At halftime of Air Force basketball games, I usually make a trip into the stands for a conversation with athletic director Hans Mueh.
We talk about national parks, international soccer, his children, my children, food and chemistry. Hans earned a doctorate in chemistry, and I managed to pass the subject in high school.
Sometimes we even talk about Air Force sports.
Hans and I have endured conflict. He’s part of a fairly large club who have engaged in verbal and written skirmishes with me over the past decade. This club includes coaches, athletic directors, athletes, several hundred BYU and North Dakota fans and even a few Gazette readers.
On a recent visit to the stands, Hans surprised me.
“I miss your curmudgeonly take on sports,” he said.
He paused and smiled.
Thanks, Hans. I’ll take the compliment, even with the qualifier.
Today, I return to my role as sports columnist for The Gazette after a break of five months. During that time, I covered the Olympics and Air Force football and basketball while we added reporters to our sports staff. We are approaching full strength.
I’m thrilled to be back writing commentary. This means I will again challenge Hans and thousands of others with my views. Of course, that’s not all I’ll be doing. In my view, a sports columnist should be the toughest and softest writer on a newspaper staff. This means I will continue looking for stories that will draw us to the best in sports.
I’ll be writing mostly about the teams and coaches and athletes in the Pikes Peak region, with an occasional trip to Denver to cover the Broncos and Nuggets. It’s been a year like no other for me, jammed with good and not-so-good surprises and highlighted by a trip to the London Olympics, but my favorite moment might have been Feb. 10 when I watched Lewis-Palmer’s Josh Scott do battle against Sierra’s Wesley Gordon in an absolutely packed gym on our city’s south side. Hundreds of fans were turned away at the door.
It was a close basketball game, featuring two of the best players and best teams in our region’s history. It was loud and emotional and most of all fun, and the night never veered into anything vile. It offered everything I enjoy about sports.
The return to column writing means I’ll be hearing more from you. I look forward to it. I really do.
Readers sometimes accuse me of thinking I know everything. No way that’s true. I grew up in south Denver, raised by two fiercely opinionated parents, but David Leon and Mary Ann believed just as intensely in dialogue. I sat at the dinner table several times a week, surrounded by food and brothers and sisters, while talking about Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, Floyd Little, David Thompson and John Elway.
We were encouraged to offer our views, grounded in fact, about the women and men we read about in newspapers. We all read the paper, following mom’s example. At the table, we talked, we listened, we grew.
To me, our current communication opportunities form a modern dinner table, where we can discuss – via e-mail, Facebook or Twitter – the sports topics of the day.
During my years with The Gazette, most readers have been supportive, but there are days when my inbox is filled with dissenting messages.
Let’s get this straight: I read every message from Gazette readers. I respond to every message. I find something to ponder in every message. Well, make that nearly every message.
I’ve been called names, been told I was mentally deficient, been encouraged to go to destinations where I don’t want to go. That’s fine. Just realize you don’t have to call me names to get my attention.
Again, I’m thrilled to be back. Let me hear from you.