COLUMN: This is home, far away from home

Demarco Moore, Sports Writer The elephant in the room. Online, The Phrase Finder has this one defined as “an important and obvious topic, which everyone present is aware of, but which isn’t discussed, as such discussion is considered to be uncomfortable,” and as crazy as that sounds, it’s oftentimes how I felt during my time in Manchester. That is, until a man named Josh Peterson introduced me to (Miss) Janice Frazier, Teresa Bare, John Coffelt and Brian Mosely – the original staff at the Times. Josh then introduced me to a man named Dennis Weaver right before he took me to a place called 41 South Sports Bar and Grill over on Hillsboro Boulevard for some of the best tacos I’d ever tasted on a Tuesday afternoon. Josh and I sat and talked about sports. After all, I was hired to be the sports writer in Manchester, right? But I would’ve never thought that position would evolve into what it is now a little over one year, seven months and two days later. But why the elephant in the room? I’ll be blunt: I’m black in a small town where the majority of the population is white. I never ran from it. In fact, I would sometimes joke with Josh and my other co-workers about it all the time. But it’s still something that lingered in my mind every time I stepped into a gym or onto a field in an even smaller town. Even like that one time I was pulled over on the way to a football game (I was speeding, by the way), and the sheriff asked me, “are you coaching?” I never wanted my skin color to be a crutch, nor an excuse. If anything, I welcomed the experience because it was so different, and it fit me. Here’s why. I have to tell you, Manchester, you folks may not always share the same views on politics, or why the city does and doesn’t need expansion (a T.J. Maxx or Target wouldn’t hurt), but there are traits each and every one of you possesses that makes this place so special. Manchester, you people are genuine, welcoming and nice as hell, and you’ve shown me what it means to be a community like no other town I’ve ever visited. I mean come on, you had parents that drove to Lawrenceburg six times in 16 days last year just to watch their daughters play softball. I love Lady Raider softball just as much as the next person (thanks Terry Floyd, Steve Wilder and Brandon McWhorter), but that’s crazy. And every time I asked them why, the answer was always the same: “I just like to see my girls play ball.” I’ve met some of the most brilliant minds, witnessed a rivalry people literally fight over and just experienced a town of people taking pride in being who they are, one coffee, and for that, thanks for the memories. To Josh, the best boss, mentor, influence, father figure and go-getter anyone could ask for – thank you for taking a chance on a 22-year-old college grad who had never written for a newspaper, and could barely do his own articles. There’s not too many people working harder than you, and I mean that. To my co-workers, John, Teresa, Janice, Brian, Leila, Angela, Lori, Freddy cat and even Jennifer and Jeff, thank you for being so understanding, kind, funny and helpful. You all are like family, and I’ll never forget how special each one of you is. To every coach at Coffee County Central High School, Coffee County Middle School and Westwood Middle School, thank you for working with me, and teaching a guy who thought he knew a lot about sports how to love soccer, softball and swimming just as much he loves football and basketball. There’s a reason you all are where you are, and I wish you nothing but success. To every young person I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing or just having a conversation with, I hope your parents know how bright, respectful and smart you all are, even if the 24-year-old “newspaper guy” doesn’t want to be called “sir.” Manchester, it’s been a blast. I’ve accepted a traveling internship position with the American Junior Golf Association, so I won’t be here to cover sports anymore. But I’ll be as biased as any native whenever I hear about Coffee County competing against anybody. I will choose to be a Red Raider, because a Raider (yes, that’s you Josh) chose me, and then the town chose me, and being here felt right. And I hope whoever comes along next chooses you too, and does 10 times better than I ever did, because your community deserves it. In my heart, I’m no longer the elephant in the room. I’ll always be, one coffee.