I just never imagined it would be at a desk in a motel room in Anderson, South Carolina. Yet this is where I sit, typing my goodbye to you, not-so-gentle readers.
For three years, I wrote this column as a sidelight to my main job – University of Alabama beat writer for the Birmingham Post-Herald.
In late September, as most of you know, the Post-Herald died a sad but not entirely unexpected death. I was sitting in the office that Thursday morning when a Scripps Howard executive and his PR flack walked into the office and gave the grim news: tomorrow's edition would be our last.
Now, six weeks later, I've moved on within the Scripps chain, as the Clemson University athletics beat writer for the Anderson Independent-Mail, a fine mid-sized paper perched on the Georgia-South Carolina line.
That means this, unfortunately, is my last column for BamaMag.com.
Part of me is happy, about a new start, a fresh set of subjects to write about and a new group of people, a whole new conference to learn about and know. Part of me is sad, upset about leaving a good relationship with the BamaMag staff and readers behind.
I never imagined I'd feel this way.
In late summer 2003, I was burnt-out on the Internet.
A previous working relationship with another Alabama-related web site had just ended badly; they said they wanted one thing out of me, pretended to understand my balance between Internet work and my real paycheck from the Post-Herald, then proved they didn't understand one bit when – gasp – newspaper responsibilities and work covering Mark Gottfried's Elite Eight men's basketball team trumped what I could do for their site.
So I was a bit skeptical when the late Jay Lisby approached me at SEC Football Media Days about coming onboard with BamaMag.com.
The more I talked with Jay, however, the more I liked the idea. He and Kirk McNair – BAMA Magazine's founder – wanted to add some bite to their site. They wanted an objective columnist to write weekly opinion pieces, and my name had come up.
Speak your mind, Jay told me. Just don't go out of your way to bash people, and don't take the readers for idiots. I agreed, and I was off and running. Over the past three years, I've tried my best to speak my thoughts, tell the truth and be as honest and informative as I could while entertaining and, from time to time, taking a shot at people.
I like to think I've reached my goal – and made an impact. Some of you don't like me.
Some of you vowed that you wouldn't read my work, and compared me to journalistic flame-throwers like Paul Finebaum – a simile I found laughable and an honor at the same time.
I've enjoyed every moment of my Bamamag.com tenure, mostly because of the extensive freedoms afforded me by Kirk, Jay, and Mitch Dobbs.
In well over 100 columns, they have never censored, never even questioned a word I've written, no matter how much it might tick off one of their loyal, dues-paying subscribers.
I am grateful for that, and I know it wouldn't have happened everywhere on the Web, considering today's zenophobic culture surrounding many team-oriented Web sites.
I've filed columns, positive and negative, from all over the SEC, covering everything from Gottfried's resurgent basketball program to Sarah Patterson's always-solid gymnastics program to the downfall of Alabama football – and its rise under Mike Shula.
I'm not an Alabama fan, by any means, but I've developed a healthy respect for the program and how exciting a successful season on the gridiron can be. I would have liked to cover the program coming full circle – from NCAA probation to a BCS bowl game – but that's how fate works. You're put where you're supposed to be, and obviously, I wasn't supposed to be in Alabama as this football season comes to a close.
I must leave you all behind now, but I'll be watching the rest of this season with great interest.
And I'll always remember my time here fondly.
For that, I thank you, my readers. I couldn't have done it without your interest, and that means the world to me.