by Aaron Burns
It feels good to be back.
I’ve missed North Carolina, even though it’s only been about eight months since I left for Auburn, Ala. Make no mistake, though – I love the Deep South, but I’m a Carolina boy at heart, born in Hickory and raised in Valdese.
While I’m new at my job – I’m Assistant Sports Editor for Carolina Weekly Newspaper Group’s Northern Division but will occasionally write for Union County Weekly – I’m no stranger to the region, or to sports. I graduated from Lenoir-Rhyne University in May 2010 and got my first full-time job in Auburn, where I became Associate Editor of the Auburn Villager and got to cover Tigers quarterback Cam Newton and his football team from time to time.
Remember the Tigers?
They won the national championship when I was there, their first title since 1957 when I was 30 years from being born. Maybe I was their good luck charm. Maybe it was just Cam Newton. They say it was Cam. I say it was me. Maybe he’ll be up here in Charlotte after the draft, a new Panthers quarterback, and he and I can decide then.
And as for all those character concerns people have with Newton?
They’re off base.
His smile is 100 percent authentic, and he’s not a hard partier. He has a scooter. As we all know, no one who rides a scooter can have any character concerns.
So why, after covering college football’s national champion, did I come back to North Carolina?
Living in Alabama with the Central time zone is nice, but that area doesn’t have two things I grew to miss: Bojangles’ and a sports scene that’s more than just college sports. I also wanted a chance to write for a larger market and be closer to my family. This job fit both hopes perfectly.
I’m happy to call this state home again, and I’m ready to get to work covering local high school sports. We have a burgeoning market ripe with talent, and I’m excited to get started helping local athletes receive the attention they deserve.
Whether it’s baseball, football, basketball, soccer, softball or anything else, I love writing about sports.
But that wasn’t always the case.
When I was 3, it was all about being a NASCAR driver. At some point, while I was young enough to play Tee-ball and realized NASCAR wasn’t for me, that goal blossomed into becoming a sports announcer, and I took that one and ran with it – for a little while.
From 2001 to 2002, while I was in middle school, I was a sportscaster for the now-defunct Nickelodeon Games and Sports channel. I covered extreme sports for the channel – mostly anything with wheels. The Nickelodeon opportunity was a nice start, but by the time I got to my senior year of high school, I had to choose whether I wanted to become a sports writer or stick with TV. I chose a laptop and notepad over the camera and makeup. I may have saved a camera’s life in doing so.
Since then, it’s been all about sports writing.
You want to know what I was doing for my 18th birthday? Covering prep basketball in Newton, N.C. My ultimate goal is to be a writer for Sports Illustrated, but if I can’t get there, I’ll settle for ESPN. That’s a long way down the road. So until then, I’ll focus on high school sports.
A mentor once told me, “You’re not in this business to be famous, as much as you are to help others become famous through your work, but there are plenty of pluses to it.”
It’s true, and I enjoy it. Although they have nice tans, give me sports writing over being a cast member on “Jersey Shore” any day.
Then again, while I have my career objectives (and tanning plans) mapped out, maybe I should’ve spent more time selecting my favorite teams and athletes so I could’ve saved myself a ton of heartache.
You see, I’m a fan of the Bobcats, (cough) Panthers, Red Sox, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. I don’t get to enjoy wins very often. I still stick with them.
As much as I miss Auburn, I’m thrilled to be back close to home and in a place I’m comfortable. I don’t know the lay of the land perfectly by any stretch of the matter, but that’s what my car – and my GPS – are for. Armed and ready with navigational tools, I’m prepared to learn the best of what our area sports have to offer and eager to add to the growing prestige it boasts.
Plus, since my athletic career highlights appear to have come to a close, it’s clearly time to settle in and get comfortable with sports journalism. Not that I really mind. My 70-foot buzzer beater that helped win a college intramural basketball game, and my two-out grand slam to win a baseball tournament as a kid are enough for me.
My athletic career seems to have peaked, barring a miracle, and I’m all right with that. Writing is what I love. I’m all about improving at my craft because, in this business, making it to the top is a marathon, not a sprint.
I wouldn’t have it any other way.