Heading for home

Never let anyone tell you sports doesn't matter. Never let them tell you it's all about the wins, the losses and the stats. Sports is so much more than that. It's your grandfather and you and the way a Sunday Bears game bonds you like Super Glue. It's what you ask of yourself to break four hours in the marathon. It's the way your softball buddies can still laugh about you hitting the ump instead of the cutoff man 30 years later.

Eventually, my father sobered up and I grew up. I came to understand the chance he'd given up and the one I'd been given. Sox Walseth died 10 years ago, but I hope he saw. I hope I did better.

So why leave the best job in the world after 36 years? To see what else is out there. To learn new lessons from new teachers. To live in Italy, make amends to my piano and never have to care about groin pulls again. True, I'm only 56, but I always did prefer writing short.

To borrow from Peyton Manning, it's been my privilege to be your sports writer. If I'd have known so many people would reach out and say so many kind things, I'd have quit years ago. To be told by a young journalist that you were the reason she got into the business; to be told by a grieving son that you made his dying mother laugh; to be told by a reader that a column you wrote changed the direction of his life? It swells the heart.

You've been better to me than I deserve. No writer in history is more flawed than me, but it was never for lack of trying. It was always in my attempt to get to the truth, or to make it fun, or to make it add up to something meaningful to you.

Life's circles are funny, aren't they? This Sunday, the U.S. Open golf tournament wraps up, but for once, I won't be there. Instead, for the first time in my life, I'll be home with my kids on Father's Day.

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