FAIRBANKS — Every once in a while a light comes on in my little pea brain and a little voice delivers a message.
It happened a few months ago when the bulb lit up and the voice said, “It’s time to go.”
I fought it for a while, but it kept coming back, and now I’m typing my final words as sports editor for the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.
Some 33 years, 262 days (with one short break) as sports writer and editor at the News-Miner will come to an end at midnight Friday.
It’s been a great ride, full of so many memories it would take a lot more than this column to tell them all.
Dan Raley and Keith Olson started the new era of sports at the News-Miner in the late 1970s and early ’80s, and I was lucky enough to continue to carry the torch they lit through my career.
There has been a ton of help from all my co-workers, whether they were in the sports department, in the newsroom or on the copy desk, along the way and they all had input into making the News-Miner sports section the best in the state.
Nothing made me feel better than to have coaches, players or fans from outside Fairbanks come up to me or write comments that would say something like “I wish our hometown newspaper would cover local sports the way you guys do in Fairbanks.”
One of the philosophies I’ve always had as a sportswriter is I work for the reader. I get paid by the News-Miner, but my bosses were the readers and the people who played the games I wrote about.
I always tried to let the athletes tell their stories rather than me pontificating about what I know or don’t know about whatever sport is being played.
Most times I was successful and sometimes I wasn’t, but I always gave it my best.
I’ve pretty much covered two generations of sports in Interior Alaska; now it’s time to turn the torch over to a new generation and let them build on what Raley and Olson started some 35 years ago.
Believe me, it makes me feel good when somebody comes up and says, “I remember when you wrote about me as a player and now you’re writing about my kids.”
The digital age is upon us, so now it’s time to hand the torch to Danny Martin, the News-Miner’s new sports editor, and a new sports writer, who will be able to take the sports section to a new generation.
While I’m retiring from the daily newspaper business, I have no plans on leaving Fairbanks. I love this place, the people, the weather and the variety of sports and other activities going on all around town.
I’ll have time to become a fan again. I can go to Nanooks games and not have to be an analyst. I can have a beer at an Ice Dogs game. I can go to a high school game or a ski race, just because I want to.
Maybe I can even train to run the Equinox Marathon again.
I can go see Shakespeare and other plays, concerts and such. I can do all the things I haven’t been able to do because I’ve worked night shifts almost my entire life.
And I’ve still got the Fairbanks Community Museum to take care of.
Right now, it’s time to take a few weeks off, participate in the Alaska International Senior Games, harvest the garden and who knows, maybe I’ll learn how to do something with all that rhubarb I’ve been harvesting. There’s still plenty if anybody wants it.
Or maybe I’ll just sit on my deck and eat peas, carrots, green beans and such for a couple of months.
Then I’ll be ready to find out what my next adventure in Fairbanks will be. I’m sure I’ll have to find some kind of employment at some point or another.
One tradition I will carry on is the Bob O’Que, which turns 18 on May 25, 2014. You all will be expected to be there (unless you’re at the lake).
While there is a company gathering this afternoon at the News-Miner, I’ll be hosting a celebration of a great career in sports at my favorite watering hole — The Big I — starting at 5 p.m. Aug. 9.
There will be some burgers and hot dogs and plenty of stories to tell. I’m sure we’ll go well into the evening and maybe beyond.
Until then, good luck and may God bless you all. See you at the farm (or maybe the Big I, where I’ve been known to make a guest appearance once in a while).
You can no longer contact sports editor Bob Eley at 459-7581 or firstname.lastname@example.org.