By JOHN P. WISE
One Great Season
CLEVELAND -- I've never been afraid to write on a personal level, exposing my own delicate truths that many others would probably keep private. But I usually stay away from the typical what-I'm-thankful-for cliche piece that scribes so often kick out this time of year.
If you know me, you might remember how difficult 2002 was for me. Laid off from a job, diagnosed with depression, spent thousands on a ring that I almost gave to a girlfriend who moved out for another dude, etc.
But I recovered quickly enough to get the news career -- and the mental health -- back on track within a couple of months.
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And while this year's job loss was equally difficult, I can't help but be immensely thankful for it because it opened the door for me to begin a journey that replaced misery with happiness, which of course makes the grandest voyage of them all so much more enjoyable.
I don't have many friends who wouldn't want to do what I'm doing right now. I left my Brooklyn apartment in August, and except for the 36-hour drop-in last week, won't return until mid-December. I've never taken on anything like this in my life. I've been hitting a new college town each week, taking in press conferences with football coaches, interviewing players after practices, sampling the restaurants and meeting the locals during the week.
Then on gameday, I've taken in some tailgating fun and stood on the sidelines of some of the sport's biggest games this year, with a nice camera and my mediocre photography skills, shooting guys like Tim Tebow, Matt Barkley and Terrelle Pryor.
And I write about the journey on this site every day. I add some videos and still pictures and ask you for feedback. I hit up local radio and TV and print guys in the cities I visit. In most markets, I get some media bites, and site traffic jumps for a day or two and I'm pleased about the coverage.
Along the way, I've sharpened some skills and picked up new ones. I've marketed the hell out of my project, but still need to learn how to sell it. If you can help me publish a book, I'll be thankful for that, too.
Many have donated a few bucks or made a couch or a car or even your tailgate party available to me as I travel from state to state. I've made many new friends, stayed in touch with curious current friends and re-connected with old ones. In fact, at a high-school reunion Tuesday night, a gal I hadn't seen in 20 years reminded me that I once asked her to look up a word on page 875 of the big dictionary in the school library. When she got to the page, she noticed a gigantic booger I apparently put there the day before. I don't remember the prank, but I'll take Rene's word for it. Always a jackass, once a jackass.
Now while this project has required hard work on my part, I'm actually able to write this note right now in the comfort of my folks' living room in Cleveland, enjoying some holiday down time before I head back to Morgantown, W. Va. I'm covering Friday's Backyard Brawl between Pittsburgh and West Virginia, then heading back up to Pittsburgh for the week to get ready for the de facto Big East championship game there between the Panthers and my alma mater, the undefeated Cincinnati Bearcats.
And for those who've prayed for and asked about my stepdad, we're thankful for you, too. Mike's doing just great. The cancer is gone, he's eating like a champ and you hardly notice the scar around his jaw as a result of a bone from his leg being re-located there. Turns out his plastic surgeon was the same doc who worked on the Connecticut woman attacked by a chimpanzee this year.
The tour has certainly presented a stumbling block or two along the way, but overall, it's the best thing I've ever done, and regardless of the tremendous debt I'm accumulating, I will have zero regret when I return to a normal life -- as normal as I can be, at least -- back in New York next month.
Life is far too short to be spent regretting the things you didn't have the courage to try, isn't it? All I need to do is work hard for a year to pay off the debt, and then maybe around this time next year, I'll express gratitude for being available to begin the next great adventure. Perhaps along the way I will have gotten a book published about my One Great Season.
I hope my endeavor inspires at least one of you to try something you've only talked about for years. I'm no motivational speaker, but I guarantee you'll be a happier person just for trying. And isn't happiness what we all hope to be thankful for?