To the readers and editors of The Badger Herald, past and present:
Thank you all for giving me such an incredible opportunity as a sports writer and editor over the last three-plus years. Without you, all of you, I wouldn’t be where I am today.
More importantly, I wouldn’t be who I am today.
When I arrived on campus in August 2006, I was like any other freshman. All I really knew was that I wanted to major in journalism. Aside from that, I really didn’t know what I wanted to do, other than party three nights a week of course.
I knew I should write for a student newspaper to achieve my goal of becoming a sports journalist, but I was not ready to do so my first semester in Madison. After all, I had plenty of time for that, right?
Three years and three months ago, just before my 19th birthday, I had my first story published in The Badger Herald, titled “Wisconsin looks to get ahold of Big Ten competition.” Well, 1,187 days later, here’s my final column as Sports Editor.
I can only hope, for my sake and yours, the quality of my writing has gotten better since then.
In that time, I’ve written 313 other stories about nearly every varsity sport on campus, and I’ve learned plenty along the way. But not just in terms of writing and editing at this newspaper. I’ve become a better man, too.
Not long after I wrote my first article, I began something else that has played an equally significant role in my life over the same 39-month time span. A friend approached me shortly thereafter with the idea of starting a fraternity. I was hesitant to say the least.
I gave it a shot, though, and a year later, I officially became a founding father of the Alpha Theta chapter of Phi Kappa Sigma at the University of Wisconsin. At the very least, it was an impressive accomplishment. But I soon realized it was only the beginning.
Since then, both the newspaper and fraternity have become a far bigger part of my life than I would ever have expected. In turn, I’ve had a much greater impact on both than I ever would have thought as well. And though I’m not graduating next week, it certainly feels that way as I step down and Adam Holt, Max Henson and Mike Fiammetta take the reins.
But even as I prepare to spend the majority of the next five months in Racine and Milwaukee working as an associate reporter for MLB.com, it’s hard to imagine my life without The Badger Herald, in the past, present and future.
Certainly, I would never even have been qualified to be Sports Editor if I didn’t have such excellent editors pushing me to improve. And, there’s no way I would have gotten such an unbelievable opportunity to cover professional baseball if I had never taken the time to seek out the Herald Sports department and ask for something to write about.
And it really is hard to believe I’ve gotten such an opportunity.
Just last week I talked to a pair of Brewers legends, one of which was Jim Gantner, as a part of my first feature story for MLB.com. The other former Brewer was Stormin’ Gorman Thomas, who I was (sort of) named after — Gorman Thomas, Jordan Thomas… it’s close.
Plus, as I mentioned in my previous column, I had the chance to talk one-on-one with Mr. Baseball himself, Bob Uecker, when I began working with MLB.com, allowing me to truly understand what Uke meant to baseball when he announced his heart surgery last week.
Beginning Monday, I’ll have to say goodbye to my desk at 326 W. Gorham and begin working full time in Milwaukee.
It truly is hard to believe this day has finally come, because the BH has meant so much to me since the first time I set foot in this building.
What would I have done all these years at UW without the Herald (other than getting better grades of course)? Without all the wonderful people I’ve met and shared so much time with well into the wee hours of the night?
And what will I do without them going forward? Your guess is as good as mine.
I’ve written many stories over the last 39 months. Three hundred fifteen, in fact. But this was by far the most difficult. It really is hard to say goodbye to the people and places you love. But it’s better than having no one to say it to in the first place.
This week, six men whom I am proud to call brothers are graduating without me. As much as I don’t want to, I’ll have to say goodbye to them too, because being a Phi Kap is part of who I am. Without that, my life would certainly be different.
And all because I took a chance on something I thought might be worth checking out.
So to those of you reading and those editors I’m leaving behind, I give to you this advice: Take chances; don’t be afraid to try new things. You never know where they might take you.
Jordan is a senior majoring in journalism and political science. He needs a mere 13 upper-level credits to graduate and decided to spread them out over two semesters next year for a full victory lap. Have any Herald-related memories you’d like to share with him? Or perhaps a favorite article of his? Just want to let him know you’ll miss him? He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.