To some this is the day they’ve been waiting for. For others, their sounding board for all things going wrong in Anaconda will be stepping down.
As many have heard, I’ll be relinquishing my role as the sports and outdoors editor here at the Anaconda Leader and moving on. All the haters, rejoice!
Many memories and friendships have been made sitting at the smallest desk in the Leader office, while the truest colors of all have also been uncovered.
I hold no ill will to those who bring you the news every Wednesday and Friday, in fact I still pledge to remain a subscriber, I just feel another opportunity is there for the taking, and I owe it to my ever-growing family to pursue it.
From covering the Copperhead girls’ basketball team’s amazing back-to-back Class A State Championship run in 2007-’08 to this year’s football team’s rise from the dead, this has been far more than a just a job. I loved every day of work, on good days and bad, knowing it was my calling in life.
I’ve met some amazing people along the way, most notably the coaches I’ve been honored to learn from, sit down with and confide in — and not only those who call the Smelter City home. It has been truly inspiring and enlightening.
But for me, bringing the public up close and personal to some of the greatest young men and women I’ve ever met is what I cherish most of all. I’ve had the pleasure of writing about all kinds of quality individuals, from the likes of Jesse Laslovich, the only non-politician in politics I know, to Rob Johnson, who, despite never being raised in Anaconda still holds it close, and the too numerous to mention athletes that have and continue to strike me as remarkable individuals and members of society on and off the playing field.
When I began here in 2007, my goals were clear. I wanted the sports section to rival and mimic those of a daily publication full of colorful pictures, concise stories and informational and truthful columns. From the many people I’ve been in contact with during my time, I think I’ve done just that even when my personal opinions weren’t exactly popular with the majority of my readers.
Looking back on some of the hate mail makes me smile because, well, I love a good argument. As a newspaperman, I especially appreciate when people hate you for your opinion and are shocked and appalled how it can be written, only to fire back in the same manner, usually anonymously. I guess my biggest lesson when I began this gig was the term “irony” wasn’t just a slang term from a Goosetowner and Lincoln Elementary student for getting the wrinkles out of ones slacks (c’mon, I’m a proud Washington and Dwyer school boy, you didn’t think I could let that easy opportunity go no did you?).
I’ve prided myself on keeping track of the kids when they left Anaconda High, too, many of whom I’ve developed personal relationships to this day. Nothing brings me more joy than to see our local athletes take their talents into the college ranks and spread the true spirit of what it means to be a Copperhead into a more diverse circle of people. And time after time, the city of Anaconda and AHS come out winners.
Our policy is we don’t thank those who have been the most helpful and inspirational in columns and reader’s submissions, however this, my farewell column, is going to bend the rules (like that’s something new, right?). The owner and publisher here at the Leader, Dean Neitz, is an amazing individual. At 84-years-young, he still manages to work everyday, depending on the snowfall at Discovery that is, and is the fabric of what makes Anaconda a grand place to raise a family even if he calls Philipsburg home. Without him, I wouldn’t be writing this, and I know, without his guidance, I wouldn’t have become the writer I am now (insert punch line here).
My biggest debt of gratitude has to go to my wife, Melissa, for having the courage to never read my columns in order to stay clear of the next angry mob deadset on getting me fired. Through it all, she’s disagreed with me more than any one of the pick and torch gang, and has still stayed by my side.
An honorable mention in the “thank you” department goes to the father-son duo of Dave and Mike McLean, who, if not for their death row-like track record in the courts or on the lanes, many of my punchlines would’ve held no merit.
And while I’m name dropping, I have to give a shout out (in no particular order but as you can see I was going from the earliest to most recent) to Marcus Lussy, Clark Hensley, Kelly Deeks, Tristan Spehar, Dustin Hanson, Jake Orrino, Lucas Wagner, Tyler Hurley, Henry Huber, Steve Collins, Matt King, Cory Orrino, Cory Donahue, Chris and Sean Funston, Cara Laslovich, Sammi Barkell, Ali Hurley, Courtney (Austin) Green, McCall Flynn, Kirstin King, Korey Krumm, Torry Hill, Lisa Laslovich, Chelsea Galle, Rachel Wagner, Kelsey Austin, Erin Heaney, Teryn Green, Kyle Moore, Colton and Taylor Scholler, Jayme Stergar, Bobby Smollack, Hannah Anderson, Mia Estes, Karli King, Courtney Moodry, Taylor Flynn, Eric Boyd, Joey Orrino, Anthony Orrino, Jayce Barclay, Geoff Dierenfeldt, Jade Green, Jackson Wagner, Zach Dauenhauer, Jacqueline Verlanic, Vatore Hekkel, Kaylea Jorgensen, Kara Jouhal, Teah Fuller, Drew Conrady and Caleb Stetzner — all names that came right off the top of my head when thinking about those who treated me as equal, or better, during my time here (I know I may have missed a few, too).
Luckily, I’ll still be covering Anaconda High School sports, just in a slightly different capacity with KANA 580 AM and also on my Copperhead Country blog at csphotollc.com (for now, it will be moving shortly to www.copperheadcountry.com) and on Twitter at @blakeahssports I’ll cover sporting events and local news tidbits on the blog until our own Web site is up and operational, giving the reader and Anacondans up to the minute news on the happening here in the Smelter City.
I urge you to keep supporting the Leader as a valuable news source here in Anaconda, and sincerely thank you for all the hate mail, letters of encouragement and jokes along the way. It will all make for a good book some day.
Through it all I’ve been called a craven, scourge, coward, liar, deadbeat, punk, misinformed, incorrect and unfair, and my writings have been compared to Neo-Nazi vitriol, which from my findings on Wikipedia is pretty bad.
I’ve been told “the pen is mightier than the sword, but when misused either one can jump up and bite you.” And all this time, I had no idea pens or swords could jump or bite. Maybe if the scribe of that letter said the frog is mightier than the dragon, his/her point would’ve been made a little more sense. A stretch, yes, but I digress.
As you can tell from my rambling, it’s hard for me to let this job and sounding board go. The job has proven to me that no matter the controversy or how much a portion of individuals hated me for every word I said, at least they kept reading to see what was next on the list for them to disagree with.
At least now my bowling and golf scores — if I get the chance to pick the games up again — can finally hit news print without the insinuation that the only reason I put them in is to get my name in the paper. And yes, that letter actually hit my desk.
Thanks for the great ride, Anaconda.