Barnett: Changing of the Guard

Published 12:01 am Saturday, July 4, 2015

It will be tough to follow outgoing sports editor Ryan Arena. For all of you who have had the pleasure to meet him, which I’m sure is a great number in the River Parishes during his is eight years filling these pages. I am sure you would agree Ryan is one of the kindest, most generous journalists you are ever likely to come across.

Exhibiting a exacting eye for sports coverage that has garned him a trophy case full of writing awards over the years, Ryan certainly left a legacy and set the bar high for me as his successor.

However, even though it comes at the loss of a great  sportswriter, I have to say I am very excited to be welcomed back into the community as this will be my second stint with L’OBSERVATEUR.

After graduating from college in 2007 I landed my first job as a staff reporter at L’OBSERVATEUR. Having lived in Missouri for nearly my entire life up until then, I experienced  — to say it lightly — a bit of culture shock. When asked where I was heading after graduation I would almost invariably say “anywhere, but the South.” Luckily for me, fate intervened when I met my fiancée in the months leading up to graduation. I made the leap in moving down with her. And boy was I wrong about being reluctant to take the trip down I-55.

I very quickly grew to love Southeast Louisiana, especially the River Parishes, and I’ve even come close to mastering the spelling and pronunciation of so many variations of Cajun names (fingers crossed). Also, I don’t think it a coincidence that throughout the past eight years I’ve been steadily avergaging a weight gain of 6 to 7 pounds per year – after all we are living in an area that has some of the best food in the world. But to counterbalance,we have some of the best prep sports athletes around as well.

I am constantly amazed at the number of great sportsmen and sportswomen produced by this community, whether it is Southeastern Louisiana University, and future pro, baseball pitcher Tate Scioneaux, featured in the July 1 edition of L’OBSERVATEUR, or up-and-coming undefeated 23-year-old pro boxer phenom, knockout artist Alvin Varmall Jr. who has the makings of a rising star. (Expect a feature story on Varmall in the next week.)

I think it’s safe to say as time progresses St. John will produce plenty of other talented athletes, and it will be my pleasure to bring their stories to you.

This is an important job and I realize that. Newspapers not only give us a forum through which to better see our community, but the stories within, for good or for worse, also serve a function to guide us and our children as we strive for personal betterment.

While stories of personal triumph and reaching greatness are important to the community, it is not just focusing on the best of the best that makes for good sports coverage. It is also the stories of those who, while maybe not the most talented athletes, still learn the importance of overcoming obstacles, hard work, discipline, respect and humility in the face of disappointment that we need to hear.

For every star, there are 100 other kids who have felt the positive impact of sports early on and applied it in other areas of their lives. It is also these type of stories we are interested in and will strive to bring to you, our readers.

I know there are many positive stories out there — maybe even the one of your life — and I need your help bringing them to light.

So if you see me out at the game — a somewhat pudgy fellow with a hard to place accent, press pass hanging around my neck, taking entirely too many photos — don’t be shy. Please stop, say hello and tell me how you think we are doing and how we might do it better. I can only promise that I will listen and be glad to have met you.

Kyle Barnett can be reached by email at