An acquaintance of more than 50 years cornered me recently to tell me how much he missed the old The Raleigh Times newspaper.
The Times, for those who have joined us during the past 25 years or so, was the afternoon paper in Raleigh that was published from 1912 until 1989. And no, I didnt have a byline in the first edition.
The staff of the Times merged with The News & Observer in 89 since both papers were owned by the same company. Caulton Tudor and I were about the only remaining reporters from the afternoon paper during recent years. And then Toot left.
It seems my transformation from the high school kid hanging around the office to someone who one of my colleagues described as a crotchety old man took place without me noticing.
This will be my 46th year covering high school football in the area. I suspect the grandchildren of some of the players from 1967 are playing this season.
Ive written about 10,000 stories about high school athletics. Too many stories, according to the irate parent of a player who didn't make the paper's all-star team.
Just leave, he pleaded. You have done enough damage.
But my love of high school athletics has not waned.
No other level of athletic endeavor has as its primary focus the creation of better people.
There is something fantastic about allowing a group of students to represent their school, their community, their family and themselves in something meaningful.
The lessons taught through high school athletics often become lifelong skills. The memories, and sometimes the friendships, endure. The Wall Street Journal recently noted New York Giants coach Tom Coughlin still has a bond with his high school football teammates.
The Raleigh Times used to have three or four pages of high school football on Saturday. Long before I wrote stories, I would sit on the red brick steps of my home on Saturday afternoon waiting for my paper. Years later, I would deliver the paper and I would see subscribers on porches or on the steps waiting for the afternoon paper.
Retired coaches, like my buddy from long ago, remember those times.
It means so much to the kids to see their names in the paper, my friend said. There used to be a lot more names in the paper.
But truthfully, high school athletics have never been covered better than they will be this year in The N&O.
We never would have imagined tracking every touchdown, every pass, every rush like we will do online.
Years ago, assembling rushing, passing or receiving leaders would have taken a couple of days, if somebody had a couple of days and if the coach gave us his stats.
Now, you can go online minutes after the games are over to see complete box scores and the leaders from most games.
The technology has changed. The method of delivery has changed.
And, I guess, Ive changed.
But my love for high school athletics has not wavered. It still is exciting to me to write stories about high school athletes.
It is an honor.