I’m staring at a blank document and my heart hurts. This isn’t the hardest thing I’ve written. When it comes to painful writing, nothing compares to typing up my dad’s obituary.
I had some school papers and articles on the police beat that were beasts to pound out, too.
And don’t get me started on responding to trolls on Twitter.
But this message is hard to write. It’s challenging to emotionally process and, quite frankly, difficult to fully accept.
To get to the point, I am no longer the Utah Jazz beat writer for the Deseret News.
When I broke the news to my family Thursday morning, my 8-year-old got excited.
“Dad! You should get a restaurant job,” Aidan told me. “Arctic Circle is hiring!”
Although I do love fry sauce and Brown Toppers, I won’t be submitting my resume to that Utah-based fast-food chain. For the record, I’m not headed to Boston, either. I’m still at the D-News, but I have been reassigned. I’ll now be doing a wide variety of sports stories and projects, mostly for DeseretNews.com.
It’s hard to let go of your dream job, but that is essentially what I chose to do when I went in and talked to my bosses this offseason. Maybe the move would have happened anyway. Who knows. Not many people will be able to understand this — I’ll likely get grief from some and others might burn their Genessy jerseys — but it probably is time for me to move on.
That doesn’t make the reality any easier to grasp.
I will dearly miss this job.
Being the Utah Jazz beat writer has been my identity for almost a decade. It’s been a source of deep pride on personal and professional levels — for me and for others, especially my mom. It’s been an automatic conversation starter, a friend magnet, a spotlight for a former class clown who seeks attention (not sure that’s a good thing) and a pretty awesome way to earn a living.
I’ve never loved a job more than writing about the NBA team that I grew up cheering for. It was even better than getting free food as a McDonald’s manager. Heck, I got free food in the pressroom and got paid to watch basketball. That win-win was two more victories than the Jazz managed to get against the Warriors in the playoffs last spring. (OK, OK, Jazz. I’ll be nice on my way out.)
It has been rewarding and fun going from hanging a Dr. Dunkenstein poster on my wall and emulating Adrian Dantley’s ball-spin move on the free-throw line as a kid to reporting on the end of Jerry Sloan’s career, on the interesting Ty Corbin Era and on the promising beginning of Quin Snyder’s reign.
I was in Springfield, Massachusetts when Sloan, Karl Malone and John Stockton were inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.
I was outside of the locker room when Sloan shockingly quit, in Dallas with the team when Utah traded away its franchise player and wondered what to do with myself when the NBA shut down for part of a season. And, yes, I thought Jazz fans might throw me overboard when that series of events took place in my early days on this beat.
It’s pretty interesting to look back at all of the things that happened while I chronicled this team’s every move for the past nine years.
I was courtside when Paul Millsap — Miss Bettye’s son, as his teammates called him that night — had his miracle in Miami. I was in the arena when Sundiata Gaines and Gordon Hayward dropped game-winning buckets on LeBron James. (I’m still kicking myself for retreating to the pressroom moments before Gaines’ memorable shot.) I was in Charlotte when Enes Kanter gave Al Jefferson arguably the greatest love letter ever written and in Chicago when the Turkish center informed the Trib’s Aaron Falk and I that he wanted to be traded.
I was there when Deron Williams made dazzling passes and clutch shots for the Jazz and then got lustily booed when he returned to his old stomping grounds after being traded to New Jersey. I was there when Gordon Hayward impressed Kobe Bryant as a rookie and then again when G-Time & Co. watched helplessly as the Black Mamba dropped 60 in his grand finale. I was in New York City to tease Hayward and rookie pal Jeremy Evans about eating at an Olive Garden in one of the most culinary diverse hotspots in the world. I was there in Oklahoma City when Trevor Booker made his amazing back-to-the-basket volleyball trick shot and when a frustrated Raja Bell smacked the scorer’s table and told Earl Watson, “We consistently do dumb (bleep)!” I was there when John Lucas III tried to fight Francisco Garcia in Houston and in Salt Lake City when the kind-hearted player thoughtfully brought pumpkin cheesecake for my kids to try for the first time. I was there when Sloan leaned on his garbage can outside of the Jazz locker room for interviews and when Corbin taught my oldest son how to properly shake someone’s hand (a firm grip and eye contact are important, he told him).
