Whether you can believe it or not, Thanksgiving is just nine days away.
In the spirit of the holiday, for the third year in a row I’ve compiled a list of things that I’ve encountered over the past year for which I am thankful and make my job as a NewsTribune Sports Writer so much fun and enjoyable.
So, like a Thanksgiving feast, let’s dig in!
The Prokup family
Oct. 9 was one of the most emotional days I’ve had at the NT.
On that Tuesday, I traveled to Urbana for the Class A St. Thomas More Girls Golf Sectional, where St. Bede senior Barbi Prokup attempted to qualify for her first state meet.
The emotional highs and lows of that day were incredible and something the Prokup family let me be a part of.
We huddled closely together around the results board for nearly two hours as Barbi went from thinking the season was over to maybe having a chance at advancing to waiting for the final scores to come in to participating in a playoff to falling in the playoff.
It was quite a ride and something I genuinely appreciate the Prokup family let me take part in.
Even though Barbi didn’t accomplish what she ultimately wanted — advancing to state — she ended up with a decent consolation prize of being named NewsTribune Girls Golfer of the Year — an award she was so happy about winning that she thanked me five times during the phone call when I informed her she had won.
Stuff like that makes this job so satisfying.
One thing I’ve come to realize over the past year: the NewsTribune sports staff is awfully demanding.
From crashing practices to do interviews to wanting up-to-date season stats to needing mug shots to wanting game results, we ask a lot.
But here’s the thing: every coach, athlete, athletic director and secretary have been nothing but willing to help.
It’s people like them that make this job easier and help us produce a sports section we can be proud of.
So to all of those who we have, do or will annoy in the future, we greatly appreciate your assistance. We can’t do what we do without you!
Bill Booker’s high road
A lot has been written and said in the last seven months about the former La Salle-Peru baseball coach, but there’s one thing that hasn’t been mentioned that struck me.
In this profession you get to know a lot of people really well, and often times we know far more than what is printed.
It was no different with Booker, which could have easily led him to bad mouth or blast the administration at L-P.
But here’s the thing, both publicly and privately, he never did.
Yes, he referenced the situation during last year’s run to the state title game, but both on and off the record he never once said a bad thing about L-P’s administration or Board of Education to me.
Whether you agree or not with the move that was made isn’t the point. It’s about the high road that Booker consistently took, even when I pushed him.
I gained a lifetime of admiration and respect for Booker because of how he handled the situation, one in which I likely would have been far, far less civil.
Holiday basketball tournaments
Every year in late November and late December we trek hundreds of combined miles to cover Thanksgiving and Christmas basketball tournaments.
These weeks are often long, grueling and sometimes seemingly never-ending, but these sleep-deprived weeks are also the most fun.
Spending the week traveling from tournament to tournament is often times the most enjoyable part of the winter season.
In a normal week, we can see an average of 1-3 area basketball teams, but during these on-the-go weeks we can often see 5-10 local teams in 4-5 days.
There’s nothing like the atmosphere of a holiday tournament and seeing friends from other newspapers. And yes, the hospitality rooms don’t hurt either.
The Red Devil community
I was at the first day of Hall football practice and witnessed and reported on the tragic death of junior Daniel Lule.
It was a heart-wrenching day and something I wish no parent, player or coach would have to experience.
However, the display of support by the Hall community following was absolutely incredible. Never in my life have I seen sports bring together a community so quickly and tightly.
In Hall’s trying time, it rallied around each other, and the Red Devil community came together for Daniel.
It was a very special and unfortunate time.
Jared Bell is a NewsTribune Sports Writer. He can be reached at 220-6938, or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsJared.