Thirty years later, I’m still telling stories

My first-ever byline from the fall of 1984.
My first-ever byline from the fall of 1984.

It was 30 years ago that, as a nervous 18-year-old kid, I walked into the newsroom at the Bangor Daily News ready to start my journalism career.

Three decades have gone by; so fast, so fleeting.

How many games have I seen? How points or runs or goals have I seen scored?

How many stories have I told?

Thirty years ago, I was bottom of the rung. My job was type-setting harness racing results sent to us through this contraption where you stuck a phone in a pair of couplets and this tubular thing that smelled like years-old ink spun around and around and around until the page was filled. It was a facts machine before a fax machine even existed.

Race results and starters, that was my forte in those days. “Jennifer’s Champ”, ridden by Walter Case Jr., paid $4.80, $3.20, $2.20.

Repeat with a different horse, different rider and different payouts.

My secondary job was answering phones. “Hello, Sports!” and if somebody had a score to report, I would take the information down — goals scored, assists tallied, saves made by the goalie. And, at first, I would hand them off to a trained writer to help create the daily high school roundup.

It wasn’t long before I started writing up those little 1-18s myself … they were called 1-18s because they were one column, 18-point headlines.

The things we remember.

The things I’ve forgotten.

My first byline appeared just about three months after I started working at the paper. A girls playoff soccer game between John Bapst and Penquis, which not only went into overtime but went 40 set of corner kicks. (They didn’t have penalty kicks back then … they actually played until a team earned a victory).

And, sorry state of Connecticut, there were certainly never co-champs declared. Ever.

I must have been doing something right because after that I was allowed to write more and more. Cross country stories, skiing stories, local auto racing stories.

There I was juggling some college classes, working in a profession like journalism and trying to be an 18-19-year-old kid and hanging out with my friends.

Thirty years have gone by, three decades of players — both great and mundane — who succeeded and failed in front of my eyes.

There were great ones — from Maine’s Matt Rossignol and Cindy Blodgett to New Hampshire’s Matt Bonner and Jenny Thompson to Connecticut’s Silas Redd and Kristine Lilly — and there were athletes that nobody ever heard of, but they had special stories to tell and I had the honor to tell those, as well.

For me, that’s the greatest part of the job.

My first ever byline from the fall of 1984.
My first ever byline from the fall of 1984.

Telling the story of the high school basketball player who survived open heart surgery as a youngster.

Telling the story of the college baseball player who, as a Little Leaguer in Saudi Arabia, had to walk to school with a gas mask because of the on-going Gulf War.

Telling the story of the 12-year-old girl who lost her shoe in the first half mile of a Junior Olympic National Championship cross country race and refusing to stop, despite snow six inches deep, all the way to the finish line.

Those are the stories I remember the most. The ones that get pinned up on the fridge at home of the athlete until the paper turns yellow and finally it gets placed into a scrap book.

One year, I was driving up to Sugarloaf/USA for a weekend of skiing and I stopped in a small convenience store. Pinned to the wall was one of my stories. It might have been a story that was important to just one person, but that person took the time to put it up for everybody to see.

I’ve covered Major League Baseball games, NBA Games, NCAA Championship games, World Cup Skiing events, NASCAR Sprint Cup events just to name a few. I’ve been a beat writer for high school sports and Division I athletics, both low profile schools and high profile schools. I’ve covered Little League Baseball and softball, and even almost got arrested in Albany, N.Y., for doing my job because a power-hungry tournament director was nothing more than a fucking asshole.

My profession has taken me from Fort Kent, Maine to Medford, Oregon, to Tarleton, Texas, to New Orleans, Louisiana, to New York City.

It’s taken me to places I’ve called “home” — from Bangor, Maine to Dover, N.H., to Biddeford, Maine, to Norwalk, Conn.

Thirty years.

I don’t know how much time is left — for both my chosen profession and for myself — but it has been such an honor to do what I feel is the greatest job in the world.

Through all the pain and confusion and life moments that have torn me apart inside over a lifetime of living, I’ve had the job to guide me forward and I am so thankful for that.

So here are to more words, to more stories … I look forward to telling them for as long as I can.

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