This is my first week on the job.
For me, it's a nice homecoming. I grew up in these parts. From first grade at Martinez Elementary, on to Bel Air Elementary, and finally through junior high and high school at Augusta Christian Schools, this is my home.
I've been in Nashville, Tenn., for the past four years at Trevecca Nazarene University. There, I was mercilessly bombarded with biased and unbalanced University of Tennessee and Vanderbilt propaganda.
Thankfully, I endured.
To be honest, my sports teams are up North. Although I spent only the first four years of my life in Ohio, it was long enough to make the Cleveland Indians, Browns and Cavaliers my teams. I followed the Tribe's Joe Carter and Cory Snyder, watched as Bernie Kosar battled the rest of the NFL, and stood in awe as Mark Price hit 3-pointer after 3-pointer.
In four years of loyal dedication to three professional sports teams, I think I saw three wins.
Down here, however, teams win. Despite my hopeless affinity for the Northern teams, I have one single sports memory that trumps them all. I remember exactly where I was (a hotel in Statesboro, Ga.) when Francisco Cabrera's base hit for the Atlanta Braves sent Sid Bream chugging around third to score the game-winning run in game seven of the 1992 National League Championship Series. For me, a little 9-year-old kid, "The Hit" was the highlight of my childhood. We beat those dirty Pittsburgh Pirates, and we were going to the World Series. I tomahawk chopped my way through school, church and the entire neighborhood for the next two months.
I'll never forget Bream's sprint from second to home. It was the best 45 seconds of my life.
We all have memories like that. It's part of the beauty of sports. Here in Columbia County, I hope to experience sports moments like that. They might not make national news, but it's the smaller hometown sport's moments that are sometimes the most memorable.
I've now been away for four years. I don't know my way around anymore. While the nation follows the steroids issue in professional sports, it appears Washington Road has been on steroids itself. Yesterday, I hit a traffic jam in Evans. It's not even a town! Five years ago, a traffic jam in Evans occurred only on the first warm Saturday in spring when two-thirds of Augusta relocated to Thurmond Lake for the weekend.
Don't get me wrong, I love the growth. It gives me the opportunity to meet each one of you over the next few weeks ... stuck in traffic.
So, in advance, thanks for reading. I look forward to the Columbia County sports memories to come.
To reach Billy Byler, call 863-6165, extension 116, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
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