It’s been fun (and frightening). Now I’m hopping off this tiger

Do I really want to do this?

I spent a long time asking myself that question on Jan. 13, 2006, the publication date of my first column. In that piece I blistered the UK hockey team for firing its head coach.

That day I received a threatening phone call from a team member. My phone number was listed on my Facebook page to encourage beautiful girls to call me to set up dates, not to open myself to invitations to meet hockey players in dark alleyways. But aside from the fear of bodily harm, that phone call provided another rush: People were reading what I was writing. What else could a 19-year old college kid ask for?

So my phone number came off my Facebook, and my heart became attached to the job of writing columns. For the past year and a half, the column has become like a close friend, an outlet for me to sit down and discuss what I believe.

That’s why, when the Cincinnati Enquirer, my hometown paper, offered me an opportunity to cover some UK football games, one thought came to mind:

Do I really want to do this?

Longtime Los Angeles Times sports columnist Jim Murray was once asked if he would ever retire from writing his column. He responded with the type of vivid analogy that made him perhaps the greatest sports writer ever.

“Columns are like riding a tiger,” Murray said. “You’d like to get off, but you have no idea how.”

I’m getting off the tiger today.

From the beginning of my nearly two years as a Kernel sports columnist, this job has given me an opportunity to tell stories and express opinions. So often we only see sports figures on television or only hear them on the radio. They become nothing more than pawns on a playing field, and we easily forget that they are regular people with extraordinary athletic ability.

If I did one thing in this job, I hope it’s that I never lost sight of the fact that players, coaches and administrators are just like the rest of us. I hope I’ve treated them fairly, and I hope I’ve written accurately and honestly.

While my picture has been by the words — and I’m still single, so maybe that’s not a good thing — so many other people have been a part of the column. (This is the part where I roll through the list of thank yous. Out of fear of forgetting someone, I’ll refrain from naming names.)

Thank you to my editors, who allowed me the freedom to write what I believed; thank you to friends and colleagues who offered feedback and constructive criticism; thank you to the staff in UK’s media relations office, who always answered questions and offered assistance.

Most of all, thank you for reading. I could write like Hemingway (I don’t, but stay with me), and it wouldn’t matter if nobody read or responded. You’ve read, and you’ve responded (especially when I’ve written about Bobby Petrino). Thank you for that. And that even includes the guy who took the time to send a note encouraging me to “go back to Ohio and write about field hockey.”

The new opportunity is back in Ohio, but fortunately for me, it doesn’t involve field hockey coverage. It does, however, involve me getting off the tiger.

Since I’ll no longer be expressing my opinions twice a week in this space, I think I’ll put my phone number back on Facebook. Feel free to call and chat about the Cats.

As long as you’re not on the hockey team.

Chris DeLotell is an education and journalism senior. E-mail, for a little while longer, [email protected]