COLUMN: The downside of getting older

I have never been one to worry about my age.

I know many of you will find that hard to swallow, but age is not about a number to me. It never has been and never will be. There are of course certain milestones you cannot wait to reach when you are younger, like turning 18 and 21. The last great milestone for me was when I turned 25, and my insurance rate went down.

Turning 30 and then 40 were nothing more than another year on the calendar. Reaching 50 was nice, but it was not like it was the end of the world and everything else is downhill from there. But there is a down side to getting older. It is sometimes dark. It is sometimes sad.

I know as you grow older that certain things are going to happen along the way. Things like losing your hair, your eyesight not being what it once was. Then there are the things that emotionally are going to take a toll on you.

Like losing friends, classmates and family members along the way. It may be part of the natural process, but that does not mean you have to like it. In fact, I hate it. I have seen people who were an important part of my life and were responsible for turning me into the person I am pass away.

I have also watched people who I have worked with, became friends with and admired retire, which brings me to the point of my column this week.

I was crushed Monday night to learn that another of my all-time favorite coaches had resigned. Cassopolis Coach Ricky Evans, who replaced Josh Hood at the helm of the Rangers’ boys basketball program, decided it was time to move on to the next phase of his life. I could not believe my eyes.

I called Ricky immediately to confirm the news, which quite frankly blindsided me. Some coaches I know are thinking about, or have at least expressed a desire to retire long before they do it. I was completely unaware he was thinking about it.

I pride myself in getting along well with all the coaches I have worked with in nearly 40 years at Leader Publications. Some I have gotten closer to than others. Many I count as friends. So, when I learned that Ricky was stepping down, I took a trip down memory lane to recount all the good times I had cover his Cassopolis boys basketball teams.

Beyond the championships won, of which there were many, it was always fun to put the Rangers down on my schedule to go and cover. Ricky’s teams always played an exciting brand of basketball. But more important than that, he wanted his teams to play the game the right way. He wanted to get his players to give 100 percent every night. I admired that.

Win or lose, Ricky was always a class act, both with his opponents and the media. He may not have always wanted to talk about what had happened on the court, but that did not stop him from talking to me.

One of my career highlights will be watching Ricky and Brandywine Coach Nathan Knapp interact over the years. I am not sure if I have ever witnessed two coaches who respected and loved each other more than those two. Their families care deeply about each other. You could see that every time they got together.

Brandywine and Cassopolis should have been bitter rivals. They were constantly pitted against each other, both for conference championships when they were in the same league and district titles.

They never let the game overshadow their respect for each other. They made sure their players showed the same respect for each other. If there is a better reason why high school sports are an important part of life, I do not know of one. Ricky and Nathan lead by example. An example that many others should follow.

I wish my friend good luck as he steps away from the game and a job he loves. He will now turn his attention to enjoying the rest of his life with family and friends. He deserves to be able to do that on his terms.

At the end of our conversation, I told him that I looked forward to sitting down at a Cassopolis game soon and just talking. It does not have to be about basketball. It can be about any topic we desire.

I will miss you, my friend. Enjoy your retirement.

 

Scott Novak is sports editor for Leader Publications. He can be reached at scott.novak@leaderpub.com.

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