Some guys have all the luck.

Other than being an insufferable song that will wedge itself in your brain all day like the musical cotton candy it is, it’s the recurring theme of my career.

Sunday marked the 25th anniversary of the day I first walked through the doors at 104 Park Street and fooled somebody into giving me a job.

That is equal parts stupid and mathematically/legally impossible, since I don’t look a day over 30. (Uncomfortable, nervous laughter.) Alas, it is the truth.

How did we get here? Perhaps I forced the issue because it was the only career anybody could seriously imagine me performing for more than a week or two.

The rural legend is that at age 4, I would park in a lawn chair in the middle of my grandparents’ pastoral property on East Jay Road and hand-write my own newspapers, heavy on the sports and TV listings. Obituaries, too. “Donald Duck died Thursday from too much quacking” was an epitaph my mom never allowed me to forget until the day I regrettably had to write hers.

By 6 or 7, I had moved onto what we in the business call the agate page — the standings and statistics that have long made me a sort of sports Rain Man. Family members would peek over my shoulder in morbid curiosity, only to have me shield the scribbling with a fat little forearm. It wasn’t a reflex action of embarrassment. More like fear that I would be counseled to get off my butt and go do what little boys are supposed to do, such as break both wrists while falling out a tree, or shoot squirrels with a BB gun.

God bless the late Betty Libby. She was the Sun Journal’s staff editor of a publication known as the Academic Advocate. It was a weekly insert of art, poetry, creative writing, and in my case quasi-journalism; an outlet that gave awkward, angst-ridden kids a chance to be published.

I regaled an audience of at least a dozen with Guns N’ Roses album reviews and my stirring accounts of Monmouth-Oak Hill basketball games. I’m not sure there are talent headhunters combing the back pages for such artistry.

I’m also not sure who made the first phone call. Nancy Morris was my faculty advisor and one of the guardian angels of my tortured teenage soul. Charlie Pomerleau was Sunday sports editor. And yes, this was so long ago that there were three separate entities working out of the same office — a Daily Sun, an Evening Journal and a Sunday.

Somewhere along the way the game of phone tag ended and my sweaty palm connected with Charlie’s. He was seeking what they called a “sports clerk,” and as insanely great fortune would have it, high school athletes and athletic supporters were the customary talent pool.

The work was not rocket surgery. Typing up college baseball box scores and writing two or three paragraphs about each game. Taking exacta and quiniela combinations and payout information over the phone from Lewiston Raceway. Stuffing our faces with pizza and debating which Led Zeppelin record transcended all others.

“Are you pretty good with computers?” I lied like a doormat from the dollar store. Hated the doggone things, much as my school had tried to introduce them as geek-chic in those years.

“I’m not going to make you rich. It’s $5.50 an hour. That doesn’t sound like much, but it’s a lot more than McDonald’s.” Sounded like millions to me. One night a week would furnish more than enough cash to take a girl to the movies. What more was there to life?

So Charlie let me wedge my foot in the door. Not sure where it ranked on his list of wise decisions in life, but it is one of the five best things that ever happened to me.

It was March 9, 1989.

By summer I’d finagled my way into the auto racing beat, a lifelong passion that did more than its share to shape my identity in the region. In the fall I was covering the Class A and C football championship games, immortalizing athletes who were the same age as I.

People ask why I’ve never left. Among my friends I notoriously hold back not an ounce of my hatred for Maine winter and Maine politics, after all.

“Don’t you ever think about moving on to bigger and better things?” Are they calling me an underachiever? Or are they saying that Androfrankfordbec County is small potatoes?

Either way, I get more than a little annoyed. I’m blessed to wake up every morning and pursue a job that I openly love in an area I covertly love. I’m blessed to sleep in my own bed every night and not have to worry about my room service bill or my next connecting flight. I’m blessed to live in a place where high school sports are major league.

One golden rule of this profession I stumbled into is never make yourself the story. Well, much as this column could have violated that principle, I say it didn’t.

Joey Gamache, Andy Bedard, Ricky Craven, Cindy Blodgett and Julie Parisien are the story. The Edward Little Red Eddies, Lewiston Blue Devils, Dirigo Cougars, Jay Tigers and Livermore Falls Andies are the story. Supportive bosses are the story. Faithful readers who have become treasured friends are the story.

Twenty-five more years in this business would be a foolish, selfish request. Talk about pushing my luck.

But I don’t know any better. That sound you just heard was me, sticking my foot in that doorway again.

Let’s get to work.

Kalle Oakes is a staff columnist. His email is [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @Oaksie72.


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