So this is goodbye?
I promised myself I wouldn't cry at the end, but like former Redskins cornerback Darrell Green said, "You bet your life I will." Writing for newspapers has been my joy since first seeing a school paper at age 12. I will miss it dearly.
I was hoping my last column would run alongside my obituary. That I'd be a newspaperman my entire life, because it's truly how I've thought of myself ever since I was knocking out my first stories on a manual typewriter and hanging out in newsrooms thinking how lucky I was to write 10 stories a week for $50.
Trust me, there's nothing sweeter than scooping your competitors or writing a feature that captures someone's essence.
But since suffering a heart attack in 2002 that completely changed my life, I've learned that God takes me where I need to be. Maybe not where I want to be, but things always turn out for the better. For now, I'll work as a videographer, tour guide and Realtor while looking for another writing gig.
I'm not very good at remembering the ins and outs of everything for 35 years since covering a basketball practice at Surrattsville High in 1978. But one of my favorite moments happened just months later, when I covered that team in the state semifinals. It was at Cole Field House, where I grew up seeing the great Terrapin teams play a few years earlier. Now I was there. All things seemed possible.
My first of 20 Kentucky Derbies came in 1986, when I watched Bill Shoemaker win aboard Ferdinand. I was somehow seated among the greatest sportswriters in America like Furman Bisher, Jim Murray and Jack Mann.
Minutes before the Redskins' last Super Bowl in 1992, it hit me that I was covering a Super Bowl. I saw four more, but that was one of those "made it" moments. Seeing baseball return to Washington was also a longtime dream. Stephen Strasburg's debut was a top-10 personal moment.
The biggest story I covered was undoubtedly Len Bias' death. And it was the worst beating I ever received in the business, because I was forced onto the story with no sources. I learned to either get better or get out over six grueling months.
My favorite pressroom to cover was Maryland racing from 1985 to 1991. It was the toughest too, with older reporters who lived to cut up a rookie like me. I learned to counterpunch. Horse racing is my favorite sport because it's everyday people who love the game.
My 20 or so seasons covering the Redskins since 1983 were bittersweet. I loved covering the biggest team in town, but it wasn't easy. I traveled too much, worked too hard, saw too many sunsets in Ashburn instead of dinners at home.
It's not an easy business. Everyone in newspapers knows that. It doesn't pay enough and discards you like yesterday's news. Sportswriters are a little like ballplayers -- we have our time and it's never long enough.
Thanks to partners John Keim, David Elfin, Jody Foldesy and Jim Brocker over the years. Thanks to editor Dick Heller, who made me whatever writer I am today. Thanks to my wife Lisa, who helped me type those first stories, and my daughters Megan and Katie, who have become fine journalists themselves.
Finally, thank you to everyone who read me over the years. In the beginning, I did this for me. But in recent years, I wrote for you.
So with that, God bless and I wish you all well.
Examiner columnist Rick Snider has covered local sports since 1978. Read more on Twitter @Snide_Remarks and his blog MonumentalThoughts.com.