Dear Coos Bay,

What a pleasant surprise you were.

Have you ever been forced to a backup plan? Have you ever felt like a landing spot was the result of a failure?

It’s weird. It’s scary. It’s a perfect recipe for discouragement.

But, man, sometimes the best opportunities follow the worst failures. Sometimes the best opportunities are the ones you don’t realize until you really think about it.

Sometimes, punishments, perceived or actual, are blessings.

I came here because I blew another job. Suffice it to say I couldn’t jump through all the right hoops. This came after I was laid off for my first job. I was a failure, I thought. I was washing dishes and delivering pizzas and wondering who I was, why I was there. Inadequacy was rampant in my mind.

So I get offered this job. I thought I was back. I thought I had reclaimed my self-worth; and then it was gone was in a phone call. Hope shattered.

Then I heard from John Gunther, who you all should appreciate dearly. I jumped through all the right hoops and came here, happy to do my job but scared to learn a place. A victim of impostor syndrome, knowing the value this community places on sports, I was worried I wouldn’t live up to your expectations. I was worried that your stories were too much for me to grasp, to articulate. Could I do them justice?

I was wrong. Not because I was inadequate as a writer. Not because your stories were above me (please don’t take that the wrong way).

I was wrong because you welcomed me in. I know I addressed this to Coos Bay, but that goes for Bandon and Reedsport and North Bend and Coquille and Myrtle Point and Powers and the OSAA and every school who came here for basketball and every person I met for a story.

I was welcomed. Thoroughly. I was accepted. Fully. In small ways. In big ways. In ways that were obvious. In ways that weren’t.

I went from a transplant to a local.

You did that.

I made friends. I had hardships. I played softball. I succeeded. My work was celebrated. I failed. I wrote things that unintentionally ruffled feathers, or worse. I joined a trivia team. I watched colleagues who I treasured leave. I wrote great things. I got jaded and disillusioned from time to time. I laughed. I cried. I was hopeful and I was discouraged.

Through all this, you welcomed me.

You brought me in. You made me feel accepted, valued, appreciated, loved.

It’s with a heavy heart I write to you that I’m leaving. Lots of you know already. I tried to keep it quiet. It was futile. Crazy how information spreads, huh? I’m moving back home, to Longview, to work at the newspaper there. It’s an opportunity I couldn’t turn down. It’s a job I’ve always wanted to do, even if I didn’t believe it in the past. It’s time for me to leave. I’ve been feeling it for awhile.

But you, Coos Bay, has become another home. You have become a place I feel comfortable, I feel like is my place, a haven.

You did that.

Thank you, coaches, for respecting me and allowing me access to your kids, to your programs, to your thinking. Thank you for allowing me to be around. Thank you for your trust that I wouldn’t write anything that shouldn't have been repeated, and if I did it wasn’t intentional. Thank you for forgiving me if I did.

Thank you, players, for allowing me to tell your stories. It’s your work, your effort, your stress, your fear, your success I write about. When I go to practice I find a place to sit and watch. I get comfortable. I try to stay warm or cool, I look for places where there is back support. I pick up footballs and fiddle with them. I pick up basketballs and dribble them, sometimes shooting on unoccupied baskets until they’re needed. I pick up baseballs and try to replicate (poorly) the tricks I learned from my playing days. I often look at Twitter, waiting to do my interviews so I can get my stuff done so I can leave. I’m sure most of you have seen it. But you’re out in the cold wind or humid gym or hot sun, working, focusing, stressing. I’m just writing some words on my computer. Your work dwarfs mine. Your work is why my job exists. Thank you for trusting me with the things you did. Thank you for trusting me with your words. Thank you for allowing me to relate to you, or as much as I can for people a decade younger than me.

Thank you, parents, for your support. My mom is a momma bear. She gets defensive when she thinks I’ve been wronged. I know that mentality. I understand it and respect it. Thank you for allowing me to tell these stories, to trust in my talent and skill and training to immortalize these oh so important events, events that help shape a person into their best selves. Thank you for reading and smiling and buying me food from time to time.

To all: thank you for reading. When someone tells me they liked my story, it’s cool. But, frankly, the best part is you read. The best part is you picked up my art, my product, at all. You couldn’t like it — or dislike it — if you didn’t read it. Thank you for coming back, for wanting to hear what I had to say. That means more to me than you’ll ever know.

Thank you, Coos Bay, for being you. Thank you for welcoming a scared kid and helping work him into a confident adult. Thank you for embracing an uncertain, shy, afraid-to-fail kid and pushing him to be the best he could.

It makes sense that there are building-sized murals of an American legend here. It makes sense that you have all bought into his philosophies, even subconsciously.

Y’all have instilled something of him in me. “To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift.”

Pre really does live in you all.

Dear Coos Bay,

I’m leaving, but I’ll never be gone.

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