For anyone reading this, I ask that you please take a seat.
What I am about to say will make some of you sad and you should be in a comfortable position to read it. For others, you'll enjoy the ability to leap from your chair or couch in celebration. It will be an exhilarating experience, and you're welcome.
This is my last column for The Express-Star. I am leaving to take a job with The Norman Transcript starting Monday, March 28.
I had one big rule from the beginning of this column series: sports mentions will be kept to, at best, minimal. That stuff belongs on page 1B and I didn't want to confuse my thoughts here with those I have elsewhere in the newspaper.
For this, my last piece, I will break that rule. I promise, it's for a good cause.
Above everything else I've grown fond of in this job, I will truly miss the student athletes.
Grady County, your kids are alright.
In fact, they're a lot more than alright. Watching some of these kids play and grow in the sports that set their hearts on fire, their attitudes both on and off of the playing field; it all restored my faith in the next generations of this country.
I have been witness to some fantastic achievements. Some, like those of Chickasha softball, were a reminder of where I came from.
I had the opportunity to do some sports journalism in high school, and I vividly remember the spring softball season as a senior. My friends and classmates shone in a different light than I had ever seen as they clawed their way deep into the playoffs.
So, to the two-time state champion Lady Chicks, thank you for taking me back. Your heart and dedication to hard work until the very end is an inspiration, and I have no doubt each and every one of you will go on to do great things.
To the Alex Longhorns, thank you for a proper introduction to eight-man football. That cold, foggy night in Weatherford for the Class B title game will remain one of my favorite sporting memories.
It remains the greatest football game I have ever witnessed, and the fact that you all won it in the end just made the whole experience that much more worth it.
Chickasha football, your time is coming. It won't be easy, but the process of building a program takes time, patience and hard work that comes without reward more often than not.
The pieces are in place. Parents, stop fighting about the youth football system. It's time to come together so these kids know the Chickasha way from the earliest possible age.
Only then can a system of greatness truly be implemented.
Grady County, keep your basketball and baseball tournaments strong. They are timeless traditions, always a joy to cover and true grass-roots sports at its finest.
Chickasha basketball, thank you for sending me out on a high note. That departure from state against Anadarko drove home the finality of it all.
At the final buzzer, I retreated to my computer. My heart could hardly take it.
Even as a local sports editor, my job is to remain neutral in coverage. Sure, I can afford to be a little biased in the sense that I write about the local team and players the most.
But it is hard to remain subjective. Over time, you see these brave kids get out there every night and fight for every moment, and then you see it all pay off. How can you not cheer them on, even if only in the mind?
I love sports so much because I believe that of all the things mankind has invented over the centuries, it retains the most human quality. In normal daily life, we build walls and masks to direct people to things we want them to see or hide parts of ourselves from view.
In sports, you simply cannot do that. Sports is raw, pure human energy. There is no hiding your true self.
If you are mad, you get mad. If you are happy, the joy springs passionately from the heart all the way out into the open air.
If you are sad, the tears come falling unapologetically from eyes that, having been set on a prize so high, cannot stand to now look down. There's absolutely nothing wrong with any of it.
So to all the student athletes and coaches, thank you for showing me your true selves. It's as if I got to witness your souls in action.
And it was all so beautiful.