Commentary: Sports Santa: Ho-ho-ho, 1 more time

I tossed and turned many nights. I couldn't sleep before making one of the most difficult decisions of my life. When I finally made the decision to retire as sports editor of the Brainerd Dispatch, a position I have been blessed to maintain since...

Mike Bialka

I tossed and turned many nights.

I couldn't sleep before making one of the most difficult decisions of my life.

When I finally made the decision to retire as sports editor of the Brainerd Dispatch, a position I have been blessed to maintain since March of 1985, my sleep has become a little more restful.

Deciding to log out and shut down the computer for the final time, which will occur Jan. 1, has been an emotional rollercoaster for me. I have been overwhelmed by the goodwill expressed in emails, texts and phone calls after 41 total years in journalism. Those well wishes have made my eyes water more than once.

Messages started to filter in after I was featured Dec. 3 in a "John's Journal" by my good friend John Millea of the Minnesota State High School League, one of the best sports writers in the business. If you haven't seen it, scroll to the bottom of the page at .


Those messages have been a gift this holiday season. You never realize, at least I never did, what impact you might have on people until you make a decision like this.

So in keeping with the holiday spirit, I wanted to share a few of those messages:

• "I just wanted to send a note to let you know how much I appreciate what you have done for sports in Brainerd and even more so, for sports in Minnesota. You have set the bar high for your dedicated coverage of high school sports. I also appreciate how you have helped promote what's important in sports through your writing."

• "Just read 'John's Journal' and it was a great tribute to you and the work you did at the Dispatch. Being written up in the Dispatch for a sports achievement meant a great deal to me whether it was from you, Pete Mohs or Jim Wallace. I still have most of those clippings that my mom cut from the paper. I am sure one day my grandkids will have a good time looking through them."

• "40 years ... Doesn't seem that long. You have been a fantastic sports (writer) for the Dispatch. Area athletes have (benefited from) your coverage. And we the Warriors have had great coverage all these years. I have enjoyed our chats about the athletes that I have had the pleasure to coach over the years here in Brainerd. Thanks for everything."

• "After seeing the announcement in the Dispatch, I wanted to pass along a note of congratulations. You have had quite a career. As someone that grew up in Brainerd, and came up through the athletic program, graduating in 1995, I was able to witness a very large portion of it. I've enjoyed reading your work for most of my life. Thank you for that. When the (Central Lakes College) Raider alumni (football) project started, you were a great help and supporter of the initiative. Again, thank you."

• "Working with you, and getting to know you better, has been one of the real highlights of my time in Brainerd athletics. You were always easy to approach and treated me with great respect. You will be missed. With that being said, retirement is awful nice. I'm grateful our paths crossed."

• "Congrats to you, Mike, on your announced retirement. You have completed a storied career and I consider you a true professional and a dear friend. Best wishes to you."


• "In the short time that we came in contact with each other, you were always the consummate professional. I have always had the utmost respect for you on how you went about your business. I loved reading the commentary articles you would do on coaches, not how great of a coach he/she was, but what a great person he/she was. You always brought that humanity element into your work. Hard to find in today's world."

• "I want to congratulate you on an outstanding career with the Dispatch and thank you for all the great articles. I also want to thank you for being a great boss when I worked there. I appreciate your hard work and talent."

• "Just wanted to send you a congratulatory note of your retirement. ... Best part is you are doing it on your own terms and have a ton to look forward to in the next phase of your life. Congrats my friend. Well earned."

Where in the heck do I go from here? I'm not a handyman. I'm not a mechanic. Electricity, natural gas, plumbing and carpentry petrify me. I point and pay.

I love to read, go to movies and I try to work out five days a week. But I do need to decompress after 40-plus years of hurrying to meet deadlines, working countless nights and weekends. I'm looking forward to some time off.

In March, I start a new endeavor as assistant coach for the Brainerd High School freshmen baseball team. I'm excited about that opportunity. I'm looking forward to working with young people who I think keep you young. That may be one reason I've lasted as long as I have in this business. Hopefully I can give back to the Warriors what they gave to me and help a new staff maintain the tradition of excellence established by Lowell Scearcy.

Other than that, I will see what life has in store for me.

Finally, Merry Christmas to all my readers and to all my Tweeters.

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