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Sports and outdoors – it’s the life

It was a simple request. Actually, more of a suggestion.

Come up with a title for this, the first of what will be a regular column on the Durango Herald sports pages.

At first I didn’t give it much thought. Anything with a sports/outdoors theme would do. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that, to a certain extent, it needed to relate to me and where I’m at today.

And, too, where I’ve been.

Growing up in northern Minnesota, I was heavily involved in sports and the outdoors, So when writing presented itself as a career, I leaned toward what I knew best. First it was sports, and in recent years, natural resources and the outdoors, as I returned to Minnesota.

In both cases, it’s been a rewarding career, allowing me to travel the country as well as abroad, and to live in Hawaii, the Green Mountains of New England, historic St. Augustine, Florida, and – of course – majestic Colorado, among other places. And it has afforded me opportunities with some of sports’ biggest names:

A one-on-one interview with Tiger Woods when he was taking the golf world by storm in the early 1990s.

A one-on-two interview with Jeff Gordon and the late Dale Earnhardt hours after Gordon had edged Earnhardt in the 1999 Daytona 500. Tragically, Earnhardt was killed at Daytona two years later.

An opportunity to report on and play golf in a group that included Jack Nicklaus. I was teamed with his son, Gary, in a mini-tour pro-am in Florida in the early 1990s and, as it turned out, Jack was on the bag for Gary for the pro-am and for the tournament the rest of the week. Jack spent an inordinate amount of time reading putts for me that day in an effort to help my anemic putting game. Alas, not even Jack Nicklaus could fix it.

But there have been other names, not-so-familiar names, that have made my life – and sporting life – most satisfying. Some of my best friends to this day are former college athletes I met in my first job out of college while covering small-college football, basketball and track and field. And in recent years, dozens of outdoors types such as legendary angler Gary Roach – he’s known across the country as, simply, Mr. Walleye – who took me under his wing, took me fishing and was always good for a story. And the dozens of Department of Natural Resources and state parks folks who helped make my job as an outdoors journalist a true adventure. From allowing me to get up close with Minnesota’s timber wolf and black bear populations – among other wild critters – to giving me the inside track from the very start at the world-class mountain bike trails in the central Minnesota mine pit lakes, they made it easy for me.

And I see the same here in sports as well as with Colorado Parks and Wildlife and Colorado state parks. A recent trip to the state parks office in Dolores to get my state parks pass was informative, the possibilities exciting. Same with that at the Mancos Visitors’ Center. Like the sports scene, so many possibilities out-of-doors for a journalist. And out this way, the outdoors and sports worlds often blend together. I look forward to exploring that life here.

The sporting life.

bpeterson@durangoherald.com

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