Delighted to get the (sports) beat back

The message simply said: “Tell her the band is getting back together.” Pun intended, it was music to my ears.

I joined the band back in 1987. Well, not really joined the band. To be truthful, the sports editor at the Shreveport Journal was told by editor Stan Tiner to “take this girl back to sports and give her something to do.” Actually, I was thrown into the band, without the musicians taking a vote.

“This girl” had just moved back from Dallas after spending my first five post-college graduation years working in the big city. I was glad to be back home but had no idea what I would do for a living.

So, on a whim, I typed up my bleak resume (on an actual typewriter) and went downtown to Tiner’s office. He had known my mom, who’d passed away a couple of years before, so I gave it a shot.

The “resume” was sparse: college graduate, former college athlete, degree in journalism, looking for a job. I’d like to think it was one of those accomplishments that caught the editor’s eye. I’m sure, however, the fact that Stan was a friend of my mom’s had more to do with it. Whatever the reason, Sports Editor Nico Van Thyn walked me back to the far, back left corner of the Shreveport Journal open newsroom and introduced me to “the band.”

Turns out Gary West, the paper’s Louisiana Downs beat writer, had left so, technically, there was an opening in sports. Or suffice it to say, an empty desk.

Over my stint at the Shreveport Journal, I shared the stage with Nico, (big) Jerry Byrd, John James Marshall, Teddy Allen, Scott Ferrell, and a few more who came and went. But, for me, the guys mentioned made up the original band.

Nico gave me something to do, for sure, starting with typing scores in the agate page and taking phone calls. Then came my first assignment covering high school football. After that, I was given the opportunity to write about high school basketball, softball, soccer, college basketball, some NFL games and even a Super Bowl, to name only a few assignments.

There were triathlons, tractor pulls, columns, local tennis and golf tournaments, all-nighters putting the sports pages together, traveling together to cover games. There were feature stories on swimmers, coaches, rugby players. Relationships were forged with media colleagues all over the state – Doug Ireland at NSU, TV guys Ed Baswell, Tony Taglavore, Tim Fletcher, Bob Griffin…

Like all good things that must come to an end, the original band broke up when owner Charles Beaird announced the Journal would cease operations on March 20, 1991. Declining circulation and critical advertising revenues were cited as reasons. Truth was, people were not subscribing to afternoon newspapers anymore.

Lucky for some of us, we were hired on at The Times. New bandmates included Kent Heitholt, Lee Hiller, (good old friend) Russell Hedges. Just some more guys who took me under their wings and not only taught me what it meant to be a sportswriter, but also showed me that the old adage was true: “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”

Unfortunately, my time at the morning newspaper was brief. Family duties called me back to Dallas and, upon my return five years later, things had changed. Scott and I got married and were blessed with a beautiful daughter, McAuley. Here’s another lesson I learned from one of my bandmates: Scott taught me that parents who are no longer married can not only get along but, with help from family, can also raise an incredible child together and remain close friends.

After a few years as editor of The Forum, I decided I wanted to get my teaching certificate. To be honest, I wanted a job where I would be on the same schedule as my daughter (holidays and summers off). So, for the past 20 years, I have been teaching school – third graders, fifth graders, ninth graders.

So, while I enjoy teaching, I’ve missed my writing days. I’ve missed the band. I’m back.

And the beat goes on…