Greetings from the sports desk at the Janesville Gazette!

As you may have learned from reading Managing Editor Joel Patenaude’s op-ed page column today, I’m new to the Janesville Gazette, but not new to Janesville. I lived in Wisconsin from 1999-2007, and in Janesville specifically from 1999-2003. My kids David and Marissa grew up here and attended Janesville schools.

David is a 2018 Parker graduate who performed in the band.

My former wife Amy and I were licensed Rock County foster parents for a number of years; David was one of our foster children who we adopted. We had both adult and child licenses.

By the way, if you ever want your life turned upside down and scrutinized with the proverbial fine-toothed comb, first apply for a foster care license, and then for an encore, endure an adoption home study! But I digress.

I also spent several years between newspaper gigs working for the School District of Janesville, first as a substitute teacher and then as a special education paraprofessional working primarily at Craig.

So I’m well-versed in the Parker-Craig rivalry!

Coming back to Janesville very much feels like a homecoming.

As I’ve gotten settled here over the past week, driving around, it’s all come back to me very quickly and seamlessly. Janesville feels just like my favorite Packers sweatshirt: Warm, comfortable and safe.

As for my sports journalism bona fides, I’ve been covering high school sports literally since I was in high school myself. My junior year at Castle Park High School in Chula Vista, Calif., in the early 1980s, I injured my right knee, putting a premature end to my underwhelming prep football career.

I was a 5-foot-5, 170-pound backup tight end on a team that primarily ran the football. Most of my playing time consisted of a few garbage-time snaps and toiling on special teams.

Think “Rudy.”

I was working on the school paper, and I was already going to be at the Friday night games, prowling the sidelines with the rest of the walking wounded performing ancillary football-related tasks such as holding the coaches’ headphone wires, charting plays, and filling water bottles.

Yes, “holding the coaches’ headphone wires” was a thing. Those wires were several hundred feet long, and it would have been an easy matter for the coaches to trip over them.

So we decided I might as well just cover the games.

Thus began a journalism career now closing in on 40 years.

Over many years of doing this job, I’ve always striven to keep two key concepts front and center.

They’re just kids, and it’s only a game.

High school sports are supposed to be an extension of the classroom, as we’re typically reminded in the pregame warmups as the PA announcer reads a statement from the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association.

In addition to Xs and Os, the kids learn the value of teamwork, the importance of fair play, and the bittersweet reality that sometimes, you give all you have to give in the arena, and still come out on the wrong end of the scoreboard.

But it’s those lessons that endure long after the cheering stops and the uniforms come off for the last time. Years from now, the kids we cover here at the Gazette will gather for reunions. And with a few notable exceptions, the scores of these games will be a distant memory.

The moments shared both on and off the field and the lessons learned? Those will live on forever.

Please feel free to call, email, or send me a message on Twitter with thoughts, concerns, story ideas, etc. I’m chomping at the proverbial bit to get going after COVID-19 caused me to be laid off from my last newspaper job in California.

See you out and about in this great community this fall!

Contact Janesville Gazette sports editor David Vantress at 755-8248 or via email at dvantress@gazettextra.com. Follow him on Twitter at @journodave1966.

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