July 7th, 2020

Rooney Tunes: That’s all folks

By Ryan McCracken on May 30, 2020.

Glen Smeby was one of the first people to greet me to Medicine Hat. I walked in to Athletic Park on May 4, 2004 to cover a high school baseball game and the local real estate agent cracked a joke:

“Hey, are you the Calgary Sun guy here to cover the game?”

“Well no, I’m the new sports reporter for the Medicine Hat News!”

Joke went right over my head for a moment. But Glen was friendly, we chatted for a bit and so began my new job.

I had no reason to think I’d do it for the next 16 years.

Two days later I was interviewing Matt Keetley’s grandma for a front-page story on the Tigers winning the WHL title. Our sports editor had to go to Everett to cover the game because the regular Tigers reporter didn’t have his passport to get to Everett.

This past season I got to reconnect with Matt for a retrospective story. It was bittersweet.

There are so many people who make the sports scene in this city worth covering. From high school godmother Marg Derbyshire to the effervescent Darryl Smith, I’m blessed to know so many who ask for so little but give so much.

In my time here I’ve tried to present a balanced sports section, at first starting a dedicated high school page before staff cuts forced an end to it. I tried for years to get coaches on-side with sending in results but alas, in an era of increasing reliance on social media, it has become a failing proposition. Like in politics, people love their echo chambers.

I am forever indebted to people like Tara Chisholm, whose insightful columns as part of the FAME (Females in Action, Moving and Empowering) group lent a much needed voice to a male-dominated part of the newspaper. I only single out Tara from the wide group that wrote for FAME because of what else she continues to do for the community via Medicine Hat Adaptive Sport and Recreation; groups like that deserve all the recognition and assistance they can get.

I’ll miss editing Graham Kelly’s CFL columns, truly a special tradition that folks around here probably don’t appreciate enough. No other city in Canada has a football columnist with as much historical knowledge of the game, nor the dedication to it that Graham does.

That same sentiment goes for Val Welling with the Medicine Hat Tigers, Greg Morrison with the Medicine Hat Mavericks and so many more.

I want you to know that I don’t intend to leave Medicine Hat if I can help it. When my son fell ill with cancer seven years ago this city stepped up, and the people here have repeatedly shown how much they care and are willing to do for those in need. It’s inspired me to do more for charity and helped me grow as a person. I look outside my back gate and see a park bench with his #Dominicstrong plaque on it and can’t imagine having to say goodbye.

And so, as the pandemic basically ended any need for regular sports coverage, one of the last stories I got to write was on Tiana Shoebridge. As I was embarking on my career in journalism she was among the first people at a camp for kids with cancer. Didn’t know her story until last week. But the five-time cancer survivor raised more than $10,000 between a pair of bottle drives for Kids Cancer Care, and because I’ve been in charge of the News’ social media the past couple months I was the first to see a message about this wonderful woman.

It turns out Tiana made the plaque for my son five years ago after he died.

Things come full circle. So has my time here. Thank you for reading.

Sean Rooney was the sports editor of the Medicine Hat News. He can be reached @seanrooney on Twitter or at smrooney@gmail.com.

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