More than a game, nothing less than life

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By Doug Bell

Few things are more important to our four newspapers than coverage of high school sports, and few journalists could have brought that coverage to our readers more completely or competently than Michael Hicks. But after five years, Michael is leaving his post as sports editor at Evergreen Newspapers for his next challenge at the Boulder Daily Camera, and that paper is beyond lucky to have him.

Meanwhile, we’re very happy to welcome Dennis Pleuss to our news room. Dennis, the former longtime sports editor for weeklies in Arvada, Golden, Lakewood and Wheat Ridge, is already well known to area coaches, athletes and parents, and he’ll once again be walking the sidelines, this time at the nine high schools in our papers’ coverage areas.

My own career began as a sports writer at a suburban daily south of Pittsburgh, and I’ve come to realize since that I was actually working for the religion pages. In that corner of the world, childhood home of Joe Montana and Bill Mazeroski and Dan Marino and other Hall of Famers, sports are transcendent — as much a part of life as a blue-collar work ethic and a ferocious hometown pride.

As a youngster, however, I showed far more promise sitting at a typewriter than wielding a first baseman’s mitt. And even though my hapless flailings at the curveball effectively ended my baseball career early in high school, the love of sports, and their ability to unite and inspire, never left me.

That’s why the last 10 months were among the toughest of my life. A rapidly deteriorating right hip, which eventually prevailed over frequent cortisone shots and thick-headed denial, left me unable to hike, play tennis or even think straight much of the time.

I did manage to continue to play ice hockey a couple times a week (remember: thick-headed), but my greatest love became my chief source of pain. Stopping pucks is hard enough with a healthy body, but it stops being fun when your body is trying in vain to compensate for a major joint gone bad.

All this leads me to say some heartfelt thank-yous: to a gifted orthopedic surgeon (also a hockey player) who used everything but Scotch tape to hold me together for two years, then replaced a useless hip with a prosthetic that will have me back on the ice Friday; to the Evergreen physical therapist who has pushed, pulled and prodded my right leg to an astonishing recovery just 10 weeks after surgery; and to the massage therapist who took away physical pain, eased my mental anguish, and remains one of my best and most trusted friends.

Plenty of others also deserve a lot of credit for getting me back on my feet, and for putting up with a lot of pain-induced crankiness, from my wife to my staff to my students. And my boss, who’ll no doubt be glad to know that I’ll be wearing shoes again soon.

Finally, to my teammates on the Colorado Stars, for taking the ice with a one-legged goaltender and never once complaining about a soft goal or a tough loss. Many have been heard to say that it’s just a game. But we know different.

Doug Bell is the editor of the Courier.