The best thing I saw last week: An old friend on the sideline
This is a column written by Jared Rubado about John Millea's visit to Detroit Lakes for the Battle for the Paddle. This is column does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Detroit Lakes Tribune.
DETROIT LAKES – I have no idea what a paddle has to do with a Laker and a Yellowjacket.
That’s what was going through my mind as I stood on the sideline last Friday as the Detroit Lakes and Perham football teams warmed up before the Battle for the Paddle at Mollberg Field. It felt like a big game because it was a big game. That’s not to say that every game isn’t important. Every time two teams stand in opposition, a memory will come from it, whether it’s shared as a whole or one player.
However, big games are embedded into the fabric of sports at all levels. Playing, watching, celebrating, hurting and, most importantly, learning from those moments are the purposes of competition on so many levels.
As I stood on the sideline thinking about how a bee could possibly use a canoe ore, I was reaffirmed that last Friday was indeed a big game.
John Millea is a writer and representative for the Minnesota State High School League. His work stems back many years through several esteemed publications that led him to one of the best jobs in the world: covering the best Minnesota high school sports have to offer on a state-wide scale.
John has amassed a large following on social media, where he promotes kids around the state. He makes trips to the biggest cities and the smallest townships to find great sports stores. Everywhere he goes is documented in John’s Journal, including his trip to Detroit Lakes last Friday.
Last spring, Zeke Fuhrman of KDLM had John on his fantastic show, The Sports Wrap . After their on-air chat, Zeke let John know about the Battle for the Paddle. A few weeks later, a hotel room was booked.
I’d seen and chatted with John a handful of times at state meets over the last four years, but last Friday was different for me.
I’ve known John since I was 16 years old. I was a junior at Brainerd High School. I wanted to be a sports writer long before then. Being that my mom is a teacher, she always *encouraged* me to do things that would boost my college application. Apparently, my efforts in chemistry weren’t cutting it.
The MSHSL offered an internship-esque opportunity for high school kids to write game recaps on their website for free. I went to the games I would usually go to, wrote about them and posted them on Brainerd’s MSHSL page.
That opened the door for me to one of the coolest experiences I’ve ever had. Students in this program attended professional sporting events as a pseudo media member.
The Minnesota Wild is a huge deal in my family. So when I got the chance to job shadow beat writers and on-air talent at a game my senior year, I was over the moon. Who else gets an opportunity to do that as an aspiring sports writer? The only problem was the game started at 7 p.m. on a Sunday night during the school year.
My dad was on a work trip and my mom, the aforementioned teacher, was understandably not going to take me to the game on a school night. I distinctly remember her saying, “You have your license. Just get in your car and go.”
So, at 17 years old, I drove to St. Paul and met with John, along with a slew of Minnesota sports media and other aspiring journalists. I don’t think the game made me feel any differently about being a sports writer. It affirmed that I would do that for the rest of my life.
The best thing I saw last week was my life in sports came full circle when I saw an old friend on the sideline during warmups. It made me think about all of the things that led me here. I got to take a step back and appreciate that I actually did it. I became a sports writer.
Nobody gets into this business because it pays the most or you get weekends off. There’s an understanding for every line of work that you’ll have to make sacrifices to be successful. But I genuinely can’t see myself doing anything other than this.
John and I talked on the sideline for about 20 minutes before kickoff. I felt like I was bragging about our communities and how much I love the people I get to work with every week. Covering games never feels like work to me. I never have to go to games–I get to go to them. With that being said, let’s go to work.