Jerry Brewer is leaving The Seattle Times for the other Washington after nine years. He looks back at an eventful tenure framed by Seahawks Super Bowls and the Sonics departure.
Eight years and eight months ago, I wrote my debut column for this wonderful newspaper and ended it with a question.
Is this home?
I was a newcomer from Kentucky mesmerized by the natural beauty of this place. Seattle felt magical, yet it had verve. After working in three cities in six years to begin my career, enjoying the impatience and capriciousness of youth, I had found an area that could alleviate my nomadic impulses.
This is home. There’s no place I’ve ever felt more comfortable, and I’m not even into boating and hiking, really. My adult life came together because I moved here. Without Seattle, I still might be drifting and chasing some desire I can hardly articulate.
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So my heart is Danny Shelton-heavy as I write these words: This is my last column at The Seattle Times. I’m going to The Washington Post. At the end of this month, I’m moving 2,800 miles away, accompanied by the two most precious gifts I take from this amazing city.
My wife, Karen.
And our (almost) 3-year-old son, Miles.
We’ll barely be able to fit into the car because of all the gratitude that’s coming with us.
It’s more than I can share in one final piece. Thank you to the readers who have been loyal, even when I’ve left them frustrated. Thank you to the teams I’ve covered, to the people who have been brave enough to share their stories and to all those working behind the newsmakers — publicists, media-relations staffs, family or friends that send news tips — whose names might not appear in print but who help immensely with the storytelling process.
Of course, thank you to the Blethen family and all my Seattle Times co-workers for inspiring me with their commitment and their journalism and supporting my attempts to live up to their standards.
This has been one crazy era in Seattle sports. Some might say it has produced the most painful and exhilarating experiences in local sports history. Less than two years into my time here, the NBA uprooted the Sonics, the first team to prove pro sports can work in this market, a 41-year staple, and moved the franchise to Oklahoma City. It’s a void that cannot be filled, and I will continue to be a strong advocate for the return of the Supes. For the past two years, we’ve had the joy of following the Seahawks, the best and most entertaining team in the NFL, through two Super Bowl runs — one championship and one heartbreaking almost.
That’s the bookend drama. But as I leave, I take so much more with me: The grace of Felix Hernandez, who has matured into perhaps the city’s best and most beloved athlete; the chemistry between Sue Bird and Lauren Jackson when they were healthy and leading the Storm; the audacity of the Sounders FC, a franchise that started with grand aspirations and immediately became a major player.
There are images burned into my mind: Danielle Lawrie’s glare before finishing off a hitter with a strikeout; Ken Griffey Jr.’s smile, which got wider even as he aged; former Washington volleyball coach Jim McLaughlin’s dry-erase board with detailed practice statistics; Pete Carroll’s sideline enthusiasm; Fernando Rodney’s imaginary arrow; Isaiah Thomas’ coldblooded buzzer-beater.
I could spend thousands of words on the sports memories, but as great as those were, they don’t resonate the most with me. The people do. I like writing about sports because it provides an interesting platform to explore the human condition. I write with great compassion because everyone’s personal tale is treasured and delicate and complicated, and though every story can’t be positive, the people in these stories deserve proper care.
The great thing about being a journalist is how much you learn through people. You learn something every day. My perspective on life changed eight years ago when I met an 11-year-old girl named Gloria Strauss. I met Gloria during the final seven months of her life. She had neuroblastoma, a childhood cancer that had become terminal. But upon meeting Gloria and her family, it became clear that hers wasn’t a story of death. It was a story of the will to live. It was an exploration of how the Strauss family’s devout Catholic faith turned into the oxygen they needed to breathe amid such a suffocating situation.
Gloria died on Sept. 21, 2007. It was the hardest story I’ve ever reported. Let me try to explain. Envision the darkest, most desolate place that your mind will allow. Now, imagine that, somehow, there’s a single rose growing in the middle of it, growing stronger and taller than any rose you’ve ever seen, uninterested in the surrounding gloom. Gloria’s spirit was that rose, even after she died. Everyone expected me to write about the darkness, the sadness, the loss. But what about that rose? After spending months with the Strausses, I knew it would’ve been irresponsible to ignore that rose.
Seattle is such a smart, well-rounded and humane city that you can write about the rose. Or you can walk around looking for the rose and no one will think you’re weird. That’s why this is home because, even while being in awe of the mountains and the water and the effective, liberal use of green, you’re still aware of the region’s soul.
So, why am I leaving? The easy answer is that I have an incredible opportunity in the other Washington. The truth is that, while people are often praised for their ambition, it can be a nuisance, too. I hate taking my wife from her home, hate taking our son from where he’s thriving, hate leaving a city that has been so wonderful to me for nearly nine years.
But marrying a Northwest gal means we’ll never abandon this region. We will be back — frequently. We’ll return with another little Brewer, who is expected to arrive craving salmon in the fall. And the odds of again living here some day are quite high.
When I arrived, some friendly natives predicted how much I would love Seattle, and they warned me not to go praising the city to outsiders, especially more Californians, because they don’t want the area to lose itself.
“There’s just something about this place,” I was told.” It gets inside of you.”
Is this home?
I even have a cat now. A cat! Her name is Georgina. She’s a dilute calico, my wife says.
I’m sure she has mixed emotions about moving to D.C., too.