DEWEY BEACH, Delaware — As I was packing up for vacation this week, I felt like I’d come full circle.
We were headed to the same place I’d been headed on vacation when I first accepted the job at the Oakland Press that brought me to Oakland County from Mt. Pleasant in 2006.
Both times, I’d had the summer trip scheduled before I accepted the job, and — just like I had in 2006 with then-sports editor James Walker — I had to make sure that current boss Jeff Kuehn was OK with me taking vacation less than five months after he brought me back from exile to work at the Oakland Press once again.
Gratefully, he was, because I needed it.
And Dewey Beach is one heck of a place to recharge after the five-month sprint to the end of the high school sports season.
If you’re unfamiliar, it’s a one-mile-long, two-blocks-wide spit of land between the Atlantic Ocean and Rehoboth Bay in southern Delaware, just 25 miles up Route 1 from the more famous Ocean City, Md to the south, and a 10-minute Jolly Trolley ride from Rehoboth Beach just to the north. The 340-odd full-time inhabitants of the town, which encompasses just three-tenths of a square mile of ridiculously valuable land, are routinely joined by as many as 30,000 tourists on summer weekends like these.
But, I’ve not joined the Chamber of Commerce for Dewey Beach, or the Delaware Tourism Office. As one business owner jokingly told me this week, I’m still a “newbie” even though I’ve been coming here for more than 15 years.
But it just hit me this week how much of a through-line the trips to Dewey Beach have been for the last portion of my career, encompassing both stints at the Oakland Press, as well as my life.
There were a couple of trips I made when I was still working at the Mt. Pleasant Morning Sun, trading chances to kayak on the Chippewa River for a kayak trip or two on Rehoboth Bay.
Then there was the trip in 2006, when I had to pack up my entire life in Mt. Pleasant, put it in storage, before making the trip down — that was the one with my then-16-year-old daughter and a school friend — prior to starting my new job on the Oakland Press copy desk.
There was the trip in 2008 with my then-future wife, when she met my family for the first time. That was roughly the era when I started transitioning from just a copy editor, designing pages and writing headlines, to actually being able to do my thing, and write.
There was the trip in 2012, to celebrate my 40th birthday, just four months before my son, Chris, was born — in the midst of the Tigers’ playoff push to the World Series. (That time, we stayed less than a block from the infamous Ed’s Crab Shack, the plywood joint where you could get a plastic lunchroom tray piled with blue crab for less than $20.)
There was supposed to be one in 2020, to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary, but that got pushed back to this one, coinciding with my 50th birthday, the one when my 9-year-old son and 5-year-old daughter, Caitlin , got to experience Dewey Beach for the first time.
While some things are exactly the same, some have changed dramatically — like my hairline, a piece of real estate is as far gone as Ed’s, which burned down a few summers back, and is now a putt-putt golf place we can see from the balcony of our rental condo.
The same can be said for my job.
When I started at the Oakland Press, there were nearly 20 employees in the sports department alone, and we covered the Pistons, the Lions, the Tigers, the Shock, and both Michigan and Michigan State football and men’s basketball.
By 2008 or ’09, we’d started MIPrepZone, and had more than half of our staff assigned to cover their designated area of the prep sports world.
When I was laid off in 2017, that number dwindled down low enough to count on one hand.
Now, you only need one digit.
That’s fine. That was the challenge laid out to me, when Jeff Kuehn approached me to gauge my interest in coming back to replace Drew Ellis, a challenge I gladly accepted.
One of the key selling points was that it would not be a steep learning curve for me, not like going to a new job. I’m as familiar with all corners of the county as I am with the place I’m writing this from
The problem, I realized, was that not everyone is familiar with me. I’m the newbie.
Yes, some folks still remember me from pre-2017, especially in the girls basketball, volleyball and softball communities — those were my prep beats along with covering the Tigers back then.
But our compartmentalization back then — an excellent idea (it was mine) — also meant that I’d had limited exposure to coaches in most other sports. Track, cross country and wrestling coaches knew almost nobody but Marvin Goodwin, who was a rock star covering those sports for eons. I felt like a newbie walking into those venues this spring, having to introduce myself to everyone.
That, too, is fine. I hit the ground running when I started mid-winter sports season, and never really had the chance to introduce myself to everyone.
I’m going to take that chance right now.
I’m Matthew B. Mowery. I’ll be at your high school events for the foreseeable future.
My part in the whole process — as I pointed out in my cover letter when I applied to return — is to show up. Be present.
Go to games in Rochester Hills, and Farmington Hills, Highland and Southfield. Oxford and South Lyon.
Be as many places as I can, and get to as many different schools, teams and sports as I can.
But I also have to understand the limits. I’m only one person. Yes, we have part-timers (stringers in journalism lingo) who help out — for which I’m eternally grateful. Those guys do yeoman’s work.
But I’ll need your help, too.
Give me a heads up if you have a big event. Shoot me an email if you’ve got a great story you want me to help you share.
I’ll get to as many of them as I can, and try to write up the rest in round-ups.
Bend my ear when you see me at a game. Send me a box score, or a GameChanger summary. Fill out the preseason surveys that I send out — even if it’s not end-to-end complete, it’s valuable information to me.
We’ll try new things, too, like we did in the spring with the top-10 performance lists for track and field. We’re gonna try the same thing for swimming this coming year.
Hopefully, when this and successive years pass, pushing me past 30 years in the industry, I won’t seem so much like the newbie anymore.
For now, though? I’m gonna go get some more crab, and continue recharging.
Matthew B. Mowery is the sports coordinator for the Oakland Press, in his second stint at the paper. In his first, he was a copy editor, then covered preps, colleges and the Detroit Tigers.