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29 Jul 2009

Intersection of sports, life provided quite the view

Author: AnnKillion | Filed under: Bay Area Sports
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Twenty-one years ago, almost to the day, I began a great adventure. I interviewed for a job at the Mercury News.

At the time I didn’t know what a journey it would be. My goals were simple. I wanted to work at a great paper in an exciting sports market. I also had more basic objectives: to be closer to my parents, to my Bay Area roots and, most of all, to the man I was planning to marry. For both professional and personal reasons the job was right.

Two decades later, as I look back and say goodbye, it’s hard to separate the professional from the personal. It’s all one amazing, memorable tangle.

Four thousand or so stories. Super Bowls and World Series. Four continents. Eight Olympic Games. Two beautiful kids. One solid marriage.

When I left the Los Angeles Times to cover high school sports in the Mercury News’ former Fremont bureau I wasn’t sure where the job would lead. But a high school girl in Fremont helped point the direction. Kristi Yamaguchi was emerging on the scene and — lucky for me — the paper was between Olympic writers.

The opportunity to cover Yamaguchi’s breakout performances at the figure skating national championships in Baltimore and world championships in Paris changed the trajectory of my career. My roles became increasingly more high-profile: covering the San Jose State and 49er beats, and then penning a column.

My world was peopled with some of the biggest personalities of the day: Jerry
Rice, Deion Sanders, T.O. and — for 15 years — Barry Bonds. And some of the biggest battles ever: the 49ers vs. Dallas, Joe vs. Steve, Tonya vs. Nancy, Bonds vs. the world.

I covered an amazing Game 7 win (the Sharks upset of Detroit in 1994) and a devastating Game 6 loss (the Giants’ World Series penultimate game in 2002). I saw conventional sports wisdom turned on its head. The 49ers did trade Joe Montana. The Raiders did return. The nation did stop and care about women’s soccer. The Giants did build a ballpark.

But so many memories are created at the point where job and life intersected. As a newlywed, I made my way through a shellshocked San Francisco to a candlelit hotel ballroom to hear baseball commissioner Fay Vincent’s decision on continuing the World Series after the earthquake. The evening after a somewhat infamous run-in with Charles Haley, I learned I was pregnant. The time I called my copy desk for questions on a pre-NFL draft story — from the delivery room before the birth of my first child.

I was pregnant with my second child during the 49ers’ last Super Bowl run. As the wins mounted and the postgame mobs around Steve Young grew, he would direct the mob to part and let me and my protruding belly to the front of the pack. And on the day he finally won his Super Bowl, my husband and one-month-old waited back at the hotel while I worked into the night. (That baby starts high school next month, a stark reminder of how long it has been since the 49ers’ last championship.)

The joy of the Sydney Olympics will always be tempered in my memory by the anxiety I felt as my father lay in a hospital bed back home. I can’t watch the final day of the Tour de France without thinking of my kids sitting in a tree on the Champs-Élysées, straining to catch a glimpse of Lance Armstrong in 2004.

I’ve gotten to know legends along the way. Some of those who stood out: Dave Stewart, Dusty Baker, Bill Walsh, George Seifert, Tara VanDerveer, Brandi Chastain, Young. Smart, funny people who understand the bigger world beyond the boundaries of their court or field.

There is no more entertaining place on earth than a crowded press box. My colleagues are smart, devastatingly funny and downright amazing. They’ve shown me over the years that sportswriters can do anything. Now I’m going to try to prove them right.

And, you, the readers, have been incredible. We’ve disagreed, shed tears together and shared the passion of sports. It’s been quite a ride and I’ve been happy to take you along on my journey and try to show you the sports world as I see it.

It has been an amazing 21-year adventure. It’s time for a new one. Thanks.

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12 Responses to “Intersection of sports, life provided quite the view”

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