Newspapers, it turns out, are the career equivalent of rock and roll’s Hotel California.
You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.
And so, after checking out for six years to track the wanderings of grizzlies, bobcats and wolves in the world of conservation, I have leapt back across the net to tracking the wanderings of Grizzlies (Montana), Bobcats (Montana State) and Wolves (Billings) in the world of sports journalism — as the third Gazette sports editor apparently since Calvin Coolidge passed through the region lobbing worms at shell-shocked trout.
One might suspect I have re-entered a safer environment, given my periodic proximity to toothy carnivores. Then again, I never received a voicemail from a four-legged grizzly or bobcat threatening to disembowel me in a way I believe is anatomically impossible simply for having the audacity, as the new sports editor in Bozeman some 10 years ago, to pick the Bobcats to finish behind the Griz in Big Sky Conference football.
Trust me, ’cat-griz in the wild is a petting zoo compared to ‘Cat-Griz in the Brawl of the Wild.
All of which partially explains my flip-flop-flip back to the sports pages. The always-passionate, often-poignant, frequently inspiring and usually uplifting arenas of sport fused with the frenetic pace and memorable interactions with newspapers is nothing less than an addiction.
Toss in a great Northern Rockies newspaper, and you’ve got the perfect personal storm for an ink-stained wretch who, in spirit, never really left.
The longevity and loyalty of the Gazette’s accomplished sports staffers — indeed, the entire newsroom — speaks volumes of this newspaper and Billings. Inheriting a chair occupied so capably for so long by Warren Rogers and Mike Zimmer is a privilege I embrace with all due humility, respect and dedication.
Whether this new era is ultimately judged by Gazette readers as good fortune only time will tell. For MSU Billings and Rocky Mountain College men’s basketball coaches Jamie Stevens and Bill
Dreikosen, though, my arrival is as unfailingly ominous as death and taxes.
My claim to dubious fame, other than once liberating a slo-pitch softball delivery from the confines of Doubleday Field in Cooperstown, N.Y. (no, you can’t look it up): Single-handedly reducing Oregon State University’s once-storied men’s basketball program from the fourth-winningest all-time to the dumpster fire it remains today (yes, you can look that up).
The Beavers sandwiched winning seasons around the 13 losing years I chronicled them. Just to prove it wasn’t a fluke, I migrated to Bozeman in 2004 and subsequently went 0-for-4 with the MSU men’s team; longtime coach Mick Durham, who had been fairly warned, eventually sought refuge in Las Cruces, N.M., and Fairbanks, Alaska.
Suffice it to say, Jamie and Bill, if you see me coming seek shelter immediately.
To answer the first question surely on many minds this morning: I am neither a ‘Cat nor a Griz, though sure as the Yellowstone River flows downhill those of you who view sports through blue/gold or maroon/silver lenses will quickly be convinced beyond repair that I’m falsifying my resume and surely have a clandestine romance with one.
Or the other.
For the record, I’m a graduate of Arizona State University, haughtily considered by us erudite alums as the Yale of … party schools.
I’m a newspaper guy who happens to do sports rather than a sports guy who happens to do newspapers. I believe a compelling section is about people who happen to do sports rather than about sports that happen to involve people.
These are nuanced but important distinctions that will become apparent in our coverage.
For example, all you cyclists, runners, triathletes, biathletes, duathletes, decathletes, heptathletes, swimmers, fencers, bobsledders, sled-doggers, ice skaters, skiers and curlers will see that a ball isn’t a prerequisite for meriting attention on our pages.
But enough about me. I want to talk about you.
After all, this is your sports section. Call me. Email me. Tweet me (@GazSportsWelsch). Stop me on my bike, hike or Nikes.
Offer feedback. Suggest stories. Ask me how to pronounce Rachac.
I’m eager to get acquainted with our far-flung readership from Alzada to Zortman, and reacquainted with the Grizzlies, Bobcats and Wolves — not to mention the Rams, Broncs, Falcons, Golden Bears, Locomotives and a cast of seemingly a thousand high schools.
I’m ready to rock and roll. Indeed, less than a week after checking back in, it’s almost as if I never left.