Saying good-bye is a tough thing to do

Jackson GregI was afraid this day might eventually come, and sure enough, here we are, my last story as sports editor with the Fayette Advertiser and Democrat Leader.

Friday was my last day working here in Fayette, and fittingly, Fayette’s high school graduation was my last official assignment. But this story is the toughest one to write, and in typical “Greg Jackson fashion,” I waited until the final hour before our press deadline to put together these words. It’s not that I don’t want to write this column. It’s just that I don’t know quite how to put “thank you” into 1,500 words.

I’ve heard that the easiest thing to do may be to borrow a quote from a great writer. The last thing I want to do is to plagiarize in this “good-bye” column, but I’m going to do something I’ve always wanted to do for the past seven years.

I’m going to quote Seinfeld.

If you have gotten to know me over the years, you’ll know that is my favorite television show. There are a few people in particular who share my passion for random and useless Seinfeld knowledge, and I know they’re going to get a kick out of this. But the thing is, the quote I’m using isn’t a famous line from the show.

No, the “Yada, yada, yada…” quote doesn’t apply here, and no, “Serenity now!” doesn’t fit either, although I’m sure I’ve yelled that a few times after missing a deadline. Not even “These pretzels are making me thirsty!” can help me out with this column.

Instead, I’m going to refer to a quote directly from Jerry Seinfeld, and it won’t be found in any Seinfeld script. I came across a Rolling Stone article a few years ago that was published in 1998, which chronicled the final days of the show leading up to the shooting of the final episode. The story began with the final table reading, where the cast reads aloud the episode script for the first time.

Before the crew began the table reading, Jerry Seinfeld, the show’s co-creator and leading actor, stood up and said something that brought people in the room to tears. I’m sure if I were present, I would have needed a couple tissues myself.

Working on a show known for its unique, comedic humor, he stood up and said a very serious line. He said, “You’re going to hear me say ‘thank you’ a lot during the week —here’s the first one.”

Ever since I announced I was leaving Fayette back on April 22 to take a position as assistant sports editor at the Jefferson City News Tribune, my goal has been to say thank you every chance I would have over the next three weeks. But you all have beaten me to the punch on several occasions. The countless “thank yous” and “we’ll miss yous” have meant the world to me.

Still, I haven’t said thank you enough, and I wanted to use this final column as one big “thank you” to the entire Howard County community. So, here goes.

My first thank you goes to my former boss, Jim Steele. Without him, and a lot of luck, I wouldn’t be here in Fayette. Some of you may wonder why I mention I’m lucky to even be here. There’s a story behind that.

It goes back to March 2009, when I was a senior at the University of Missouri. My plan all along was the attend graduate school and learn the business side of the newspaper world, but when I discovered I was not accepted to grad school, I began to panic.

I didn’t have a backup plan with a fall-back job opportunity. I had two months until graduation and I was frantic. Later that night, I checked the job listings sent to me in an email by the School of Journalism career services department. There, in the email, was a listing for a job opening with the Fayette Advertiser.

I was stunned. This was too good to be true. How in the world did I get this lucky? I figured it had to be a sign. I immediately emailed  Jim that Tuesday night, we sat down for an interview that Friday, and the following week, I accepted this job. Seriously, how lucky can one guy be?

So thank you, Jim, for holding a job opening for a full two months, rather than hiring someone who didn’t need to wait to graduate from college. I hope the gamble was worth it.

My next thank you goes to my current boss, Pat Roll. I have worked for Pat since he bought the newspaper from Jim in February 2011, and it has been a privilege working for him. Not many bosses give journalists the leeway to do whatever they please, but mine did. In fact, he encouraged it.

I have talked to several area sports writers over the years, and with the many budget cuts in the newspaper business, they’ve had to cut back on their sports coverage. Their bosses won’t let them travel far to cover games. Overtime hours have been completely decimated. As a result, their coverage has taken a hit.

I’m the lucky one. I had the freedom to cover whatever games I wanted to attend, no matter the distance. If I needed a third sports page to cover the overflow of sports on a given weekend, Pat made it happen. It’s what you, the readers, would have wanted, and we hope you have enjoyed the expanded coverage the past seven years. So thank you, Pat, for being the easy-going boss everyone hopes to have.

And thank you, Linda Vroman and Kim Thompson. Our newspaper office is a small establishment, and it takes everyone pitching in to make this newspaper a successful one. They have been a great help to me over the years and I really appreciate it.

I want to say thank you to Geoff Moorehead, the Fayette High School athletic director. Because of him, I’ve always been the first to know when there are changes to a schedule, or if there has been an update for a future event. Once he receives All-Conference and All-District lists, the first thing he does is pass them along to me. And if I’ve needed a ride to an away game, he would call me before I had a chance to call him and ask for a ride. So thank you, Geoff, for keeping me “in the know” all these years.

Before I move on, I’d be remiss if I skipped over this. When former sports editor Justin Addison wrote his departure column, he made a request for folks to ask Geoff about scuba diving story from a past trip to Florida. I think I’d like to continue this storytelling tradition. So the next time you see Geoff, be sure to ask him to tell you the story about how I was once mistaken for his 14-year-old son. I hear he loves telling that story.

I’d also like to thank my family, which has been supportive and helpful to me since I arrived in Fayette. Whether it was my brother Brian covering games for me while I was on vacation, or my parents giving me a fresh pair of eyes to proofread my high school basketball preview, they never once hesitated to help at a moment’s notice.

Dad, thank you for coming to every Fayette football game you could attend and keep track of stats, so I wouldn’t have to juggle a clipboard and a camera. I won’t be needing to use a camera with my next job, so I think I can handle the stats on my own now. Hopefully we’ll be able to golf again this fall at the Falcon Open. I know the coaches will miss having you around at their games.

I have an endless list of coaches to thank and a limited amount of space to fill. I wish I could thank each of you individually, but then I would miss my deadline by about three hours.

This sports section wouldn’t be possible without the willingness of coaches to send me stats and scores. During the winter, all five high schools and Central Methodist may be playing basketball on the same night, but I can only be in one place. The coaches have been gracious enough to send me anything I need, making me look like a better sports editor. So thank you, coaches, and I hope your teams have many successful seasons down the line.

And most importantly, thank you, readers. Newspapers are a dying industry, but nobody would be able to tell that by looking at our readership. Please continue to follow the teams in these sports pages. There is a lot of great talent in this small area. Trust me, I know.

Well, I’ve made it to the end, but I feel like I’m forgetting something. Oh, now I remember what it was.

“Thank you!”

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About hocosportsblog

I cover high school and college sports in the Howard County area for The Fayette Advertiser and the Democrat-Leader. All views and opinions expressed on this blog are my own and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Fayette Advertiser or The Democrat Leader.
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