Speech from APSE President John Bednarowski, who took office during the 2018 Summer Conference Awards banquet on June 20:
So, I was standing in the middle of the 18th fairway at Augusta National.
I had just hit my best shot of the day, an uphill 9-iron from 120 yards to 5 feet, and I had a moment to reflect.
I stood there on one of the most iconic holes in golf, and wondered what would my parents say if they could see me now?
I find myself asking the same question tonight.
If you would allow me the honor, I’d like to take just a few minutes to introduce you to them.
My father’s name was John, but everyone called him Jack. He worked in human relations, which is where I think I got my gift of gab. He had a habit of getting to work early and going around to the different departments just to say hi. It was a chance to find out about his coworkers, and in his line of work, it was good to find out what was going on in their lives. It allowed him to anticipate some of the things that may come down the road.
I’m proud to say I have embraced that habit. By getting to know everyone at work, what they do and what they are about, it has helped me become better at my job. And it also buys me some goodwill when I need something. My father clearly knew what he was doing.
Dad had a love of sports. He grew up in Wisconsin and he played baseball. He was briefly scouted by the Chicago Cubs as a catcher, and he was a huge Green Bay Packers fan.
He instilled that love of sports in me – baseball, football and basketball. Unfortunately, I think he may have cursed me. Growing up in northern Ohio I became a fan of the Browns, Indians and Cavs. And then when I went to college, I went to UAB.
I think I’m the only one on earth that can say my baseball team has lost two Game 7s in the World Series in extra innings, had my pro football team move and have it replaced with whatever the hell it is now, and had my college football team disband. And, on top of that, I married a Patriots, Red Sox and Celtics fan.
That aside, one of the best things my father ever did for me was buy me a set of golf clubs when I was 12 years old.
We would go out and play 18 holes and then come home and watch the tournaments on TV. His favorite player was Arnold Palmer, unfortunately by the time we took up the game, Arnie wasn’t competitive on Tour anymore.
My favorite player was Jack Nicklaus and Dad and I watched as the Golden Bear made his famous charge in 1986 to win his sixth Masters.
My father passed away during Masters week in 1995.
It would have been nice to be able to recount my round with my Dad. To tell him how I ripped my opening tee shot down the middle of No. 1 with just a little cut about 240 yards off the tee. He would have liked the fact that I made par on Nos. 2, 4 and 15, and hit two great 6-irons on the par-3 12th and 16th – an inch farther on both shots and I’m sure I would have been tight for birdies.
And, I would have been able to tell him I made that 5-footer on 18 to shoot 90 in the only round I’ve played all year.
I think he would have liked that.
There were a lot of life lessons. He introduced me to the virtue of a well-made deli sandwich, and the fact that the only thing that goes on a hot dog is mustard. He showed me how to make a proper martini and the joy of sipping a smooth bourbon. And every Sunday, he would get up with the sun and pour through the newspaper from front to back, including the ads.
He would have me read stories. He taught me how to think and analyze what I had just read and then he would ask me questions.
He showed me the value of our local newspaper.
I do believe my father had the same affect on my mother. Her name is Therese and she is 87 years old. Unfortunately, she can’t be here tonight because of her ongoing battle with Alzheimer’s disease.
Now, my mother also grew up in Wisconsin, and loves the Packers. She also likes a good bourbon-and-7, and has mastered the art of being able to order a second one without me knowing it.
While the Alzheimer’s has stolen her short-term memory, there are few constant things that help keep her going every day. The woman loves her jewelry, her collection of 35 Coach bags and her seven fur coats – especially the two-tone grey and white chinchilla that she likes to wear to Wal-Mart.
But the one thing she lives for more than any of those is her daily copy of the Akron Beacon Journal.
Every day it is in her mailbox outside her apartment door, and the second thing she rips out of it is the sports section. The first is the TV guide.
My mother loves sports. It’s Golf Channel during the day, the Indians or the Cavs at night, and the Browns and her beloved Packers on the weekends.
All that being said, it makes perfect sense that I ended up a sports editor, right?
Ask her if she thought this was what I would be doing with my life and she’s say, as she’s told me many times, “If you would have told me you would have been writing about sports for a living, I never would have believed it.”
Thanks for the shot in the arm there, Mom.
A little bit more about my mother. This is something I just found out not too long ago. In 1955 she lived in Chicago and worked two full-time jobs – one as a nurse, and one as a bank teller.
Just before she got engaged, she competed in the Miss Chicago National pageant, which has now become Miss Illinois, and came in fourth.
As you can tell, I got my good looks from my Dad.
While working at the bank, it must have had a company newsletter, because they wrote a profile on her, which I found in the back of her wedding album.
Here’s the first paragraph:
“Last September, our personnel department did something for which we have been more than pleased. They hired Therese Van Gompel. All the men know that she works as a commercial teller at window 30, so we just mention this for the girls.”
Try getting that newsletter past HR today.
As I grew up, I thought I got most of my sense of humor from my father, but it turns out, the older I get, I realize mother may have had the bigger influence. She is the one that has the sneaky one liners.
An example. A couple of years ago, when she was still able to travel, she came to Georgia and we went to the mall. A corner shop had a table set up to display its various selections of what they called body butter.
I said Mom, you need any body butter? Without missing a beat, she said, “Now all I need is for someone to rub it on my body.”
Not what you expect to hear from your then 85-year-old mother.
Now, I hate to say it, but the Alzheimer’s also offers some opportunity for a laugh now and then, and when you get it, its gold.