I was there when Rudy Gobert helped cancer-fighting Jazz superfan JP Gibson dunk the ball in a scrimmage, when the rising star’s buzzer-beating tip-in saved the day in Sacramento and when the big French center blocked his first shot in the Orlando Pro summer league and The Stifle Tower nickname popped into my head. I was there when Rodney Hood shimmied after his first-ever game-winning bucket and when Old Man Joe Johnson defied the laws of nature and carried the Jazz to a fun playoff win in Los Angeles last spring.
I was there when Larry H. Miller was memorialized after his death and when the team suffered through a miserable 25-win season and when the Jazz inexplicably lost at home to a shorthanded Clippers squad to hurt their playoff chances and when they came out on the short end of a grueling quadruple-overtime slugfest in Atlanta and when Delonte West stuck his finger in Gordon Hayward’s ear and when D-Will purposely ran the wrong play that proved to be the last straw for Sloan and when Mehmet Okur’s Achilles tendon snapped and when the Rockets annihilated the Jazz by 45 in Utah and when the Warriors swept them en route to the 2017 NBA championship and when Donovan Mitchell gave a mourning fanbase and franchise renewed hope with a strong summer league showing in the wake of Hayward’s decision to bolt for Boston.
Phew. I’ve been there for a lot of things with this team.
I wasn’t there for Al Jefferson’s thrilling game-winning basket in Toronto, though. I watched that game from a Buffalo Wild Wings restaurant in, of all places, Buffalo, because, well, let’s just say I’ll never live down leaving my passport on my nightstand before I left on that road trip. (I’ll never forget UPS turning an overnight delivery into an over-three-nights-delivery mess, either.)
I could keep reminiscing. I was there for a lot of good times, for a few excruciating and awkward experiences, for a number of incredible moments and, honestly, for countless mind-numbing stretches of basketball and interviews.
While I will always cherish my nine years on the Jazz beat, those memories came at a cost.
For every fun Jazz moment I experienced, there was a get-together, a holiday, a birthday, lacrosse game, recital or some other sliver of unrecoverable time that I missed with my family, my friends, my church and myself.
My new position will allow me to remain in the sports scene — and, yes, I’ll still write about the Jazz from time to time — while also hopefully giving me a chance to enjoy a more stable life. I hope I take this opportunity to become a better husband, dad, church member, health coach and all-around person. The Jazz beat has a way of swallowing you up from late September through the end of July if you allow it to, and I usually did. I no longer have that built-in excuse to slack in other aspects of my life.
One of the hardest parts about getting off this beat will be leaving behind the daily interaction with Jazz employees, media members and fans.
Man, you Jazz fans have been a big part of my life the past nine years. I’ve tried to inform you, entertain you and engage with you. I’ve let you into my life, and you’ve let me into yours. I’m grateful for that.
You have congratulated me on the births of my two youngest kids, cheered me on as I became an Ironman triathlete, felt bad for me as I regained a bunch of weight, laughed at me (c’mon, that spin move at media training camp was epic), endured me and my onslaught of corny jokes, supported me through struggles and successes in battles with my physical and emotional health, called me out on bad sports takes, gave me props for opinions you agreed with, envied me and my mountain man beard, read me in 140-character bursts and longer doses in the paper, teased me about being a (fill-in-the-blank) homer, trolled me, unfollowed me, refollowed me, muted me, retweeted me, shouted “Jody!” to me, stopped me at gas stations, stores and restaurants to chat, stood up for me, become friends with me, gotten fed up with me, chuckled at me and my death glares (FYI, my infamous if-looks-could-kill stare at Ty Corbin really was unintentional), rolled your eyes at me, thanked me for being vocal about my health journey, received some breaking news from me, been patient (or not) as I tried to chase down news that other reporters broke before me, flattered me with praise for a good tweet, story or personal achievement, and stuck with me as I tried to share the ins and outs of all things Jazz (and anything else I felt like writing about) over the past nine years.
I could go on.
It used to drive me crazy when people would tell me, “Stick to the Jazz!” All things considered, I’ll take it as a compliment if you tell me that now.