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Tuesday, December 07, 2021

How do you say goodbye to something that has meant so much to you?

That’s the question that has haunted me for the past week as my term as sports editor of the Independent Florida Alligator comes to an end. I’m not sure how to say goodbye. I don’t think there’s a perfect way to do it. You just wake up one day and remember that it’s time to move on. That’s it.

So how do you say goodbye? Do you write a column like I am doing now? Do you let everyone know how much they mean to you?

I just don’t know. I’m going to do all that anyway, but it just feels...weird. Incomplete. I’ve seen eight sports editors come and go over my time here, and every time, I question how they do it. How do they say goodbye to the place they put so much time and effort into?

I don’t know what they did, but I’m going to try it the only way I can. Write down the words as quickly as possible because I waited until the last minute like I always do.

Huge shift in the tone of the piece, I know, but bare with me.

If I continue writing like I’m about to die without being at the Alligator, I’ll be doing myself and everyone who reads this a huge disservice. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sad to go. I’m going to miss this place and the people who make it great a ton, but it would be insulting to imply this place didn’t prepare me for the real world.

I won’t be corny like certain editors of the past and say, “I didn’t go to college at Florida, I went to college at the Alligator.”

I’m not going to tattoo the Alligator ‘a’ logo on my arm.

I’m not going to call out other journalists for having “no talent.”

I’m not going to preach about how you “need to make the most of your college experience.”

I’m not going to tell you to never follow the plan you had going into college.

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But I will tell you this. Find what you love to do and go with it. When it comes time for you to leave and you struggle to come to terms with that, you made the right choice.

If you are confident you are leaving making this place the best it can be, you’ve done your job. I believe the sports section will be better once I am gone, so I am ready to move on.

So how do you say goodbye to something that has meant so much to you?

The answer is you don’t say it. You show it.

Goodbyes:

This one’s for Graham Hall. Thank you for taking a chance on me. I would have never been in the position I am in today if it wasn’t for you hiring me my freshman fall semester. I owe the start of my journalism career to you. Thank you.

Ian Cohen, you shaped me into the writer I am today. You were my editor for my first two beats — sorry about all the editing that had to be done on them. If it wasn’t for you in the early stages of my college career, I wouldn’t have grown to be what I am today. Thank you.

Ethan Bauer, you’re next. You inspired me to think outside the box and look for things others may not see. No matter how long your stories are -- I mean, 11,000 words on the walk-ons for the men’s basketball team is a lot -- I will always read them from start to finish because that’s how good they are. Thank you for being a friend all these years.

Jordan McPherson. I still get nightmares from having to analyze every punt and every third down in the Florida football team’s first seven games of 2015. You’ve been a great friend and mentor over the years, and I am grateful I got to work with you while you were still here.

Matt Brannon. You know, I still haven’t used the phrase “capable of” since you banned me from using it nearly two years ago. You were the realest editor I had in the sense that you would tear all my stories apart. I am grateful for it. You single handedly forced me to adapt my writing, and if it wasn’t for you, I wouldn’t have been ready for the jump to more responsibilities and a bigger beat. Thank you for being a friend and the editor I needed.

Dylan Dixon. Man, I think I learned the most from you. If Matt and Ian taught me how to write, you taught me how to be an editor. Thank you for taking me under your wing that one summer, and again that Spring. I learned a lot about not just about how to edit and lead others, but how to be a greater part of the paper. Also, stop trying to make terrible trades in fantasy football. I will not trade you Brandin Cooks and TY Hilton for the Browns defense.

Morgan McMullen. Don’t worry, I’m not going to make an age joke here! But I will say, you are one of the wisest people I know. You are fair and just, and make an excellent leader. And it was a lot of fun getting to be your assistant editor. Thank you for the advice you gave me going into the semester, and thank you for putting up with my terrible puns and jokes in production.

Mark Stine. You’re going to kill it as Editor-in-Chief over the summer. I know this because I got to work closely with you this semester. Thank you for all the good times, all the fun and all the laughs we had in the back. I’m going to miss you man.

Alanis Thames. The best writer in the sports section, and I’ll stand by that at least until I graduate in a couple weeks. You are going be great. You have a bright future ahead of you, and I’m sure everyone will agree with me on that.

The football crew (Morgan, Alanis, Mark and Chris King). Those trips were some of the best times of my life. I never thought I’d go to Nashville or Mercedes Benz Stadium in Atlanta, but I’m glad I got to do it will all of you. Whether it was playing FIFA in the hotel room or going out after the game, it was a blast.

Tyler Nettuno, Mari Faiello and Sam Campisano. I am leaving the paper in good hands. Tyler, I am proud of how much you have grown since you first started, and you will make a great sports editor. Mari, even though you are biased in your Lightning coverage, you have become a great journalist. I’ll miss your weekly power ranking polls. Sam, go Jets. Go Mets. Good luck over the summer, you’ll do great!

Jake Dreilinger was the sports editor of The Alligator. Following him on Twitter @DreilingerJake.

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