At least, that's what I've been told. So, instead of finishing off my career at The Daily Beacon with shoutouts, who's up for a story?
Gather round the campfire kiddos ... it ain't scary, it ain't flashy, but it might just have a point at the end - don't bet on it though.
Dungeons and Newspapers: The Meaning of Home Run Derby
The shy, spoiled mama's boy had just hugged his parents good-bye in an empty parking lot. It was the first time in years he remembered his father crying.
Forms were filled out. Tuition had been paid. Unpacking was finished. But it wasn't real for him until the forest green 4 Runner pulled away. This was college, and he was alone.
And since those parents were moving 850 miles away in a few weeks, there would be no trips home to mommy and daddy on the weekends. Sure, there'd be phone calls and weekend football game visits, but the kid needed a family, and he needed one fast.
So, he walked from the parking lot to the sidewalk, from the sidewalk to a door. He opened it and went down the dimly-lit, almost depressing stairs.
"This is great. I'm walking to my death to a dungeon or a torture chamber," he thought.
Nope. Much worse. A newspaper office.
He was at the door. One last chance to turn around and try to adjust to college life on his own. Too late.
The door flew open, and a student happier than a clown in a dentist's chair popped out of the door.
"Hi, what do you wanna do?" she half-screamed.
"Ummm ... sports," was all the incoming freshman could manage.
"OK, meet Travis," she said, shuffling him along to a tall, thin guy wearing a Virginia hat.
"Hi, I'm Travis," he said coolly from underneath the bill of his pulled down cap.
"I'm Scared S-less, nice to meet you," the once cocky kid wanted to say, suddenly feeling very intimidated. Was he in a room full of people that were much cooler than him?
Maybe not. The intimidation quickly vanished, and turned into a feeling of welcome. A few minutes later, a guy bounced up to Travis, trying to do what appeared to be his best (Insert your favorite rapper's name here). He couldn't keep a straight face though, and started laughing. Travis just stared blankly.
"The Cubs suck, mey-an. Ahm tailing you, they suck," the kid heard the "half-Alabama, half-who the hell knows where" accent from over his shoulder.
"Whatever Brad ... bandwagon jumper," came the response to the one wearing a Braves hat.
"Great," the kid thought. "This is my new family? A bandwagon redneck, a hapless, sarcastic Cubs fan, James Dean and Vanilla Ice."
Home, sweet home.
Over the years, the characters came and went, but the family - somewhere in the middle of the Jacksons and the Osbournes - was always there.
"You're gonna be Rocket from now on," the kid was told near the end of his freshman year by the newest addition to the family, a freshman who would grow up - or at least try to - right along with him.
"Why?" he asked.
"It's funny," was all he got before the human talkbox walked away to plague the next victim.
Maybe the Jacksons and Osbournes aren't really that weird after all.
The nickname calling would turn into punches in the shoulder and annoying comments when the kid and Talkbox finally got desks next to one another.
"Hey Rocket ... yooouuu suck," which was generally followed by hysterical laughter and Talkbox turning to his Camel box. That was then followed by putting off work a little more, and finally some office home run derby. Double points for putting a ball off the Andy Ikeakor poster.
In the middle of home run derby, Talkbox would occasionally turn to the kid, laughing and say, " ... and this is our life."
The kid would just smile. A wonderful life.
- Tim "Rocket" Vacek is retiring as sports editor of The Daily Beacon. He will cover Tennessee football and women's basketball for The Tennessean next year. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Vacek says bye to Beacon
Published: Wed Apr 30, 2003 | Modified: Sat Aug 06, 2005 05:08 p.m.