Parking the Bus
Greg Hammond's open letter to West Tennessee Sports Fans
Word travels fast.
I joined Dave McCulley for a brief radio interview during halftime Saturday at Bethel University. He had already told his listeners the news. I guess it wasn't really news since several of my co-workers have known for months, but I was surprised Dave already knew I was stepping down as sports anchor at WBBJ at the end of the month.
Dave, like everybody else, wanted to know why I was leaving again.
I was 23 and single when I left WBBJ for a job in Kentucky in 2003. I had just graduated from UT Martin and - like most young people - I wanted to move away from home. Call it a selfish decision. It took me four years to realize bigger doesn't mean better - bigger just means different.
My second tour with WBBJ has been great, but now I'm 32 with a wife and two kids.
I've been employed by the Jackson-Madison County School System since January 2008. I teach a high school broadcasting class at South Side High School. So for the past two years I have held two full-time jobs: teacher by day and broadcaster by night. The money is good, but the hours have kept me away from home.
I guess I’m too old for selfish decisions.
Dave asked me Saturday which stories and assignments stand out the most as I reflect on my last two years at WBBJ. I told him about Hunter Smith. Hunter is a senior football player from Bolivar Central High School who lost both his parents to cancer.
Hunter's story makes us count our blessings. His resilience is inspiring.
The other story that came to mind was Golden Gloves boxer N'Dira Spearman.
When the boxing club lost several of its coaches last fall, N'Dira, a junior at North Side High School, cut his workouts short to help coach several of the younger boxers.
His training schedule was already limited because of football practice. N’Dira had his own bout to prepare for, but sacrificed his time to help his less experienced teammates. I left that interview thinking, ‘he must be a good kid.'
My thoughts were confirmed a few days later when two North Side administrators and an assistant football coach showed up at the Jackson Boxing Club - with their families - to support N'Dira the night of his bout.
Teachers don't spend their weekends on bad apples.
N'Dira’s story is a great example of what is good about sports. Meeting young champions like N'Dira and Hunter is what I will miss the most.
So if you've followed me for two years, or even as far back as my first run in 2002 - do me a favor. Find some local athletes in your community - contact their school - and support them. West Tennessee principals and coaches will tell you how you can get involved.
Public or private - doesn't matter. Let our young people know we want to see them do good. The best way to do that is to show them.