I was born and raised in Eugene, Oregon, and unlike our previous sports and education reporter, Zach Silva, I did not attend a rival high school to Cottage Grove, so please hold all reservations about my future rooting interests!
However, perhaps similarly to Zach, I had a typical Eugene childhood where - and I apologize in advance for this - I almost exclusively experienced Cottage Grove as a highway stop on the road to elsewhere. It’s richness was hidden to me by ignorance, by the inability to take just two more turns off the highway to Main Street, by one thing or another.
My only clear memories of the area are the occasional trip to go swimming in Bryce Creek and, strangely, as the place where I found out Steve Irwin, the Crocodile Hunter, had perished at the hands of a stingray. After a few short weeks working in the area, these memories have already grown tenfold.
Despite my lack of experience in this particular corner of the state, I’m nonetheless an Oregon boy through and through. I am a diehard Portland Trailblazers fan, the Lukes of Oregon basketball (Jackson and Ridnour) hold a special place in my heart and Marcus Mariota is practically a holy figure in my eyes. I even tend to root for Beaver baseball after a jealous U of O program swooped in to claim some thunder in the face of so much success up in Corvallis.
Basketball and baseball are my particular sports passions. I’ve loved football since I was young, but my interest in the NFL wanes with each additional penalty, game stoppage, in-game sponsorship and tv timeout. However, it is with that in mind that I can’t wait to begin covering high school football; a level where the game is still about the game, about stories, about people, about community without all the extra riff raff that comes along with cable television.
I come from a family - family on both sides - that made up for their lack of physical gifts and elite athletic ability by watching sports and, well, playing them too … at least until everyone else got too big, fast or strong. My mother and father, in their retirement, are currently checking off boxes on their ongoing national MLB stadium tour. My grandmother, in all her blindness, listened to Atlanta Braves games every day on the radio, every day until she passed away well into her nineties. This love of sport was all passed on to me.
Before receiving this opportunity in the world of journalism, I spent five years in education, teaching, creating curricula, guiding students and even a year learning about library science and management. Now, as I dive back into the world of education from a completely new angle, I see further opportunity to use the skills I’ve tried to hone over the years.
For much of the last ten years of my life, I’ve been transient, never staying in the same city or housing situation for too long. I even had a 4 year hiatus from American life when I taught English in China. But this was never really by design. Perhaps in the tumult of our 21st century world, it’s been a part of my own self-searching, looking desperately for the place that adult-me can call home.
For the past three years in particular, I’ve slowly been on a kind of narrowing trajectory. I’ve found myself working my way down the ladder in terms of population, from a Chinese mega-city of 12 million, to Portland, to Eugene, and now on to Cottage Grove.
This downsizing and change has allowed me to experience different lifestyles, from the cosmopolitan to the rural. It has allowed me to engage and connect with people of all walks of life, from Chinese farmers to Portland-area entrepreneurs. Most importantly, it has led me to realize that this, right here in Cottage Grove, right now, is the place I want to be.
It is these varied life experiences that I bring to the table when I think about stories. Every experience informs the next and the same will be true of all the new things and people I will come to see and meet as I embark on covering sports and education in the greater Cottage Grove area. After a few weeks, I already feel welcome. I already feel comfortable, but I have a sneaking suspicion these feelings will only grow and deepen throughout my time at the Sentinel. And that is a testament to the strength of the community here, a community I’m proud to now be a part of.