The Ottumwa Courier

April 25, 2013

Looking back at a year gone by

By ANDY HEINTZ
Ottumwa Courier

---- — Now that I'm approaching my one-year anniversary at the Ottumwa Courier I figure now is as good a time as any to write in a retrospective vein.

When I first arrived in Ottumwa, a place I didn't know existed until I sent the Courier my job resume, I had no idea what to expect. So, I channeled my inner Jimmy Buffett, and decided that only time would if this would be time well spent.

Now, with an array of experiences and a potpourri of memories stored in my brain, I can honestly say my time here has certainly been well spent.

Since the end of last April, I've got to watch Sydney Strunk and Cody McConnell run; and Carter Burns, all 6-6 of him, knock down 3-pointers and slam dunk a basketball; and Sammy Garrett spray singles and doubles all over the baseball diamond; and C.J. Ray rip a forehand down the line; and Paige Schreiner throw someone out from shortstop; and Katie Sammons spike a volleyball; and Matthew Walker drive his second shot just inches from the pin. I've got to watch Seth Griffiths and Alec Maas crease through the Bulldogs' offensive line and scamper for touchdowns; and Olivia Roark knock down two 3-pointers to send a game into overtime; and Frank Huston coaching up his softball team; and Karsten Van Velsor methodically dominating his opponent until the poor soul's shoulders were invariably pinned to the mat; and Bailey Palmer bowl strike after strike after strike.

Covering the Bulldogs has never suffered from a lack of fun, although I concede that there are certainly vocations that trump sports writing in terms of importance and prominence. If I mess up a statistic the worst thing that can happen is I will get chewed out by Johnny football's mom for soiling her son's future scrapbook. I feel bad, sure, but Western civilization will go on.

In fact, even in journalism, sportswriters are often taken less seriously than news reporters who write about more "serious" matters. Though I've always been a little piqued by that comparison, it does contain traces of truth. After all, sportswriters, whether they be covering high school or professional sports, are essentially writing about games most of us played as kids. When compared to hard-hitting stories about murder cases, health care and fires, sports can seem rather picayune.

But, at there best, sports bestow special moments on athletes that they carry with them for the rest of their lives and sportswriters have the honor of transcribing those moments onto the printed page. And, on those days when sad or tragic stories swim through the news section — our news reporters cover those events better than I ever could — of the paper, sports offer a refreshing tonic.

For me, the best part of writing about Ottumwa's athletes is to be able to communicate their stories to readers. And, I really appreciate how polite and generous the Bulldog athletes and coaches have been with their time, as they helped me do that as accurately as possible.

To quote the Grateful Dead with a slight twist to fit the narrative, looking back on my year in Ottumwa, lately it occurs to me what a long, great trip it's been.