I recently worked out a deal with a jeweler from Denison, Iowa, who was a former advertising client, to save money on our wedding bands. Denison is the town where I got my start in radio out of college. However, it’s nestled in the middle of nowhere, at least an hour and a half from any metro area. This weekend was my dad’s 60th birthday celebration, and since I had a weekend free of any sportscasting responsibility, Sarah and I were able to make a trip back to the Omaha area to celebrate. So, with that in mind, we left early on Saturday so we could stop in Denison before continuing the trip to Omaha.
I have only been back to Denison a few times since I moved away almost six years ago, and I decided to try and visit a few of the people and places that had been important to me in the past. We visited Randy Grossman, my former sports director who has worked at KDSN in Denison for 40+ years (and was one of the early guests on my podcast). We ate lunch at my favorite Mexican restaurant and stopped at the previously mentioned jeweler where we got our rings picked out.
Before leaving Denison, we drove by my old apartment, and the sight of that dilapidated old building triggered a cascade of memories and emotion. You see, as a general statement I am a very happy and optimistic person, but some of the hardest times of my still relatively young career and life took place in Denison.
For background purposes, Denison is a very blue collar town. There are very few entry level jobs, no college, and very few other young people. It’s a place where people leave when they turn 18 and don’t come back until they are 30 to raise a family. It was the first time I had ever moved for a job and I did not know a single person outside of work. No friends, no girlfriend, just me and the infestation of crickets that had yet to be bug bombed away. This was the place where I made entry level salary while learning how debilitating private college student loan payments were to my ability to buy groceries. I’ve never liked ramen noodles but I consistently filled up on $1 Totino’s Pizzas and store brand macaroni and cheese.
This was the time when I made some of the dumbest financial mistakes that I’ll hopefully ever make. For example, I bought a piece of junk used Corvette on a loan with a 14% interest rate. I ran up credit cards to go to the bar late on weekends…and Thursdays…and pretty much any other day of the week. I was lonely, I was bored, and I didn’t know any better.
But you know what, now I look back on those times and can’t help but smile. From this landlocked island of misfit toys I made lifelong friends that I’m in touch with to this day. We had some wildly memorable weekends where the details are fuzzy, but what memories I have, I’ll remember forever. I learned how to budget and started to crawl out of debt. I learned how to be a responsible human being and began refining the broadcast prep process that I currently use. Mostly, I appreciate what I have at a level that I never could without getting knocked down a few branches on the confidence/arrogance tree.
I’m glad that I no longer live in Denison, Iowa. However, I’m glad for the experience I gained and the great people I met. Looking back on my time there, I know how far I’ve come as both a person and a broadcaster. It gives me faith that I can improve on both fronts as I continue to walk down the long and winding road of a sportscaster.