I was visiting her last summer and, one day I went to Toledo to see Larry Graham. I got back that night around 10 p.m., and then had to work on Cobb Football Friday, our football preview issue for that week’s high school games.
I finished around 2 a.m., was exhausted, and I went to bed on the air mattress that was set up in her living room.
Around 7 a.m., she got up and came out by me. It was dark, but I could tell she was there. I woke up, but I didn’t move. I was hoping she would go back to bed, and then I hear, “John, are you awake?”
I pretended not to hear anything.
A few seconds later, and a little louder. “John, are you awake?”
Please, I thought, just go to bed.
Finally, she reached down, and smacked my hand. “John, are you awake?”
I said yes, what?
She said. “We didn’t have to get up for anything today, did we?”
I want you to know, those stories were mother approved. I told them to her and she laughed. When I told her that she was the subject of the stories, she said, “Well, it sounds like I was having fun.”
She was, which makes those moments, or when we talk about something in the paper, or a game that she’s watched all the more meaningful. To me it means she’s still in there.
My parents taught me the importance of the newspaper and the effect it can have on all stages of life. I know we all want to go digital first, but let’s not forget the ones who came before us that taught us to appreciate the feel of a new crisp paper being opened for the first time.
Thank you for letting me introduce my parents to you. I think they would have loved tonight, especially the open bar, and I hope I have made them proud.
For those of you who don’t know, the way I got to play Augusta National was through the Masters golf lottery. Twenty-eight members of the media get selected each year to play the course the Monday after the final round.
On Friday of Masters week the results of the lottery results are posted. When I saw my name, the room went black, I felt the hair on the back of my neck stand up and my blood pressure spiked.
I’ve only had that happen one other time, it was when Jack called me to let me know I had been elected second vice president.
I need you to know this organization means everything to me.
My first APSE conference was judging in Las Vegas in 2009. That year I sat in the hotel coffee shop beginning at 6 am and I ended up eating two breakfasts, because I would have the chance to sit with people like Glen Crevier, Joe Sullivan, Jorge Rojas and Jerry Micco and listen to them tell stories and what it was like to work at a big-time newspaper.
Jerry taught me how to judge that week, Garry D. Howard served as the welcoming committee and the official Todd Adams rule was put in place. I was hooked. I’ve been to every APSE convention and region meeting since.
Early on, I was intimidated by many of the members. Being from a small paper and getting to rub elbows with some of the best minds in the business was a little overwhelming, but you soon find out there are no egos in this room. We are all working for the same cause, and anyone that needs help is only a phone call away from getting it.
For that I especially want to thank Jerry Micco and Joe Sullivan. While you may not remember it, your counsel pointed me in the right direction for making my sports section and my football preview issue what it is, and I thank you for it.
I want to thank the Brumby family. They hired me in Marietta 12 years ago and taught me about hyperlocal sports coverage. The lesson has served me, and our readers, well.
I wouldn’t be able to do any of this without my guys. My assistant sports editor Eli Boorstein keeps me out of the weeds, and my writers Adam Carrington, Carlton White and Nubyjas Wilborn turn in good copy and know what to do without me having to say anything.
I want to thank Jeff Rosen for not only being a good president to follow, but for the pep talks over the last couple years in helping me get ready for today.
I’m looking forward to having the honor of working with Todd Adams again, and new officers Lisa Wilson and Dan Spears. I’ll need them to keep me in line over the next year. And Lisa, with you, I really hope we are starting a trend, because I fully expect over the next few years to see the likes of Dana Sulonen, Emily Horos, Courtney Cronin, Joey Chandler and other deserving women to take their place up here as officers.
Then there’s my partners in crime. Back when we were still meeting at the hotel near the Colorado House of Beef and Mexican Buffet, former Cleveland Plain Dealer sports editor Roy Hewitt pulled Robert Gagliardi, Tommy Deas and myself aside. The three of us were running for third VP, and Roy told us he wished every year’s slate of second VP candidates was as strong as we were.
I can’t tell you what that meant coming from him, and I’d like to think we’ve proved him right. Robert, thank you for what you’ve done as third VP the last two years, I appreciate your straight-forward thoughts and ideas, and I hope one day you get your chance up here, because you would be a good president.
Tommy, you are the best friend I have, you’re my idol, and your dedication to APSE with what you are doing with raising funds with the revenue committee needs to be applauded. When I grow up, I hope I can be a good-looking, bald, fat-man just like you. And I hope one day I can approach being half the journalist and newspaper man you are.
Most of all, I’d like to thank my wife Mo, who is here with her mother, Edie, tonight.
Mo, stand up and say hi.
For those of you who have been in the contest room the last few years, she is the one that has provided the cookies. It’s also one of the reasons I wear a size 52 sport coat.
I couldn’t have done any of this without her, and I thank you.
We will be celebrating our 18th anniversary in about two weeks, and to think she thought she was marrying a future history teacher. Instead she got this. I love you Mo.
Going forward, there are three things I know. First, I know that my election makes me the president from the smallest circulation daily ever to hold this office. I’m very proud of that.
I’m only the second president elected representing a paper from the state of Georgia – the other is the late, great Van McKenzie when he was at the AJC. To me, that’s pretty-heady stuff.
And finally, our industry is a hard one to figure out. It seems we’re fighting the never ending fight. Every day we see things change and it’s hard to keep up. That’s why this organization is more important than ever.
You are my friends. You are this organization’s strength, and I look forward to our continued work together. It’s an honor to be your president. Thank you very much.