Greetings, Examiner readers.
After helping out the staff here in Independence for two years, I was excited to be offered the spot recently held by Shawn Garrison, and I plan to run with it as well as he did.
To give a little background, your new Examiner sports writer came to the Kansas City area two years ago because that’s where the heart led me to my wife after six years at my hometown newspaper in Tiffin, Ohio, a small county seat city about an hour southeast of Toledo. There’s enough Michigan and Detroit Tigers fans in that region to make for plenty of friendly banter with Ohio State and Cleveland Indians rooters, and when I watched the local news growing up, I got to witness the bright, glowing personality that is former Rockets coach Gary Pinkel.
Before work at the hometown shop was four years at Ball State University, where I covered football and men’s basketball for student newspaper as a junior and senior. No, David Letterman never came to campus while I was there, but I happened to pass by when fellow alum Jason Whitlock paid a small visit, and I had the pleasure of shaking Buck O’Neil’s hand when he visited as part of a baseball history panel.
Another localized tidbit: The first BSU basketball game I saw was on television, when Cardinals opened the season at the Maui Invitational by upsetting Drew Gooden, Nick Collison and the rest of the Kansas Jayhawks.
Alas, I never got to cover my school at the NCAA Tournament or at a bowl game. Maui was the high point of Tim Buckley’s coaching tenure, and my two years covering football were the first two years of current Michigan boss Brady Hoke rebuilding his alma mater’s program. That included home-and-home beatdowns from Brad Smith-led Missouri.
As a fan, though, one of my greatest thrills was attending Ball State football’s win over Western Michigan to complete a 12-0 regular season in 2008. Blue Springs native Darius Hill didn’t catch a touchdown pass in that game, though the tight end’s four snares included a 38-yarder.
As I likely will do here, I mainly covered high school sports in Ohio, but it certainly was a different setting. A school like Grain Valley or William Chrisman would be a big one in the Tiffin area, and most schools don’t have a soccer or swim team. A few don’t even have football. A team making a run to state in a given season is something you more hope than plan for, and Division I college athletes usually come a handful a year, if at all.
Fortunately, I got to cover one of those Division I athletes, recent Ohio State long-range gunner Jon Diebler, breaking the state’s career prep scoring record, and three such volleyball players were from my high school graduating class that numbered in the 60s, though they never could beat the volleyball talent factory at a similar-sized league rival. So, the quantity of high-level prep talent I’ll see here is something I can appreciate a little.
I do miss some of the small-school football crowds in Ohio that would rival or surpass many I’ve seen so far here, I do miss seeing two marching bands at games and one of the nation’s best high school state wrestling tournaments, and I don’t know if I’ll ever get used to prep softball in the fall.
But I certainly am looking forward to all I’ll be covering for The Examiner, from the local sports to stories about people who trace their sports roots to here. Being able to hop on I-70 for a short trip to The K whenever my Tigers are in town to play the Royals isn’t too bad, either.
Mike Genet is the assistant sports editor for The Examiner. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 816-350-6319. Follow him on Twitter: @genetEJC