Starting My 46th Season

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Friday, many area high schools took part in football scrimmages.

For a change, the weather wasn't oppressively hot, which made for better quality of play.

Sunday, Tennessee held its football media day and, as coaches and players stood at the rostrum, one could sense excitement about the upcoming campaign.

In less than three weeks, high schools will be teeing it up for real; in less than a month, the Vols will open against Ball State in Neyland Stadium.

Another season is just around the corner. And so, it is for me.

As I do the math, Monday began my 46th year in sports media.

It doesn't seem possible, but it's true. I got started in radio as a result of a speech class project in 1977, about the same time Elvis died. I was a junior in high school and earned extra credit for doing play-by-play for doing junior high football and basketball on tape. I loved it right out of the gate.

That project ended up earning me a little money at WHDM radio, where I later became sports director.

I started working in print in 1984 at the Martin newspaper, which started another crazy journey.

Through the decades, I've been lucky enough to cover, directly, 14 state championships, six state runners up, seven state players of the year, dozens of all-staters and a couple of national champions.

I've been fortunate to watch kids go from the middle school football fields, the youth league basketball courts and the summer baseball parks all the way to the highest level of competition. I've covered all-stars, Olympic medalists, Heisman winners and Super Bowl champions.

More importantly, I savor the relationships I've developed with kids I've covered, colleagues I have rubbed elbows with on the sideline and others I've met along the way.

People ask what I do for a living, and I tell them that I watch sporting events, am admitted to them for free and get paid to watch said events.

Is this a great country or what?

Through the decades, I've befriended people who are national sports figures, either on the field, in the broadcast booth or the front office. Sometimes it's surreal.

And when I get that imposter syndrome, which often creeps in several times a week on my radio show, it's nice to know that my peers, even those at the highest level in print and broadcasting, seem to think I do an okay job at this.

I am glad of that. After 45 years, I've had plenty of practice.

It's been a great ride thus far and I've been fortunate to have make this journey while at Magic Valley Publishing for the last 16 years, seven at WRJB.

It is my hope something that I wrote in the paper or said on the air made you see an event you couldn't attend, made you understand a complex topic or just made you pause and think, whether you agreed with me or not.

It's been a fantastic journey and, as I begin season 46, I thank all of you who take the time to read and/or listen each week. Your kind words and support mean more than you know.

Editor’s note: Jim Steele is a correspondent for Magic Valley Publishing and the host of The Pressbox radio show, which airs 4-6 p.m. CT, Monday-Thursday on WRJB 95.9 FM, Camden, Tennessee.