It’s time. The time is right to walk away from something that has given me much joy for the last 18 years, outdoor sports writing. In order to devote my full attention to a commitment to a book project, this will be my last post for endorphinrelease.com. I want to thank the owner of this site Dave Odell for his support and friendship, as well as his commitment to athletics in the Santa Barbara area. He is an incredible human being who I hope decides to run for public office some day. Because we need more people like him leading people like me.
In this experience, I have been blessed with getting to know countless people through sports stories and my outdoor columns first in the Santa Barbara News-Press beginning in 1999 through the middle of 2014, and then after Dave recognized a need and went out and created endorphinrelease.com later that year. Through this entire period, I’ve had a lot of support. In addition to Dave and my wife, most has come from Bruce Davis, Joe Howell, Stuart Sato, Mike Swan, Marcus Elliott, Peter Park and the greatest teacher I have ever known, Rich Powell.
Wow, 1999-it seemed like not too long ago when I approached the then News-Press sports editor and still great columnist Mark Patton about taking over for a writer on the day the scribe left the paper. It was an act similar to what is called “vulturing” in baseball. A few days later, he surprised…no shocked me by asking, “Sounds good. When can you start?”
Those first few years, I wrote with the constant fear of being found out-half expecting to get one of those Snoopy rejection letters saying what I’m writing “does not suit our present needs.” But after one, two, three, five years, the proverbial other shoe never dropped much to my surprise. Despite that apparent security, I wrote like that fear never subsided and kept that to drive me into writing the NP’s Lifestyle Sports column, something my buddy Joe teased me by encouraging me to get the same-named prophylactic company to sponsor it, every week without a break. By the time they did call time on the column due to a lack of space in the summer of 2014, I had written a weekly outdoor sports column for 800 consecutive weeks. I wasn’t Cal Ripken or anything, but it was something I was very proud of at the time.
Looking back on the streak recently produced a different feeling, I wonder why the heck couldn’t I have taken a week off? Man, that was stupid. Thinking about that, plus going to all those weekend races and events, my poor wife Munch. I owe her big time.
Speaking of “poor”, I think the same thing about past editors who had to wait on stories from me after a game or race at night. Throughout my life, I’ve been dealing with a form of Attention Deficit Disorder-which isn’t an ideal affliction to have in profession where focus and speed are of the essence. I’ve been lucky to have some really good night editors like Dennis Moran and Alex Pavlovic, who now covers the San Francisco Giants for Comcast Sports. I’ve enjoyed working with virtually all of my sports editors, Patton, Gerry Spratt-who was later the Metro section editor of the San Francisco Chronicle, Barry Punzal, and Gerry Fall come to mind. BTW, what are the odds of having two editors who spell the name Gerry with a “G” anyway?
I’ve also worked with a virtual all-star lineup of photographers-Mike Eliason, Rob Barthelmess, Matt Wier, Tom Kelsey, Nik Blaskovich and Eric Isaacs… They made coming to work fun, as did seeing colleagues Mike Klan, Blake Dorfman, Paul Wellman, and the legendary John Zant whenever we were lucky enough to “compete” against each other. I put that word in quotations, because we all knew that it was never about that. In terms of writing about outdoor sports, I often looked to a great influence on this space, Ironman Hall of Fame inductee Bob Babbitt.
There were places that felt like athletic versions of the show “Cheers” to me – my alma mater UCSB thanks to people like Christina Baglas, Jack Rivas, Bill Mahoney and Andrew Wagner, Santa Barbara High’s Eddie Matthews Field, the San Marcos track, the Dos Pueblos cross country course, Carpinteria Valley Memorial Stadium’s track…all because of the people who competed, coached or worked there. Perhaps the most welcome I’ve ever felt was on press row of Westmont’s Murchison Gym (there was actually only one seat, but it was always reserved for me). Come to think of it, it felt pretty darn good to be in the temporary press box at Russ Carr Field and the Westmont Track too-and not just because they fed this poor soul.
It had more to do with who was sitting next to me-Westmont Sports Information Director Ron Smith – one of the finest human beings I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. My favorite time sitting next to Ron was not at a Westmont game I confess. In August 2015, we were sitting side-by-side at Dodger Stadium when Jake Arrieta pitched a no-hitter. That sports moment, which is one of my favorite times as a spectator, culminated a period of several decades where I watched at least 10 near no-no’s, only to be denied every time. But it was great for a lifelong Cubs fan like Ron, who enjoyed an even greater victory when they won the World Series last Fall. I rooted for the Cubs for Ron and Esther Woods, the mother of former Cubs player and all-around good guy Gary Woods, who passed away not long ago.
East Beach is also a favorite place, but as long as Francisco’s blueberry wheat germ pancakes are being made, there’s no way in heck I’m staying away from there.
The races, games and events all blur together-and I can’t think of a favorite one. But I can think of some favorite people who made them memorable while they were happening –Ellen Wall, Mary Lu DeBolt, Jim Howley, Duncan and Terry Thomas, Wally Marantette, Jake Clinton, Dave Gonzales, Delia and Brian Cook, Gary and Deanna Flacke, Joe Coito, John Brennand, Jonny Martin and many others.
I’m relatively healthy and my wife and I plan to stick around here for a bit, so we’re not planning on going anywhere soon. I’ll still be writing for other publications, and will even dabble in sports now and again. But the main priority is to get this book done and hopefully on the shelves somewhere.
While I won’t miss the night deadlines and the grind, I will miss the interactions that accompany this experience. I will look back up on everything with appreciation thanks to everyone who ever competed, volunteered in, officiated, directed, or watched an event. You all made it happen and gave me some good reasons to “talk story”. For this, I thank you. Michael Goro Takeuchi