Sports Column

NELSON: Goodbye



We have been sharing weekly stories here for better than 20 years.

I’ve written columns from some far corners — a couple from London, plenty from South Dakota, another bunch from whatever city I happened to be stopping at in all four time zones of our nation.

I’ve bounced from an occasional Wednesday to some fall Fridays for football, but mostly we have shared some time on Thursdays...

I got moved to the editorial pages for a couple weeks a long time ago, until the city editor yielded to the griping and put me back in the sports section, where I have remained.

I have not missed a weekly column once in those 20-plus years.

But the time has come to hit the pause button. I hope and pray it isn’t the stop button.

Things started a long time ago when a JR sports editor (sorry, I don’t know which one, and with all the lock downs it is difficult to do any research) asked me to write a weekly softball column during the summer.

I covered the local tournaments and leagues, and that morphed into some of the youth tournaments. Another summer, or maybe two, we tried to include some of the racing teams and their activities.

I think some of it was just to fill some column inches during the slow summer sports seasons, but we got a lot of names and sponsors listed.

Then, I started doing all this NFL stuff.

I’d been doing college football for a while, which filled up the Saturdays, plus the Colts on Sundays, and there was already a fairly full college basketball schedule during the winter, but it was the NFL, and the crazy travel, that is the real starting point for these Thursday get-togethers.

My fortunes, or misfortunes, with NFL travel started right from the get-go, and Mondays or Tuesdays became story time in the JR offices, as I told about what didn’t go right, which usually started with chaos after a college game, then a mad dash to an airport,  maybe a connection, and then arriving in some far-off city by midnight or later.

By now, it was another sports editor, and knowing a little about the summer column, suggested that I write a weekly column for the JR and share this litany of misfortune that seemed to follow my travel.

I thought — well okay, and got started.

You wonderful readers know the rest of the 20-year saga. It’s been one thing after another, and one very kind person after another stopping me somewhere in town and expressing some form of sympathy for what went on last week or in the last few.

A missed flight, a night in an airport, a long drive followed by a game and another long drive, were a little more tolerable because I knew I had a topic for next Thursday, and knew that it would be appreciated by the good folks who read these notes every week.

I’ve tried to take you along to the Super Bowl, on a 200-mile an hour ride with Mario Andretti, to countless games hither and yon, to trips back home. From the unbelievable feedback throughout the years, I must have gotten close. It was seldom about the game, but how I got there and how I managed to get back, or the seven games in five days or the four time zones in one.

We always found something to talk about, not always so much about sports, but related to sports (okay, a trip back to South Dakota for vacation had nothing to do with sports, but everyone still seemed to like catching up with my parents and family or friends back home.

But we are all stuck in a very different world today, exiled to our living rooms or at best, socially distancing from six feet or farther away.

Sports have not been just cut back. They have been ended. At all levels. For who knows how long.

It is for the good of all, and for the right reasons. I get that. I am not disputing or arguing the facts of our shared ordeal.

But the matter at hand is that there are no sports, which means I am traveling no farther than the kitchen or living room, same as you. Oh sure, there is the daily trip to pick up some food, as I try to do my tiny part to support some of our local businesses who are severely behind the eight ball right now, but that doesn’t warrant space in any publication. I’m doing nothing, same as a lot of folks.

So, sadly, it is time to time to say goodbye, at least for a while.

When you do something for this long a time, you wonder how things will end. Will interest wane in the stories of my silly antics in travel and sports? Will I run out of good fortune and stop being hired to do the fun stuff I get to do? Will I get to go out with a thunderous farewell, or slink into the night?

Looks like I’ve been done in by an unseen, yet dangerous foe. A simple virus has changed all our lives. My column, like all of us, has been sheltered in place.

So let’s see what the future brings. If, or when, sports comes back into our culture, maybe we can start sharing stories again.  At least it will be easy to remember my last column – it runs on my birthday. What a way to celebrate.

Best wishes to everyone. Thanks for everything.

Safe travels.

Jeff Nelson works in national television. His column appears each Thursday in the Journal Review.


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