In this newspaper, on these pages, I’ve written about some of my most difficult moments in life.
I’ve grown up in these very pages, from a brash, smart-aleck, 20-something kid always looking to pick a fight, to a 45-year-old married man with two kids, a mortgage and a much better sense of what truly is worth fighting for. Along the way, I’ve experienced my fair share of both unbridled joy and unspeakable tragedy, all of which I’ve tried to share with you, the reader.
I’ve opened up my veins and bled on these pages. I’ve had to pause in the middle of writing a story to wipe the tears from my eyes. I’ve written about losing both my parents, my sister’s battle with cancer and finding out our son was on the autism spectrum. I’ve written about athletes dying far too young and losing legends we thought we’d always have with us here on Earth.
One thing I’ve found in all of those hardships, however, is that you’ve always been right there with me. I have often been overwhelmed with the love and support I’ve received from this community whenever things get a little tougher than I thought I could handle.
And that’s why I’m hoping I’ll have your love and support one more time.
For all the difficult topics I’ve tried to tackle in my 22 years here, and the hundreds of thousands of words I’ve typed in, I am about to write five words that I quite frankly never thought I would.
I am leaving this newspaper.
On June 28, I will work my final day at Miami Valley Today (formerly the Troy Daily News), a job I started in the fall of 1991 when I was a senior at Troy High School and would have been working at full time since Dec. 17, 1996. I am leaving to become the Troy City Schools communications director.
This will allow me to continue to pursue one of my biggest passions, telling the stories of incredible young people, in a slightly different medium. I honestly thought I’d never leave here, but the chance to work for the Troy City Schools may be the only job on the planet — not including CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment — that could draw me away from this place.
I am both overjoyed and excited about the opportunity to pursue a different path in life and continue to do something I love, but at the same time, a little sad about who and what I am leaving behind.
For more than two decades — nearly three decades if you include the time I spent here in high school and college — this office building at 224 S. Market St. has been my second home. Actually, there have been times when I’ve spent so much time here that it‘s felt like my only home. This has been my sanctuary. Whenever I needed to escape, this building has offered me the opportunity to pour out my heart and soul to you, dear reader.
I have yet to find anything that can quite compare to the rush of writing an important story on deadline.
This is the place where I met my wife. This is the place where I’ve made countless friends, both in the office and in the community. I have been afforded opportunities I never would have previously dreamed imaginable. Returning a kickoff for the short-lived Miami Valley Silverbacks indoor football team, stepping into the ring to get beaten up by professional wrestlers (it was all real), covering my beloved Troy High School football team and twice winning the Strawberry Festival bed races with my coworkers weren’t just career highlights, they were lifetime highlights.
Those, of course, are merely snapshots of a career in full.
There’s not enough ink or paper — or beats in my heart — to fully express what the opportunity to work here has meant to me. As a failed athlete whose sports career fizzled out before sixth grade, this job has allowed me to live out all of my unrequited sports dreams and fantasies. I have been blessed to live vicariously through the hundreds (possibly thousands) of talented athletes and coaches who have come through Miami County the past 22 years.
When they celebrated big wins, I felt their joy. When they dropped tears on the lockerroom floor after a crushing defeat, my heart wept with them.
One thing I’ve realized in this job, however, is that I’m not really a sports writer. Not in the traditional sense, at least. I prefer to think of myself as a person who writes about people who happen to play sports. For me, it’s never been about who has the most points at the end, but rather the human emotion and drama that are a means to that end. I just wanted to tell their stories.
Of course, if you stick around a newspaper long enough, you get to branch out into other coverage areas, as well. I’ve been able to write this column and write stories about people who don’t play sports. I hope that every story or column I’ve written here either made you laugh, made you cry or made you think … or, if I’ve done my job well, all three.
There’s no way I can possibly thank all of you who I’ve either written about or who have read what I’ve written for the past 22 years … but know you’ll always have a place in my heart. I have been blessed to be my hometown’s sports writer, columnist and bard. Thank you for letting me tell your stories and thank you for reading. I leave this job with a great affinity for all of you.
I may only have a few weeks left here at the newspaper — but I’ll have a lifetime of memories.
Hopefully I’ve left you with a few as well.
David Fong writes for Miami Valley Today, a division of AIM Media Midwest.