Perhaps it was the crowds and the energy they produced or the big and bright places where they gathered.
Maybe it was the awe-inspiring ability and competitiveness of the players on the field or court, who I admired from an early age and tried to emulate.
Sports were my first love and what I wanted to do with my life. So when it became clear I did not possess the physical capability to play at a professional level, I pursued a career that would keep me just as close to the games I adored watching in the Astrodome, Summit or at home on the TV.
Sportswriting seemed like the next-best thing, and it turned out I was better at observing, critiquing and capturing the spirit of the games than I was at playing them. I approached reporting and writing with the same passion and precision that players employ while shooting, swinging or slamming an opponent into the turf. I occasionally displayed the same sort of competitive drive, too, while trying to a break a story or pursue an angle no one else had noticed.
That was my life for the last two decades, and it was a good one. Sportswriting earned me a degree from the University of Texas and led me to locales all over the state and throughout the country. I got paid to attend events at places like the Alamodome, Cotton Bowl and Busch Stadium, got to meet future stars and living legends, and also got some awards and accolades along the way.
Like every great athlete comes to realize, though, there comes a time to move on. And in my case, as is the case with many standouts in sports, retirement came before I realized I was ready for it.
In May, just a few months after receiving my latest sportswriting award, I was among several journalists laid off by the San Antonio Express-News, a sister paper of the Houston Chronicle. It was not something I saw coming, or felt like I deserved, but those things happen, especially in an ever-evolving media landscape.
My first inclination was to find another avenue to continue covering sports, but I also felt a pull away from the playing field. Some of my favorite work during the last few years had more to do with human-interest elements and off-the-field issues, and I’d long had an interest in covering topics that are more pressing to a community and its citizens.
I started tuning out some of the games and paying closer attention to public policy, economic and environmental issues, culture and the arts. I also found myself looking less for places to watch sports and more for the latest and greatest spots to eat, drink and be merry.
That led me to The Leader, where the leader of your favorite weekly newspaper must have seen a little bit of himself in me. Publisher Jonathan McElvy also started out as a sportswriter before graduating to more sophisticated journalistic endeavors, and he’s given me the opportunity to do the same by hiring me as editor.
I’m grateful to be back in the newspaper game and thrilled to be playing a slightly different sport. I’m manning a new position that will require a learning curve, both in terms of getting to know the area as well as adding managerial responsibilities to writing, reporting and editing.
But I’m anxious to tackle those challenges, add new pitches to my repertoire and tell stories that will inform and inspire the community.
I’m also excited to be back in my hometown and serving a part of town that includes a diverse and eclectic mix of people, places and pursuits. That became apparent during my first reporting assignment Tuesday morning, when I stopped by two polling places in Oak Forest and visited with a sampling of residents after they had voted.
We talked local, statewide and national politics, of course, but also delved into residential issues, evolving demographics and the area’s booming restaurant scene. Friendliness was a common theme during those conversations, and so was love and admiration for The Leader.
That was an encouraging sign for the paper’s new editorial leader, who plans to tweak the game plan for covering the area but does not want to change the winning recipe that has made The Leader a trusted, respected news source for nearly 65 years. I’m here to serve you, The Leader’s readers, and am open to your comments, concerns and criticisms.
If you’d like to throw some compliments our way, that’s cool, too.
Just don’t be a stranger to the newest member of the community. I’ll be out and about and want to interact with as many of you as possible.
The ultimate goal for this former sportswriter is to win you over and become your No. 1 fan.
Email Adam at azuvanich@ theleadernews.com