Column: The people of Southeast Missouri have made my 'Year One' a resounding success
Time flies when you are having fun, and make no mistake about it, the past year has been a lot of fun for me both personally and professionally.
Thursday marked my one-year anniversary as the regional sports editor at Semoball.com and given the fact that I had to call Rust Communications co-president Jon Rust at 8 a.m. that first day because I couldn’t figure out how to get into the Southeast Missourian building, things have gotten smoother with each passing day.
My time here hasn’t been perfectly smooth, but then no job ever goes exactly according to plan. But in hindsight, my decision to leave my lifelong home of Indiana for Southeast Missouri has worked out far beyond any reasonable expectation and that is mostly because of the people that I have encountered.
Internally, many of those within Rust Communications and Rust Media could not have been more welcoming, helpful, and understanding to an external hire with a waaaay outside-the-box philosophy on how to move Semoball.com forward.
I could list a multitude of people for helping me, but suffice to say that Jon Rust, assistant publisher Lucas Presson, and editor Rick Fahr have been at the forefront of having my back in an ever-growing list of challenging situations.
I’d also be remiss if I didn’t note my appreciation for the diligence of, and camaraderie I have with, sports reporter Jeff Long.
The sports staff that I previously worked with at The News-Sentinel in Fort Wayne, Ind. was the best in the state on the job, and even better off it. Three of my reporters were inducted into the Indiana Journalism Hall of Fame, and I felt so much affection for the group that after our gathering for a lunch last November, I drove back to my Indiana home (I can’t bring myself to sell it) with tears streaming down my cheeks knowing I’ll never work with them again.
But Long and I have developed chemistry similar to the Hall of Fame-worthy duo of Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski, who is eight-plus months away from leading my Tampa Bay Buccaneers to a Super Bowl title. I have complete confidence that I can always find ‘Gronk,’ er… Long on a stick route when I feel pressure.
Externally, many deserve my gratitude, but none more so than the Semoball.com staff, which stretches from Poplar Bluff to Kennett through Dexter and Sikeston.
These guys have been incredible (particularly in the past 10 weeks) and made me appear much better than I actually am.
From day one, the ‘Knudtson boys’ (they know who they are) have made me feel at home, as has Mike Litzelfelner, who always – ALWAYS - makes me feel better after interacting with him.
The same appreciation should be expressed for an extraordinary group of high school coaches and administrators that fill Southeast Missouri schools, as well as the fantastic organizations of the Cape Catfish and Southeast Missouri State.
People like Matt Asher, Brent Eckley, John Martin, Drew Church, Tyson Moyers, Dayna Powell, Kent Gibbs, Jim Limbaugh, Mark Hogan, Andy Sawyers, Cindy Gannon, Brady Barke, Jeff Honza, Morgan Harding, Bryce Saia, Tom Matukewicz, Rekha Patterson, Keith Pickens, Matt Martin, Justin Drudik, Chris Hahn, Darrin Scott, Tyler Abernathy, Zack Walton, Riley Talbut, Steve Wachter, Corey Brownsberger, Jeff Graviett, Chris Trimmer, Joe Shoemaker, Blane Boss, Jerry Fulton, Sam Sides, Joe Graves, Jim May (both of them), Mark Dannenmueller, and Tim Schumer have each played an important role in helping me transition to this chapter of my life.
And I absolutely should include former Redhawk men’s basketball coach Rick Ray in that group, for he was nothing short of fantastic to deal with despite the challenging circumstances we both faced in doing our jobs.
Those mentioned, the athletes, the fans, and so many more each played a part in helping Semoball.com reach heights over the past year that not even I dreamt possible. And I dream in color.
Digital subscriptions for Semoball.com have doubled and it isn’t because I’m some genius, it was because of the people on AND off the athletic fields throughout this area.
Think about that for a second: In an industry in which almost no entity realizes any degree of success, these athletes, coaches, and administrators performed so well, and the sports fans of Southeast Missouri were so loyal in their desire to follow them, that this entity was able to achieve an unfathomable level of success.
I have no idea what my second year in this position will entail, though I feel pretty confident in stating that nothing worse than a global pandemic shuttering the sports world and much of society will occur. However, what won’t change are the people of Southeast Missouri, and as long as that remains the case, I – and Semoball.com - will be just fine.
Thank you all for everything.
Tom Davis is the regional sports editor of Semoball.com and the Southeast Missourian.