Speaking of Sports
This is Jeff Arenz, and I am Speaking of Sports. --
A new era began on Monday for The Standard Democrat's sports department. With the departure of Derek James, D.A. Publishing has hired me, Jeff Arenz, to be the sports editor in Sikeston.
Derek served The Standard Democrat for 10 faithful years -- first as a sports reporter and, later, as its sports editor. He is a native of Sikeston and his knowledge concerning the history of area athletics will be extremely hard to replace.
From the stories that I have read and the page designs that I have seen, Derek did an excellent job by providing The Standard Democrat and the readers of its sports section with a stable, consistent product each day. My plan for the future includes building upon the rock-solid foundation that he has laid.
I wish Derek success as he makes his transition from journalism to future plans of becoming an educator -- both in the classroom and as a coach at Sikeston High School.
In the short amount of time that I have spent with Derek, I have learned that his passion for sports burns like the white flames of a raging fire. I like that!
It reminds me of someone that I know personally -- me.
Now that you know about Derek and his decision, you're probably wondering who in the heck is this guy that The Standard Democrat hired to lead its sports department?
Like I said above, my name is Jeff Arenz. If you look somewhere toward the top of this column, you will find my picture inside a pre-formatted graphic box. I know, scary! Isn't it?
After working as a sports journalist (reporter, editor, proofreader, page designer, photographer, etc.) for a variety of newspapers during the last 10 years, I have recently moved to Sikeston to become The Standard Democrat's sports editor.
My experience includes the coverage of sports at the recreational, middle school, high school, collegiate and professional levels. I have written previews and reviews of live games, and features and columns about sporting events that include auto racing, baseball, basketball, bowling, cross country, golf, gymnastics, football, soccer, softball, swimming, tennis, track and field, volleyball and wrestling.
Some of my special assignments have consisted of covering championship games of Little League; the state finals of high school basketball and wrestling in Iowa; Northern Illinois University, Western Illinois University and Wabash College, Ind., athletics; and being a beat writer for St. Louis Rams training camp. I have even been fortunate enough to be granted a press credential to a cover a Chicago Bears game against the Dallas Cowboys at Soldier Field.
In 2006, while I was working as a sports copy editor and page designer at The Morris (Ill.) Daily Herald, the Illinois Press Association honored the sports section that I produced on a daily basis by giving it first-place recognition during the IPA Awards -- a contest of newspapers with circulations of less than 10,000. It led the advertising department to promote the sports staff and I as "The Best Small Town Sports Section" in the state.
And that is exactly what I expect to achieve for The Standard Democrat's sports section.
If you have detected some of my references to Illinois, it's because The Land of Lincoln is from where I hail. My hometown, Streator, is located in the north central region about 15 miles south of Interstate 80, which is located halfway between Chicago and Peoria.
The life of a journalist often includes a lot traveling, especially when you're covering sports. Writers who drift from town-to-town are common in this profession. In fact, this is not my first stint in Missouri
(I spent some time as sports reporter working at The Courier-Press in Hannibal).
Among journalists, it is widely said that sometimes they have to keep moving until they find the right fit. From what I have seen, so far, Sikeston is fitting very nicely to me for a few of reasons. The population of Sikeston is similar in its size to the population to Streator (17,000 people here and 15,000 people there). The economy of both towns hinges upon the agriculture production of area farmers.
Another coincidence between Sikeston and Streator are the high schools. As you well know, the teams at Sikeston High School are nicknamed the "Bulldogs" and wear red, black and white uniforms. At my prep alma mater, Streator Township High School, the teams are also nicknamed the "Bulldogs" and wear red, black and white uniforms. The enrollments of both schools are in the 1,000-to-1,100 range.
When I began my sports journalism career 10 years ago, I served the sports department of my hometown newspaper, The Times-Press, as a college intern. A lot of my assignments centered on covering the SHS Bulldogs. I see that some things in my life never change.
I believe the best thing that ever happened to my professional career were the two years I spent working as a college intern for Harold Olson, who was a 30-
year veteran sports editor at my hometown newspaper. Harold, along with Mike Cunniff (who is another 30-year sports reporting veteran) drew up the blueprints for which my sports writing style is patterned.
From a personal standpoint, I am a 32-year-old man, who is the only child of Leonard and Judy Arenz. My father, Leonard, is a farmer who has given me an extra-strong dose of common sense, an excellent ability to read maps and the perspective to analyze everything from a historical standpoint. My mother, Judy, is an elementary school teacher who has bestowed upon me an undying passion for life, religion and love for my family (no matter how annoying some of my relatives can be).
Because I have the support of both parents and a fairly large extended German-Italian family, I know that I can succeed at anything that I do. I believe this is why I became a self-starter who is not afraid to be a go-getter when it comes to completing a project.
During my life, my family and friends have come to know me as a diehard, dedicated lifelong sports enthusiast, who participated in the organized school sports of basketball, baseball and intramural bowling. After my playing days were over, I became an amateur baseball umpire for 13 summers -- eight of which were at a certified level with the Illinois High School Association. This helped me to pay for the time I spent in college.
When I wasn't on a court or a diamond, my interest in sports continued by playing pickup games of football, volleyball, soccer and tennis, etc.
In my spare time, I can usually be found watching or listening to my favorite professional and college teams play. Also, I enjoy listening to and playing rock and roll music; collecting CDs of my favorite bands; going to professional and collegiate sporting events, concerts and the movies; having dinner out with my family and friends; and using computers and the Internet.
I think I've spent enough time babbling about myself. Now is the time that I should roll up my sleeves and begin concentrating upon doing some old-
fashioned hard work. My next column will provide insight into my plans that I have for the production of The Standard Democrat's sports section.
Until then, I am looking forward to developing a cohesive, professional, trustworthy relationship with my co-workers, athletes, coaches, sports-
related contacts and everyone else who is involved in area athletics. I am also yearning to build a close, personal, intimate relationship -- through my writing -- with the people who support The Standard Democrat by reading its sports section daily.
As always, I'm Speaking of Sports. --
Jeff Arenz is the sports editor of
The Standard Democrat 205 S. New Madrid Sikeston, Mo.