Athens, GA (Sept 3, 2008) - John Kaltefleiter had what he calls his dream job. He was the sports editor of the Athens (Georgia) Banner-Herald. He loved what he did, and his columns were written with a certain sense that he did not fear backlash from long and faithful University of Georgia Bulldog fans. In some senses, it seemed like he was almost saying "bring it on." But no matter what your view, one had to admire his writing. And whether Morris Newspapers wants to hear it or not, it is the sports section that keeps this newspaper afloat. Without it, there is no reason to plop down any money and buy it. In fact many people, including myself, do not buy it but read it online for free.
So it is fairly certain many people were taken aback this morning when John wrote his goodbye column in this morning's edition. And the reasons he gave for leaving clearly showed that sports is not the most important thing in life:
There are some things you cannot get back in your life, especially time with your family and parents. Ask anybody who works as a beat reporter, a columnist, an editor, or in sports broadcast production. Sports is now a 24-7 business, and at some point a line has to be drawn. John realized what he had to do. He was not the victim of the current newsroom cutbacks across the nation. He chose to leave on his own terms.
The cell phone buzzed at my hip 21 minutes after midnight nearly four years ago. It was Thanksgiving weekend; my wife was home with her family in our hometown in West Texas and I, still in Athens, was preparing for Georgia's regular-season finale against Georgia Tech in a day and a half.
The caller was my wife. She was frantic and unable to put a complete sentence together. She calmed down after a minute or so. I heard her sigh and take a deep breath. Then, she softly spoke five words that changed me forever.
John, your dad is dead.
It's hard to believe that it's been that long since a heart attack left my sister and me without a dad and left my mom a widow. After he died, I did what I expected he would've wanted me to do. I stayed tough and strong and continued my life in Georgia. I tried to convince myself that Georgia would be where I'd live until I died. They'd put me in the red clay some day.
My mother, now in her mid-70s and alone in Texas, never lobbied for me to come home and help take care of her. She bit her lip, I guess, and thought it was some kind of destiny - my own family 1,200 miles away in Georgia and her by herself in Texas.
Something changed this year, however. After a Christmas visit, my daughter's second brush with Santa, I was compelled to be closer to my mom.
My wife felt the same about her family.
Upon months of pondering whether to stay or leave, we came to the conclusion - in the end, family trumps everything else in life.
So with that, I made the decision to resign my post as sports editor of the Banner-Herald.
In his column, John also wrote, "Giving up a career, a profession I dreamed about being a part of since I was 8 years old, wasn't easy. But life, as they say, never is, and I'll move forward without regret or reservation." Lets hope he still finds a venue to do what he does so well, while keeping his family the primary focus in his life.
Best wishes to John and his family as they enter this new stage in their lives!
John Kaltefleiter: So hard to leave Athens (opens in a new browser window)