I’ve known for the better part of the last six months that eventually I was going to sit down and write this. Yet, I wasn’t sure how to start it other than say, “THANK YOU.” After all, how else can I look back on 30-plus years of local sports writing? Thank you to those that hired me, including the York Daily Record/GameTImePA, where I wrote as a sports freelancer and then as a staff writer for a total of more than two decades. I got my start in the business with them and will never forget my time there. In 2015, I went back into freelancing, working for several publications (Carlisle Sentinel, PennLive, Gettysburg Times, the Associated Press, York Dispatch, the Pittsburgh Tribune and others). However, the overwhelming majority of work came from Lancaster Online/LNP, covering all high school sports, the last two years specializing in track, swimming and field hockey. The publication – and entire Lancaster sports community - were great to me. Thank you to all of the coaches, who graciously gave me time after games, win or lose. Thanks to those that read my stuff – hopefully, you liked most of it. Yet, most of all, I must thank the thousands of high school, college and professional athletes I covered in 30-plus years. Getting to know them, and some of their families, was an absolute joy. Since the fall of 1991, they made the job fun, especially the high school kids, whom were much more mature than I recall being at that age. These athletes made the work not seem like work. Over the years, I had countless conversations, both interviews and otherwise, that I enjoyed immensely. The great kids outnumbered the not-so great by 1000 to 1.
Of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention how athletes, their families and readers came to my aid 10 years ago when I was diagnosed with cancer. During that time, I received countless emails, texts, phone calls of love and support, all topped by a pair of swimmers from York Suburban (Emily Schmittle and Will Massey), who started a tee shirt campaign. Seriously, what kind of young person comes up with the idea to help a guy that merely covered their sport? The two set out to help our family and wound-up selling 800+ shirts with “Navaroli Nation” blazed across the chest. It was simply an amazing gesture and one which gave me strength and humbled me at the same time. Then came the photos of entire teams wearing the yellow shirts. There was no way with that kind of support that my spirits couldn’t remain high throughout my battle. Although I used words for a living, I’ve never found the right ones to say “THANK YOU” enough to everyone. So why am I writing this? Because it’s time. I am stepping away from journalism, kind of a “retirement” from day-to-day story writing for publications. It’s hard to believe that I have covered my final PIAA swimming championships, PIAA track and field championships, volleyball and other sports. It’s odd to think that I won’t be at a high school football game, unless it’s to watch my daughter cheer. Still, I know I am leaving the business to so many talented, and much younger, sports journalists who do incredible work, so who really needs an old guy like me hanging around anyway. Fortunately, I am not done with high school sports. For several years, I branched out to designing and maintaining websites for teams, schools, business and the YAIAA (York Adams Interscholastic Association) and running those websites has led me to a terrific new opportunity, taking over for my good friend, Rod Frisco (who is retiring), as the webmaster and power rankings coordinator for District 3 of the PIAA. It’s a new chapter for me, something I am very excited about. This is a perfect way to cap a career that has been a journey unlike anything I could have imagined. The best part? I still get to earn a living working around high school athletics. I wouldn’t want it any other way.
-------------------------------------------------------------------------- For more on the Nation, please check out https://vimeo.com/58520878 video from James Tully, a York College graduate, who was working at Channel 21 at the time. Navaroli Nation ... I still tear up when I watch this, not out of sadness. While I never doubted I would beat cancer, I still can’t fathom that the community did that for me.