>How I See It, By Joe McHaney

   )ver the past four years, I've had the privilege to ink my opinions in this column on a weekly basis as the Madras Pioneer sports editor.
   This column, however, will be my last one.
   As many of you already know, I was recently hired as the Jefferson County Kids Club executive director, and it's time to close the book on what has been a remarkable run at the Madras Pioneer. While I'm elated to be the next Jefferson County Kids Club executive director, I leave the Madras Pioneer with no ill feelings and sadness in my heart because I'm going to miss those that I've worked with over the past four years.
   The Kids Club executive director opening was an opportunity I was unable to pass on this time. Those that know me best know exactly my feelings towards young people in this community. The best part about being the Madras Pioneer sports editor was associating with all the kids that participated in athletics, and now, I get to work with hundreds of kids after school and during the summer at the Kids Club.
   This week marks my 211th edition as the Madras Pioneer sports editor. During that time, I've written literally thousands of articles and snapped even more pictures. From the very first week, I wrote a column and did so all but four weeks since I was hired on in August of 2008.
   The column was intended to make you laugh, make you think, make you cry and make you mad. After four years of feedback, I think I accomplished my goals.
   I know from reader comments that I made you mad. Some of my opinions did not always sit well with some of you, and I appreciate those that stood up and challenged me with letters to the editor or emails directly to me.
   Most of my criticism came from University of Oregon Ducks fans, and rightly so. I've been harsh on the Ducks, as I'm a fan of the Oregon State Beavers and Boise State Broncos. Several times I inked words that ruffled feathers and made some UO fans quite angry. Hopefully, people understand it's all in good fun, and despite some verbal beatings that I took in return, I do respect UO fans for their passion.
   I know that I made you laugh. Over the past four years, I've given you a sense of what goes on in my life. Some of you still don't realize that I'm not joking when I've told you that I literally watch 12 hours of football on Sundays in the fall. My eyes are bloodshot by the end of the day from staring at the big screen, and when you eat 30-35 chicken wings while watching, it can create some serious issues.
   Some people might call that kind of behavior a problem. They might be right, but come on, that only takes place five months out of the year on Sundays. Oh wait, I forgot to add in college football, March Madness, the NBA playoffs and the MLB playoffs. No wonder I have love handles.
   Many of you know that I've tried the local Moving Mountain Slim Down Challenge as a way to cut weight and chisel my muscles. Yet, that challenge takes place every year from mid-January to the first part of May. How on earth is a local sports editor supposed to get through the Super Bowl, March Madness, The Masters and the start of the MLB season on a limited calorie intake? The Super Bowl is a 6,000 calorie day alone, and every weekend during March Madness you might as well chalk up 4,000 calories per day. I forgot to mention that I've made many readers nauseous from some of the behavior described in my columns.
   I'm a sports nut, if you haven't figured that out already. I play fantasy sports year round and since I left Eastern Oregon University in 2002, I've been a sports writer/editor for eight of those 10 years, giving me an opportunity to take in thousands upon thousands of high school games - sports overload.
   I'm so addicted to sports that just recently, one of my four NFL fantasy drafts took place at 7 p.m. and it completely destroyed our weekly family dinner. The dinner was running late at my mom and dad's and it was pandemonium at the supper table with food, laptops, fantasy football magazines and two addicted fantasy football geeks at the table. Sorry mom, I turned dad into an animal.
   People probably don't understand how difficult it is to get paid to watch high school sports either. It can be pretty taxing to stand on the sidelines in order to take in the action of high school football. In fact one season, I was paid to watch my younger brother play football for Madras High School. It was tough, but as the saying goes, somebody has to do it.
   In all seriousness, being a sports editor for a small community is a relatively low-stress occupation. It's a blast, and oftentimes I did feel guilty for drawing a paycheck to watch White Buffalos and Bulldogs. That being said, a sports editor's schedule is all over the place and chasing down games with a 2-year-old daughter at home can be challenging - one of the main factors for applying for a job with a more structured schedule.
