Farewell, my friends

Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 17, 2001


As we have seen in recent months with the likes of Mario Lemieux, Troy Aikman and Charles Barkley, it is hard for athletes to say goodbye. Well, it’s hard for a sportswriter too. This week is my final one after four and a half years at L’Observateur. I’ll will be going to Gonzales starting next Tuesday. But the time I have spent covering the River Parishes is one I’ll never forget. When I first came here in September 1996, I did not know what to expect. What I quickly found was a close knit community that will do anything to help its neighbors when needed. I had roots in the area with my grandmother being from Wallace. And of course, my brother is the head chef at Bull’s Corner Restaurant. So I’ve had quite a time getting to learn all about the places I heard about growing up. I also found an area that had a rich tradition of athletics, one that is continuing growing. In my time here, I have covered 11 state champions going into St. James’ game against Rayville last night. I have seen five other teams play in finals. There have also been numerous individual champions in swimming, golf and track and field. And that’s not counting the number of local recreation league teams that have brought home national, state and district champions. In all that time, I have gotten the privilege of covering some outstanding athletes. Most have since gone on to have continued success on both the collegiate and professional level. Getting to meet those young men and ladies is the biggest joy of this job. For those young men and women were not just winners on the playing field. They are winners in life. Most have excelled in the classroom and community as well. They are indeed true role models for the community. Getting to stand on the sidelines and in the dugout with them, I got to know how they feel during and after games. There is a rule in journalism that you are not supposed to cheer for one team or another. I often found myself having a hard time following that rule. These young men and ladies just made it so easy to cheer for them. I’ve had a number of moments since I’ve been here I’ll never forget. Getting to watch the Lutcher swim team celebrate its first ever state title, then going on to win five straight. Getting to see Edward Reed return an interception on the final play against South Lafourche to give Destrehan its first of four straight district titles in 1996. Watching the classic Class 2A softball final between St. Charles Catholic and Riverside in 1998 and later that same night, watching Lutcher capture the River Parishes’ second state title in a matter of hours. Later that year, was another classic finals between two River Parishes teams, this time between West St. John and Riverside in football. There was getting to see Reserve Christian make the Top 28 in its first season in the LHSAA, then a year later, watching West St. John and St. James bring home the area’s first basketball titles from the same Cajundome. I got to see an outstanding group of athletes, both on and off the field, lead Riverside to the golf title. I’ve seen the Hahnville softball team make two trips to Alexandria. And of course, I got an inside look at East St. John’s run to the Sweet 16 this season. There are many more I wish I could mention. But in all instances, what made those moments memorable were the athletes and coaches involved. All were as cordial and helpful as anyone could ask. For that I give my sincere thanks. And for everyone out there, I offer an old Irish saying: “May the road always rise up to meet you, may the sunshine always be in your face and may God continue to hold you in his Hands.” Goodbye, my friends. And thanks.