You might have seen on Channel 4 this week that I’m celebrating my 20th year at WJXT. It also marks the 20th year Tom Wills, Deborah Gianoulis, George Winterling and I have been the anchors at Channel 4, the longest running four person anchor team in television history.
There are many people to thank starting with my family for the sacrifices they’ve made, the management at the station and Post-Newsweek for creating an environment where we can flourish, and Tom, Deborah, and George for their professionalism and friendship over the years.
They’ve been running a couple of highlight clips of my career over the past 20 years on the air, and when I see them, there’s no wonder I think I have the best job in the world. Covering all kinds of fantastic competitions, from the Super Bowl to the World Series, The Masters and seemingly every other major sporting event in America, what’s not to like?
There have been exciting times, like when the city was awarded the Jaguars and the Super Bowl, the national championship seasons of the Gators and Seminoles, the great basketball runs by both schools and many others. And there have been difficult times as well, bringing news about sports figures who have lost their way, or tragically, lost their lives either in or outside of competition.
I’ve learned a lot from the people I’ve reported on and there is a common thread that runs through all of the successful people I’ve covered. They all have a desire to find out just how good they can be. They’re never really satisfied with their final effort, figuring out just how much better they could have been by tweaking this and refining that. They don’t compete against some rules in a book or against the other team, but rather against a standard of excellence they knows exists. They know what’s good and what’s not, and they don’t need somebody to tell them when they haven’t performed at their best.
And they’re passionate.
Passionate about what they do, about life, and about their own achievements. When you’re around people like that all the time, it inspires you. I know it inspires me every day to perform a little bit better, to try a little harder, to not come up with an excuse for why not, but rather to figure out a way to make things happen.
I’ve been honored to have breakfast with Muhammad Ali, lunch with Richard Petty, beers with Arnold Palmer and spend time with a whole myriad of other famous stars in and out of the sports world. I even had a chance to sing with Huey Lewis once at a post-concert party!
What has always impressed me isn’t their money, or fame, but when they’re nice. Without being schmaltzy, it’s true. And with most of the really successful, that’s the case. They’re talent is usually only outweighed by their kindness and understanding.
Outside of sports, easily the most exciting and interesting things I’ve done at Channel 4 are the stories on fighter pilots and other Navy aviators. To have the chance to fly with the Blue Angels, then go through enough training to be “back seat” rated in the FA-18, getting a trap and a launch off an aircraft carrier are things I can never match. Being a Navy town, Jacksonville has given me a chance to get to know the pilots, the surface warriors at Mayport and the submariners at King’s Bay. Any time I think I’m working hard, I only have to remember the things they’re asked to do, and it makes my job look like a snap. Commander Pat Rainey asking me to be the keynote speaker at his change of command ceremony remains one of the highlights of the last 20 years.
Most importantly, thanks to all of you. Doing this job in a vacuum would be no fun. Getting to share your joys and disappointments is a rare privilege, and I’m glad you’ve let me along for the ride.