Wednesday, April 27, 2011

WHO? ME? A COLUMNIST?

Ah, the smell of ink, the roar of the presses, the fever of the deadline – my return to the printed media reached fruition today. I grew up in the newspaper business. I mean I REALLY grew up around newspapers being published. I have pictures going back to age 6 or so when I would go to work with my dad, who was a long time employee of the Mountaineer. I was a fixture around the place running in and out of the press room and ad composition areas…

As an adolescent, if I wasn’t involved in high school sports, I was working at the newspaper. I worked my way up from janitorial services to ad compositor to a pressman. At the end of my sophomore year in college, I took a somewhat extended break from classes at Appalachian State University in Boone, NC as I was going in the wrong direction with my grades and returned home to live and work. Eventually, that time out led to full time work at the paper with my dad and it took him only a few months to help me realize the importance of returning to college and getting it right!

My father, Oliver “Babe” Yount, came to work at the Mountaineer after World War II. He briefly played baseball for the St. Louis Browns but was deemed to old to invest much money in by the organization. He returned home and attended Western Carolina University to play football along with some of his friends, who were also returning veterans.

His college career lasted a year or so before he was hired by a local manufacturing plant ostensibly to work production but really, it was to play baseball in the area’s very active Industrial League. Soon, love came a calling in the form of my mother and well, one thing led to another and they decided to get married. Unfortunately, his employers wouldn’t allow him any time off for a honeymoon.

A conversation he had about the situation with a businessman in town resulted in a phone call to my dad from the publisher of the Mountaineer. He inquired if my dad could write about sports. Dad replied in the affirmative and was that  day hired as the new sports editor of the Mountaineer. Part of the hiring package was that he be given three days off to get married. So, the sports writing career began and ran for awhile until he was needed in other capacities by his country. He was recalled into the US Navy for the Korean War (then referred to as a Conflict).

Dad returned to the Mountaineer after his service to the country but took on different duties and became the head pressman until his death in 1995. He and my mom passed along their love for sports to me and my two siblings. They were supportive in every way of our efforts in high school sports and throughout my brother’s career as a wide receiver at App State.

David Yount, ASU Wide Receiver 1982

(Bro Dave, Wide Receiver, App State circa 1982)

So, I come back to today and the printing of my first column on cycling in the Mountaineer. While the smell of ink and the roar of the presses have been replaced by fingers on keyboards and digits flying through the air, I still feel pleased to have brought the family name back full circle to writing about sports. While my time as a columnist is surely limited, I look forward to bi-weekly efforts at getting others as excited about the world of cycling as I am!

The column isn’t linked to the newspaper website so I can’t magically send you there. If you are interested, what follows is the text of my first column:

A JOURNEY TOWARD HEALTH OR MAN, THAT’S A SMALL SEAT!

Here I am. A middle aged man of 58 whose hair is permanently on vacation at the beach and whose bulging belly not so long ago was hiding the very ground upon which I tread. After a life filled with athletic pursuits, I watched, mostly from a recliner, as my mid-40’s and early 50’s came and went leaving me in the dust. I realized I had hit bottom when I managed to get sore muscles playing a video game with some friends 3 years ago. I told my wife that was it, I was finally disgusted enough with myself to change the way I was living.

I sought out exercise that would return me to an improved level of fitness. Running again? Nope, too many sprained ankles in the past. Swimming? Easier on the joints, great for cardio fitness and weight loss, but boring for me.

Cycling? Yeah, that’s the ticket. No pounding of the joints on pavement, good solo sport or great group activities when needed, excellent for weight loss and cardio fitness. I’m in! Boy, was I ever in! I fell back in love with riding a bicycle in no time. What had been a “machine of freedom” in my youth, as we rode to baseball practice on our single speed bikes or cruised to the outdoor swimming pool, has come full circle for me as a “machine of freedom” to breathe easily again, to see the floor again, and to improve my sleep and mental health.

That first day of riding from my office on Walnut Street to Rolls Rite Bicycle shop located just past the Board of Education was something to see. I thought I would die before I reached the Employment Security Offices on North Main. I had to stop twice to catch my breath. I finally made the 1 mile ride to the bike shop and lived to tell the tale. My 1 mile was a starting point. It was a victory over the recliner and a swat at the somnolence of the early evening nap. It was the starting point that opened my eyes to the promise of the bicycle.

For me, some 3 years later, I am passionate about the hope offered by the simple bicycle. In it, I now see hope for the battle against our epidemic of obesity, our fight against mental illness and addiction. From my perch on that little seat, I find hope for reducing our dependence upon foreign oil. I see hope for cleaner air for your children: all because of the simple bicycle. My personal hope is that I can share this passion with you and that I can engage you to get out and ride a bicycle, or walk every day, or go swimming, or hike, or… Well, you get the picture. Hope for health is all around us and comes with one crank of the pedal at a time! You need but answer the whisper of discontent to start…

 

Here’s looking at you Babe!

- Zeke

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