I left the job I had loved

at 2009 sweet 16 with billy gillispie
I sat on press row at Rupp Arena next to former University of Kentucky basketball coach Billy Gillispie during the 2009 Sweet 16. My wife, Stephanie, is in front of us taking pictures. (Photo by Progressive Studio)

 

By John Herndon, 110forChrist.com and KentuckySings.com

I had seen the day coming for quite some time. I’d been the sports editor at The Anderson News since 2002 and sports writer for the same paper for 17 years before that. I’d won over 100 awards for journalism, with over 60 of those trophies or plaques being for first place in various competitions.

I’d meet literally hundreds, probably thousands, of people through my work. I’d written stories on people playing in the NFL and had written stories about horseshoe pitchers and people playing pickleball.

I’d sat on press row at the Sweet 16 and had been outside the locker room when tears flowed after a team was eliminated in the first round of the district tournament. I’d watched Anderson County play in the state championship football game and I had covered the Bearcats losing a game 77-0.

after 2010 ky all stars game with indiana
I talked with Anderson County basketball coach Glen Drury after the 2010 Kentucky vs. Indiana All-Star game in Louisville. Glen and I spent countless hours talking about basketball and life.

I was there the night a Sweet 16 game between the two best girls’ basketball teams in Kentucky — Anderson County and Elizabethtown — was delayed because someone threw baby powder in the air. Lots of baby powder which settled on the floor and left the surface unplayable until it could be cleaned up. The process took about 45 minutes.

And I was there the night the Bearcat football team and their fans got a police escort out of MIddlesboro. It wasn’t because the Bearcats had won — well, maybe it was.  They had pulled a huge upset in the state playoffs and were the beneficiary of a controversial official’s call in the last two minutes of the game. Let’s just say there were some very angry fans in the mountains that night.

You can see that I had been around and had seen just about everything possible in local sports journalism. I had one of the best seats in the house, got in free and got paid for going. If you like sports, there’s not many better gigs.

But over the last few years, something was missing. The key word is in the headline to this story: “I left a job I HAD loved.”

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Just a few weeks before I retired from The Anderson News, I was blessed to interview veteran coach Bob Osborne about his battle with ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease.

There were several things that had happened over the last four or five years, but that spark was gone. I do believe I gave everything I had to my work, but I found myself having times I didn’t have the same enthusiasm I had earlier in my career. I found myself becoming more and more skeptical of people and I was becoming something I did not want to be.

So I retired. I stepped away.

Why did I step away? It’s a question I have been asked almost daily since I announced in September that I was coming to the end of the local journalism road.

I believe there were several things that came together over the last few years that just sucked away my enthusiasm.  I won’t go into detail but will just say it was a combination of some corporate issues, unreasonable fans, more and more nights away from my family and the simple fact that I am almost 61 years old and had some dreams I wanted to pursue before it was too late.

I might add that one thing that had weighed heavily on my heart for the last couple of years was that I perceived that I was losing my Christian voice in a secular newspaper. One of the greatest compliments I ever received came when someone told me she did not know I had been in the ministry for 20 years but knew I was a Christian man from my writing.

Rightly or wrongly, I perceived that opportunity was closing. I was never told to “tone it down” but did see journalism at all levels heading in a direction away from reportage with some opinion to opinion superseding objective news coverage. It was just something I felt was beginning to hinder my witness for Christ.

with former clemson coach tommy bowden when he spoke in lburg.
I was privileged to talk with former Clemson football coach, and former Kentucky assistant coach, Tommy Bowden, when he spoke at a Lawrenceburg church. I hope to be able to have many more stories of faith in my new ventures.

(I might add that others would feel differently, given the circumstances. I respect that and realize that each of us have different situations and psyches.  Each has to do what he feels is right. For over three years, my wife and I have had lengthy discussions about believing that God was calling me into a different direction. We have shared this privately with a few others, too.)

I launched two websites, www.110forChrist.com and www.kentuckysings.com, in the last 18 months. The first deals with Christian people in the world of sports. The other is devoted to Christian music. It is heavy on country and southern gospel but not limited to them. I am devoting more time to those projects, doing some free-lance writing and am looking for some other opportunities.

So this is a leap of faith. I love God and my family more than newspapering. Yes, I am retired from the newspaper business, but far from retired in the traditional sense. I believe God has a lot left out there. I am getting so much positive feedback for our work with 110forChrist.com and KentuckySings.com that I believe I have made the right move.

My family and I covet your prayers.

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Christian singer Bob Sellers and I talked about Christ and football one afternoon!

 

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I was fortunate to interview Country Gospel Artist of the Year Chris Golden in 20
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I was challenged and inspired by Christian singer Michael Combs in 2018. (I also learned he had grown up as a fan of Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard and Lynyrd Skynyrd. No wonder I love his music!

 

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One of my most-read stories in 2018 was an interview with the Oak Ridge Boys’ William Lee Golden about singing “I’d Rather Have Jesus” in the Oaks’ shows in 2018.
with mark peach after highlands. my last football game
Talking with Anderson County football coach Mark Peach after my final game in November.

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