After my first game covering South Carolina for The Post and Courier, as I sweated through a deadline story on a team I was still learning about, the press box at Arkansas shook.
As I recall, I looked over at Josh Kendall of The State. He was also wide-eyed, wondering what just happened. I think we nervously laughed for a moment, checked Twitter to determine that, yes, this was indeed an earthquake in Arkansas, and resumed writing our game stories.
That was my introduction to covering South Carolina. Having just started earlier that week, I had no idea what that night in early November 2011 would mean for the rest of my time on the beat. And while the press box did not sway after every game – though it certainly did when Georgia played in Columbia last season – the experience covering the Gamecocks for the past year and nine months has been an unpredictable, eventful and fun ride.
In two weeks, it will come to an end. I have accepted a job covering the New York Jets for The Star-Ledger in Newark. My first day will be the preseason opener on Aug. 9 in Detroit. It may or may not be as odd of a start as the earthquake night in Arkansas. But I know for sure that covering the Jets will be an immensely challenging and rewarding experience – and I can’t wait to get started.
I really enjoyed my time in South Carolina, and the friends I made here – guys like Michael Haney from 107.5 The Game and David Cloninger, who just got a job at The State. I had a chance to hang out with some of the Clemson beat writers who became friends – Greg Wallace, Larry Williams and Travis Sawchik. I was able to visit the beautiful city of Charleston more than I ever imagined I would.
Working for and with The Post and Courier’s sports editor, Malcolm DeWitt, and columnist, Gene Sapakoff, was an absolute pleasure – as the next person who takes the South Carolina beat will find. Travis Haney, my predecessor on the beat, was a huge help at the beginning, and for that, I am grateful to him.
Of course, covering Southeastern Conference football was a blast. As you guys obviously know, Steve Spurrier is no wallflower – much like Rex Ryan – and us media mongrels love covering coaches like that. South Carolina certainly made its share of news during my season and a half on the beat, and covering a program on a prominent stage, and in rising state, added energy to most Saturdays in the press box.
It will be odd to spend Saturdays watching college football on television now, far away from its epicenter in the South, where I covered it for eight seasons (two on Virginia, four-plus on Virginia Tech, one-plus on South Carolina).
After graduating from Syracuse in 2004, I spent the next seven years living in Virginia (first Norfolk, then Blacksburg), before moving to Columbia. In my nine years in the South – or what constitutes the South for someone who grew up near Albany, N.Y. – I was able to meet people, see places, cover games and do things that made life so much richer.
But the chance to move closer to home and cover the NFL for a major metro newspaper was an opportunity I could not pass up. So I will load the moving truck in a couple weeks and drive north, into the tightly packed streets of Hoboken, which should be an adventure in itself.
Finally, and most importantly, I wanted to thank those of you who took time to read this blog and my stories. You guys who subscribe to the paper – either in print, online or both – play no small role in keeping newspaper journalism alive, not just here in South Carolina, but all across the country. And those of us who make a living in this sometimes unpredictable, often thrilling, always eventful line of work greatly appreciate the contributions you offer, by reading and engaging in dialogue with us. That’s what makes our work feel like it matters.
So I’ll have a couple more weeks of stories and blogs as the Gamecocks begin preseason practices, and then it’s off to New Jersey.