By Steve Robinson | April 1, 2018 - 10:42 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite

Let me start this column by saying I know nothing about NASCAR. I have almost never followed it, and could only name one driver off the top of my head (and by the time I came up with the fellow’s name, he could have retired by now). And yet, about 15 years ago, the editor I reported to back then, Bryan Bloodworth, asked me to cover a news conference being given by a well-known driver at the time, Ward Burton, in conjunction with a Peoria Rivermen hockey game where Burton was signing autographs and showing off his speedy mode of transportation.

At the time, I was stringing for the local daily newspaper’s sports section, of which Bryan was the editor, and the Rivermen were, at the time, the only team in the circulation area, although we knew Bloomington would soon get a team once the then-U. S. Cellular Coliseum’s construction was completed.

In high school up until I started writing sports in 1992, I was just a casual spectator and fan, cheering the local high school teams. When I went to work for Bryan in 1999, he gave me an assignment I would have thought reserved for the salaried writers: Cover Rivermen hockey and, at the time, Peoria Pirates indoor football.

Another writer on staff pulled me aside and explained they were busy with all the local sports and that, as a result, they couldn’t spare a staffer. I beamed at the thought. Bloodworth, known to his friends as “Lefty” having been born without a right arm, had handed me the ball, or passed me the puck, if you will, and let me get at it. I’m not 100 percent sure he knew what he’d get for his money. But as a result of his judgment, I’d like to think I learned a great deal from the experience.

Nowadays, I go into each new high school sports season with the same thought process I did covering those minor league teams. I try to treat the experience knowing games and standings are on the line from the first kickoff, or jump ball, or pitch, as far as those teams are concerned. And instead of team owners, it’s athletic directors who watch every team’s move, scrutinize every game result, and look toward getting teams to State Finals. That was something else that earlier experience handed me.

It’s thinking and actions like that which get you considered for any hall of fame. Keen skill at your position, decisive leadership, and an ability to know when to step back and give someone an opportunity to try something new in hopes that person will learn a new talent or skill.

I’d read Bryan’s columns regularly, mostly on Sundays when he worked for the Pantagraph, and in the back of my mind, I would think to myself about writing one, “Maybe someday….” “Someday” arrived thanks to the ol’ editor, Mr. Pyne, eight years ago. Being recognized by my professional peers for that talent came for the first time last year. But I must credit Bryan for giving me the chance to experience what covering minor league sports is really like.

I also need to congratulate Bryan on his induction into the Hall Of Fame of Illinois State University’s student newspaper, The Vidette. He told me that, even then, in the mid-1970s as a student editor, he gave fellow students an opportunity to try their skills a something they hadn’t before, especially when it came to writing.

Bryan said when he started his college career at ISU, he was looking at taking classes which would show him how to become a sports coach. As it turned out, he’s been coaching all this time, and sports has been a part of that. He has to be commended for that – and congratulated for his years of bringing central Illinois residents the countless stories – both in print and on the radio.

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