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Departing Red Wing on better terms

Joe Brown

Week One. Sept. 2, 2004. Fridley at Red Wing in the opening game of the football season. I was on the field for the visiting Tigers, starting at center and nose tackle.

The game ended with an 18-16 come-from-behind win for the Wingers. I remember sobbing in the visiting locker room afterwards. We had Red Wing on the ropes and didn't finish the job. That hour-plus bus ride home sucked.

So yeah, my initial memories of Red Wing were not pleasant.

Fast-forward over 13 years later, I've departed Red Wing again. This time, I'm not quite the blubbering wreck like 17-year-old me.

Since the calendar turned to 2018, my byline was not in the Republican Eagle's sports section a whole lot. Reason being, I accepted a promotion to regional editor here at RiverTown Multimedia. With that shift, I've had to move into an office in Hastings and delve more into the news side.

I'll admit: school board meetings don't carry quite the exciting ebb and flow that a section hockey championship game carries. But as I get older, it's nice to move up in the company and have work days that end with the sun still out.

I made it a point to help out the Eagle during the winter state tournaments, with my last assignment coming at state wrestling. Unfortunately, none of the area basketball teams are state bound, otherwise I'd be making plans for Williams Arena or Target Center.

So now that I got both my feet out the door, I have to extend a Minnesota Goodbye to the R-E sports desk.

I was burned out coming from my previous job and managed to become invigorated by the kind people in Goodhue County. I remember getting a "Welcome to town" from Macy Kelly following an interview at a volleyball game. And in the fall of 2012, the seniors at Lake City and Cannon Falls got to know me as the Red Wing Guy on Twitter. It seemed like people were excited when some big guy with a camera and a notebook showed up to your gymnasium.

Then came the name chanting.

Look, I kind of hated it because I didn't want the focus to be on me instead of the game. And it's weird to feel like you're popular among high schoolers when you're in your 30s.

But I'm sure my face got very, very red every time the "Joe Brown" chants came up in Red Wing or Goodhue. I'm glad you kids were able to have some fun. I don't think I ever kept a straight face. So yeah, I hated it, but I kind of loved it.

More importantly, I'm glad what we did in the sports section resonated with kids as much as their parents and grandparents, especially when paper is replaced by iPhones and social media.

And, there was some cool things that happened along the way.

Like covering every team state championship that Zumbrota-Mazeppa has won.

Emi Trost's dominance in cross-country and track, I was there.

Witnessing Division I athletes seemingly emerge from the Mississippi River every year in Red Wing, from Tesha Buck, Paige Haley and Ryan Boldt that first year, to Taylor Heise this past winter, was exciting to watch from afar.

Thanks to Clay Broze, I still refer to headlocks in a wrestling match as Broze Locks.

Having Nicole Schammel give thanks for all the coverage through her high-school career after the Wingers won a state golf title, that stopped me in my tracks.

Being invited to the Breuer home in Goodhue to talk about a family coping with the loss of a dad and a little brother, that was an honor to be trusted with that kind of emotional tale.

In the 15 minutes I talked to him in the summer, it was humbling to hear about Chris Rodgers' resolve in fighting off cancer for a decade and getting to be there for all of his kids.

Goodhue County certainly has good athletes. But it has better stories and even better people.

Now, I'll get to enjoy the sports scene from afar. And I can't wait to see what comes next for Goodhue County sports.

Between Kyle Stevens and Jake Pfeifer, I know the R-E is in good hands.

And now, 17-year-old me feels a little redemption. There's no tears in leaving Red Wing this time. And there are much better memories.