Last fall as the Scotland High School football season was kicking into high gear, I received a hand-written letter from a reader who took the time to reach out to me.
In the letter, she welcomed me to Laurinburg and said that she enjoyed reading my work, a sentiment that is always appreciated when someone strives to do their job to the best of their ability. But one thing the reader said right at the conclusion of her letter stuck with me, and more-or-less summarized what I looked to accomplish at the Laurinburg Exchange and in the Scotland County community.
“I believe you have a genuine interest in the people and teams you cover,” the letter read. “You seem to do it with great passion and enthusiasm.”
Suffice to say, I’ve kept that letter close to me every day since I received it. And looking back at the roughly 11 months I spent in Laurinburg, I hope that is how I’m remembered in the eyes of those who have crossed paths with me during my all-too-brief tenure here.
I wish I had the chance to re-do my ‘2012 year-in-review’ story which ran in late December. As I go back and read it again, the story comes off more like an excited fan’s recap of the year’s top sports moments which wasn’t what I intended as I sat down that caffeniated evening and pieced it together.
But in hindsight, I guess that’s what happens when you force yourself to look back at all of the people, places and experiences that you’ve encountered over a period of time, especially when you hold those things in such high regard.
I’ve been the new face in a new town before: I moved around quite a bit in my youth, and was always posed with the same challenge. That is, simply trying to fit in with a different environment full of people that know nothing about you. And arriving in Scotland County last spring, it was a challenge made greater by the fantastic job the previous sports reporter (Matt Smith) did before I assumed the position.
This was after Scotland County endured a nearly five-month lull before somebody new came along, no less.
So when I got here, I didn’t just want to introduce myself. In the many columns that I wrote, I wanted to give readers a glimpse at the person who would be frequenting as many sporting events as his broken-down Honda (which finally quit on me) would allow.
It was admittedly a scary experience early-on, because I had no idea how this community would react to a new face putting himself out there right from the beginning. But something told me that it was the right thing to do.
And you know what? Scotland County proved me right.
Everyone has been great here: From players to coaches to everyone in-between, never once did I feel like an outsider or like I didn’t belong. I’ve joked with SHS varsity football coach Richard Bailey and his wife Laura about this, because like them, I also had to acclimate myself to Scotland County as a fresh face in this community.
And again like them, I’ve felt welcomed and embraced from the very start.
That’s not to say I didn’t have my share of head-scratching moments in the hundreds of stories I’ve written here, to be sure. Having not been a lifelong resident, there undoubtedly were some growing pains that I trudged through as I learned the ins-and-outs of a local sports culture that was completely foreign to me before I arrived.
Not to delve too deeply into my occasional missteps (primarily because I don’t want to embarrass myself too much), but a recent typo definitely had me banging my head against a wall. It will only get worse when my mother (who has a print copy of every story I’ve ever had published) gets her hands on it, because she will inevitably greet me with a scolding and a bar of soap which will be used to wash my mouth out.
Of course I’ll let her do it, because no matter if I’m 8 years-old or a senior citizen I’ll always do as she says. I learned a long time ago to mind her advice (and a good woman’s advice in general), and it’s only helped me in my relationship with my fiance Nicole. Not that I’m looking forward to said advice/punishment one bit though.
Ultimately, I’d like to think that the positives have outweighed the (occasionally humorous) negatives, and I want leave the Exchange and our readers with a promise.
I promise to do everything in my power to help find my eventual replacement as quickly as possible, because looking ahead, there are simply too many great sports stories on the horizon to not be shared with the great people in this community. It’s the least I can do for a place that truly felt like a second home, and for the people who helped make my time here something I will cherish a lifetime.
Before I frantically scan back through my last day’s work for any more cringe-inducing mistakes, I want to go back to the very first thing that I ever wrote for the Laurinburg Exchange.
As I said then and I’m saying now: Thank you for having me, and thank you Scotland County.