So here it is; my first official column in the newspaper I grew up reading.
You'll have to excuse me if I get a little nostalgic here, but it's important that I share with you just what a thrill this is.
See, I've been reading the Journal-World for as long as I can remember and always have looked forward to the day when I would have my byline splashed across its pages, a sign that I had not only advanced as a sportswriter but also found myself in a position to share my passion for sports and writing with my hometown.
Introductory columns are a lot like first dates. You have to get them out of the way before you make any lasting memories. So bear with me for a minute while I tell you who I am and where I'm from. I promise my future columns will be about nothing but high school sports.
I graduated from LHS in 1996 and enjoyed every second of my time as a Chesty Lion. But don't worry, Firebird fans, I have several connections to Free State High these days and am happy to support and cover both schools. The way I see it, split or not, Lawrence is still one town.
After graduating from LHS, I decided to stick around and attend Kansas University, where I received my journalism degree in 2000. During my time at KU, I covered baseball, basketball and football for the University Daily Kansan.
After that, I began my career as a sports writer at a group of weekly newspapers owned by the World Company, the same company that owns the Journal-World. I spent six years writing for the Bonner Springs Chieftain and Basehor Sentinel and four as the sports editor of those two along with the Shawnee Dispatch, a weekly we started from the ground up.
My time at those papers did wonders for my career as a journalist. I took pictures, laid out pages, edited stories and wrote features, columns, recaps and previews. My dad once gave me a hard time about how funny it looked to see "Matt Tait" on the sports front 10-12 times a week. I can't imagine a scenario when that would happen here. But that's probably a good thing. My pictures weren't always the sharpest.
Other than helping to craft my all-around skills, covering sports in small towns drove home something I always knew: I love high school sports. There's nothing more exciting than the atmosphere of Friday night football, nothing more rewarding than watching young athletes give it their all simply because they love to play.
We've entered a scary era in the professional and college sports ranks. Athletes today seem to find ways to make news off the field as often as they do on the field. But in the high school ranks, there are no Michael Vicks or Tim Donaghys - not in terms of egos or detrimental actions. The young men and women who suit up for their high schools play the game the right way and for the right reasons. Their coaches and parents have a lot to do with that. All three groups should be recognized for such feats. I'm sure my grandparents would roll their eyes at the thought of giving an athlete credit for not losing his temper on the field. But that's the world we live in, and that's why I'm here.
I'm big on interaction, so if you see me at a game, feel free to come up and say hey. If you like something you read, send me an e-mail. If you have a story idea or a suggestion of how we can do something better, don't hesitate to contact me.
But above it all, sit back and enjoy the ride. I know I will.