Well, folks, this is my last post as a Chicagoan. By the time I get around to my next edition of TBT (whenever that may be), I will be a Southerner.
As Roberta and I frantically finish our packing - and I get wrapped up in some heavy-duty worrying about my ability to handle the 24-foot truck I'll be driving to Charlotte - so many thoughts about my 16 years in Chicago are running through my mind ...
For example, I know I'll miss the views from my 17th-floor apartment.
From my living room to the south, I've got my favorite skyline in America. It's a beautiful day, and there's the Hancock. And there's the Sears (sorry, but the only Willis I ever cared about was Reed).
From my master bedroom to the east, I've got Lake Michigan. All that deep blue water, dotted with sailboats. I love this view when I need some tranquility.
From my dining room to the west, there's Wrigley Field, its light towers seeming so much a part of its very essence that it's hard to imagine they weren't even there less than a quarter-century ago.
Then there are the many people who have made my experience here so unique.
Characters such as Ozzie Guillen, Dennis Rodman, Jay Mariotti, Marty DeMerritt, Curtis Enis, Tony La Russa, Sammy Sosa, Cade McNown, Dusty Baker, Terry Bevington, Lovie Smith, Michael Barrett, Lou Piniella, Jerry Krause, Jeremy Roenick, Skip Bayless, Carlos Zambrano, Michael Jordan, Ron Artest, Frank Thomas, Chris Chelios, Bruce Weber, Eddy Curry, Joe Cain, Dave Wannstedt, David Terrell and so many more - I know I'm leaving dozens out.
That list of characters includes people I liked very much (Ozzie, Dusty, Barrett, Lou, Roenick, Weber), people who weren't exactly role models (Worm, Mariotti, Enis, Sammy, McNown, Cra-Z, M.J., Artest, Curry) and people representing every race, creed and color.
Chicago is a great sports town - certainly the best in which I've lived and/or worked - and I probably will miss that even more than I think I will.
As for my media colleagues ...
What can I say about the beat writers? I doubt newspaper and Web-site readers realize how hard these talented folks work. The Internet simply piles on additional duties to the work they already were doing. I have so much respect for people such as Paul Sullivan and Gordon Wittenmyer and Bruce Miles and Tim Sassone and K.C. Johnson and Brad Biggs and Joe Cowley and Mark Gonzalez and Scott Gregor and Chris Kuc and Brian Hamilton and Herb Gould and John Supinie and Paul Klee and Vaughn McClure and, well, I hope I didn't forget anybody I worked alongside these years. As I think about them, I really am in awe of the volume and quality of their work.
A special shoutout to the media mavens to whom I've grown especially close: Phil Arvia, Rick Gano, Gene Chamberlain, Rick Morrissey, Teddy Greenstein, Nick Hut, Seth Gruen, Mike Ramsey, Rick Telander, Mike Imrem, Mike Downey, Casey Laughman, Andy Seligman.
And of course, the late, great Gene Seymour; I'm always thinking of you, big guy.
Away from sports, I will miss all the close friends from so many different walks of life: Linda and Gary Mark; Darcia and Mike Brundidge; Laura and Tony Pellikan; Laura and Tony Garza; Kristi and Jim Johnson; Barb and Jeff Grunewald; and so on and so on.
Not to mention our son, Ben, who will continue to represent the Nadels here. He'll give Roberta and I a major reason to visit as often as schedules allow.
I also will miss being able to walk to work, but I won't miss the traffic when I have to drive. Will miss Millennium Park, won't miss the politics of Chicago (and Cook County and Illinois). Will miss all the great restaurants, won't miss the overpriced burger joints popping up on practically every corner. Will miss the farmer's market, won't miss trying to park the car in my crowded neighborhood. Will miss Bobtail ice cream, won't miss the sirens we hear, oh, every 10 minutes or so. Will miss taking long walks at the lakefront, won't miss the bumper-banging boneheads who "park by feel." Will miss taking advantage of the best downtown in all of the U.S.A., won't miss having to drive so darn far every time I want to play 18.
While my kids were born in Minneapolis, they were raised in Chicago. They spent their formative years in our little 3-bedroom, 1 1/2-bath house on Bell Ave. The backyard was so small that we gave up trying to have a real yard and just paved most of it to make a basketball court. There, Katie and Ben learned to become pretty darn good ballers, and the times I spent watching them play basketball in rec leagues, grade school and high school were among my favorite times as a parent. As I said, Ben is staying but Katie already has moved to Seattle. Still, if you ask her where she's from, she'll say Chicago. Both got great educations at public grade and high schools and both learned a lot about people in the melting pot that is the city.
While I was born in Connecticut, went to college in Milwaukee and became a full-time sportswriter in Minneapolis, it was in Chicago that I lived my journalism dream of being a major-metro sports columnist. I honestly believe that from 1998, when I joined the Copley newspaper family, until mid-2007, when the yahoos at GateHouse bought (and promptly started ruining) the Copley properties, I had the single best newspaper job in Chicago. I covered the Jordan Bulls, the champion Sox, the Bartman Cubs, the '06 Bears, the Deron-Dee Illini run to the Final Four, Sosa and McGwire, Tiger vs. Sergio and so many other amazing events, I have nothing but the very fondest memories.
Roberta ran in the Chicago Marathon, went back to school at a Chicago city college and got a job taking care of sick kids at Children's Memorial Hospital. We renewed our vows in Chicago on our 20th anniversary in front of family and friends.
Yes, the politics and the taxes and the parking tickets and the traffic started getting to me, especially the last couple of years. But for most of these last 16 years, I would tell anyone willing to listen how much I loved Chicago. And still do.
I could go on, but I've got to stop somewhere.
Thanks, Chicago. It's been a blast.