   Since August of 2008, no one in Jefferson County has taken in more high school sports than this guy. The sports scene has been portrayed to you through my senses on a weekly basis, and I hope that I was able to give an adequate taste of what was happening.
   Over that time, I know that I butchered the spellings of some names and confused readers with typos, but that's a part of journalism. Most recently I turned Culver high School freshman volleyball player Emma Hoke into Emma Hole. I apologize, and trust me, I feel like an absolute idiot when those mistakes happened, but I am the world's worst speller. I'm just glad my parents gave me a three letter first name, or life would be much more complicated.
   Over the past four years, a lot has happened with the sports scene in Jefferson County. There have been remarkable performances by area athletes, state champions by individuals and teams, and there have been some heartbreaking losses along the way. After many of those events, I approached athletes and coaches, and asked for comments. It's not always easy to talk to the local sports reporter after a gut-wrenching loss, but I can't tell you how gracious athletes and coaches have been to me.
   With all the action that I've attended, I captured many memories along the way and sometimes I was swept into the action, as I found myself cheering for either CHS or MHS, which sports reporters are not supposed to do. As a small-town sports editor, you become close with coaches and players and you want to see them succeed. I couldn't help but pull for them.
   It's going to be hard to walk away from this job. As I made my way around both high schools the past few weeks and let people know my time with the Madras Pioneer was coming to a close, the reactions I received have made it harder to walk away than I originally thought. Many coaches and players were literally saddened, and while that was tough to see, it made me feel good knowing that they appreciated my efforts.
   Along the way, I've made some really good friends with coaches, and I love running into players. Just recently, I fattened up with a Papa Murphy's pizza, and CHS senior middle blocker Cassandra Fulton is one of the employees at Papa Murphy's. She and I discussed her excitement for the upcoming volleyball season and she proved to be one of the top pizza makers in Jefferson County. Two days later I ran into MHS graduates Austin Say and Ryan Brunner near the MHS football stadium. They drove up to me and we were able to catch up and talk sports for a few minutes. It's those types of encounters that have made my job special.
   There are a lot of people that I'd like to thank. I'd need about six pages in the Madras Pioneer this week to create a laundry list of people in this community that have taken time to help me create the articles and pictures that I've been able to deliver to you on a weekly basis. But, I'd really like to thank two in particular, Tony Ahern, the Madras Pioneer publisher, and my dad. Ahern gave me the chance to be a part of this community by welcoming me to the Madras Pioneer family, and I respect him greatly. My dad has always been my biggest critic and supporter. He's the first to let me know if I sounded like a dope, and he was the first to give me a fist bump when I nailed it.
   I'd also like to give a shout out to my office mates, who have become more of an extended family than co-workers. We've worked a lot of hours together and shared a ton of laughs, and I will miss them.
   Finally, I want to thank the Madras Pioneer readers. You let me into your lives and allowed me to enter your homes. For 211 weeks, I've shown up and given you a piece of my mind. Some of you have kept me on coffee tables, some on night stands, some on the back of toilets, some immediately tossed me into the recycle bin, some might have even thrown darts at me and some might have used me to collect droppings on the bottom of bird cages.
   No matter where I ended up in your home, I hope that you felt my passion for athletics and youths in our community. Never did I intentionally try to offend you, but rather I tried to open your eyes and show you the sports scene through my reporting and opinions with my column.
   Now, you're going to get a fresh take. After Sept. 12, the Madras Pioneer sports department will be run by Billy Gates. Like me, he grew up in a small Oregon town and loves sports. I'll let him fill you in about his background over the next few months in his columns, but I have no doubt he'll do a quality job.
   Thank you again Jefferson County. I appreciate all who have aided me along the way. While I won't be on the sidelines with a press pass and camera anymore, I hope that we can still talk sports when I see you at the games, this time, as a spectator.
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