on my way to the ballet and museum of modern art.

I left sports, but they never left me. I watched them all the time. We bought tickets and went to Giants games at AT&T Park. We lucked into some seats for a Warriors playoff game and were rocked in Roar-acle Arena.

My wife would come home from work and I’d have the TV tuned to a Diamond League track and field meet from Lausanne, Switzerland.

“What in the world are you watching?” she’d say.

Blame the Olympics. I went to Olympic Games, summer and winter, in Norway, Korea, Japan, France, Australia, Canada, Spain and - the strangest place of all - Los Angeles.

I loved the Olympics. I loved the purity of the competition, the heart-pounding finishes and the heroic efforts.

Oh, who am I kidding?

I loved the Olympics because it sent me all over the world on someone else’s dime. You got to see cities and countries which were not only putting their best foot forward to make a good impression, they treated visitors like honored guests. And as a bonus, you got to see the greatest athletes in the world - and that’s the whole world, not just our USA piece of it.

I was at a media information booth at the Winter Olympics in Norway in 1994 when suddenly all the usually friendly and helpful volunteers abruptly got up from their desks and left the room. The woman answering my questions walked away in mid-conversation with no explanation.

It turned out that members of the Norwegian men’s cross country ski team were coming into the press center for interviews.

That may mean nothing to you, but in Norway they are gods who walk the earth.

You’ve never heard of him, but superstar cross country skier Bjorn Daehle is the Joe Montana of Norway. His 12 Olympic medals, eight gold, are still the Olympic record.

Spectators and volunteers crowded forward, begging for autographs and snapping hundreds of photos.

Tell me you’d have that experience anywhere else.

If I could do the Olympics every year I’d never have wanted to leave sports. But the days of jet-setting journalists are pretty much done. I’ve taken my last Olympic junket.

However, sports are still here, right in our backyard.

No question, things have changed. I walk into the cushy AT&T baseball clubhouse and look for the golf clubs. I covered the Giants when there were ashtrays in the lockers. I was there when Barry Bonds was still surly and contentious, not smiling and charming like now. And when Mike Krukow was not only pitching, he was an imposing figure.

That’s why it turned out that taking a break from sports was a gift.

It made me back into a fan. Even if it took a good year before I could watch a game without mentally thinking about what the column angle would be.

I not only watched, I rooted. That’s a no-no for the objective journalist, of course. No cheering in the press box.

But hey, I was off the clock. I groaned when Steph Curry missed a 3 and jumped off the couch when Buster Posey went deep.

It made me realize what an avid sports guy I am. Just ask me about Colin Kaepernick - but only if you’ve got a good 30 minutes.

So, when The Press Democrat asked me if I’d be interested in a once-a-week sports column, it made perfect sense.

So I’m back. I’m fired up.

And I’m sure you’ll let me know if I start to sound entitled or jaded.

Press Democrat sports columnist C.W. Nevius can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @cwnevius.

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