CAMPUS CORNER — So, this will be my last dispatch from Campus Corner. For those who wondered about that dateline, I lived about a five-minute walk from Boyd and Asp, so starting each blog post with Campus Corner was far from disingenuous. I called it home since August – and I loved it. Like I said in the paper the other day, I intended to be here for years to come. I never thought this stay would be so short. But I never anticipated having an opportunity like the one in front of me – at least not when I moved here from South Carolina seven months ago.
Admittedly, I could not quite get to everything on my Oklahoma Bucket List in such a finite period of time. I didn’t see a full Thunder season. I didn’t see the completion of Devon Tower (though it really is captivating in the OKC sky). I didn’t meet Thunder reporter Darnell Mayberry - until this week, anyway. There were folks with which I was supposed to have lunch. I didn’t see all four seasons – although I guess I did, in a sense, given the weird weather patterns this “winter.”
I did check off a number of items since August.
** Friday will mark my fifth Thunder game. They’re a blast, aren’t they? I’m told the playoffs are even more insane. It’s a special homecourt environment, unlike most any other in the league. It’s a young team that sometimes frustrates, but it electrifies a lot more than it disappoints. When I finally did meet Darnell the other day, I sensed how much he was enjoying this part of the ride.
** Living virtually on campus, I always enjoyed my runs down, around and through the football stadium.
** I know what a Swirl is. And what a Lunchbox is. I know their inherent dangers.
** Our columnist, Berry Tramel, has promised to take me to Rodney’s in Purcell before I’m gone.
** I was so fortunate to make friendships that will last a lifetime. Everyone needs encouraging, positive and fun friends like Lindsay Houts, Marek Ferguson and Casey Cornett. They’re life-improvers, joy-givers – even if we’re fairly pedestrian trivia players. The Mayor, himself, couldn’t even save us when he made cameos. Let “The #waynepayne Experience” live on in my absence.
** The Florida State trip was interesting. Amazing game. Drove to Jacksonville afterward – and the Tulsa-OSU game ended just as I hit that city’s limits, at 5 a.m. Eastern.
** I saw Robert Griffin III win the Heisman in front of my very eyes. Last time that happened, it was Tim Tebow.
** Doing radio Thanksgiving weekend with Barry Switzer was a neat experience, even if the wind was howling like crazy before (and during and after) the Iowa State game. (Can’t say I’ll miss the wind, y’all.)
** I’d never been to Phoenix before, but I got to cover not one but two bowls over the holidays. No offense to OU’s romp against Iowa, but the Fiesta was one of the best games I had seen in a long time. OSU had a special season, and that beat is in good hands with Gina Mizell and John Helsley.
** I enjoyed the day-after-bowl impromptu news conference with Bob Stoops because I saw what he was like with his guard down. I learned more about the team that morning than I did all fall. Wish there were more windows into programs like that, but I suppose I understand why there aren’t in this age of paranoia and media proliferation. Still, that was a nice exchange of questions and answers. And I appreciated it.
** Recently, the Johnsons – some of the nicest people I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing – took me to a Sunday night Thunder game against Denver. I had no idea I’d wind up seeing KD’s 51, Westbrook’s 40, a Serge triple-double and an overtime thriller. You just never know, do you? I had already interviewed at that point, but I knew that night I’d be just fine if I wound up staying.
I said it already once this week, but I have to say it again: This is a special place. This is a special paper. There are genuine people who care, about each other and what they’re doing here, at every turn. I was honored to be here for the time that I was, and I would have been honored to be here much longer. I cannot thank Mike Sherman and his sports staff enough. They immediately wrapped their arms around me and brought me into their goofy and great family. I’d never been part of a work environment like that, and I doubt I ever will be again. I never took a day of that for granted, riding to games in the “Party Time” Cruisers or sitting in extended team-building meetings.
I’m leaving newspapers. But I’m leaving better off, having been at this one.
Take care. I’ll see you all again soon.