The Washington Times - December 31, 2009, 01:28PM

The end of a decade carries with it a wave of memories – some good, some not-so-good, some you just can’t believe you can recall.

The end of the Aughts got me thinking about the closing day of the 20th century. I was a college sophomore, home on break and in for a fairly quiet New Year’s Eve.

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The agenda wasn’t exciting – watch a meaningless bowl game (an Independence Bowl, if memory serves), get ready for more football the next day and then head back to College Park for a Jan. 2 Maryland-Coastal Carolina basketball game. I still have the credential here at D1scourse’s Glen Burnie headquarters.

I’m sure in the process of running errands I had the radio on. And since it was the closing year and a half of the 1990s, chances are good the Semisonic hit (note the use of the singular) “Closing Time” came on at some juncture.

“Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end”

That cliched line has come to mind a number of times in the last four weeks, as the fate of the newspaper’s sports department remained on life support.

Yesterday, as many of you know, the feeding tube was removed and the plug pulled. The department was Schiavoed, in the process sending a lot of good people out of work.

I could go ahead and make a list, though it seems almost ghoulish. But it’s better to think about exactly why there’s a lot of wistfulness on the final day of the year.

Mainly, it was the fun times.

It was bowl trips far (San Francisco and Boise) and near (the icy EagleBank Bowl at rickety RFK Stadium). It visiting the Anchor Bar in Buffalo, Jack Stack in Kansas City and the Angus Barn in Raleigh.

It was covering the things you figured were preordained (North Carolina winning the national title last spring), and things that had you muttering “Did that really happen?” months later – like George Mason’s amazing Final Four run in 2006.

It was writing about final fours in basketball, lacrosse and soccer along the way. And it was sitting in the blistering sun figuring out which walk-on tailback had a carry when the third-teamers were closing out a Maryland preseason scrimmage.

It was getting to know guys when they arrived in college and following their careers (and their maturation, or in a few cases lack thereof) as they grew older. It was figuring out what made certain fascinating characters tick, and how to get even the most close-to-the-vest personality to crack a smile and provide a riveting response.

It was the lines in the airport, rides in rental cars and conversations about just about anything with colleagues that made trips just a little more memorable. And it was the chats during five open periods and discussions in the student union that made another long football practice scoot by a little faster.

It was the kind words from a reader commending a job well done that prompted an appreciative reply. And it was the scathing criticism from another reader than required an even faster response.

It was making the jobs of earnest and hard-working editors easier by beating deadline by 15 minutes. And it was frustrating those same fine folks by writing 20 percent too much in the process.

It was bouncing ideas around with a superior on a drive into campus, with all the give-and-take that goes with it. And it was the reward of knowing the work was done the best it could be, right up until the very end.

It was sitting just feet from Kansas’ tying shot to force overtime in the 2008 basketball national title game. And it was having a crisp view of Syracuse’s rally to capture the 2009 lacrosse championship.

In both cases, and countless others before and since, it was the adrenaline rush of trying to beat the clock. And the serenity of knowing there wasn’t a better place in the world to be at that precise moment.

Put succintly, it was a blast. And I hope that sense was conveyed to as many loyal readers. For as much complaining and arguing and bickering and squabbling and backbiting that occurs in sports, it’s supposed to be fun.

I dare not single anyone out, because it’s a cinch that I’ll leave someone out. Needless to say, there’s a lot of people – through their friendship, their helpfulness, their courtesy, their advice, their humor, their criticism and heavens knows what else – to whom I am grateful for what I’ve experienced over the last seven years.

The message of the last month (and yesterday in particular), though, is clear.

“You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here.”

Indeed. This is my last missive on this blog, but I suspect it won’t be the end of my days writing about sports. The Twitter feed (@D1scourse) will remain active, and there should be some developments on it early in 2010. My employer for the next few hours might not want me, but I’m hopeful someone else might.

Thanks once again for your readership and your interest, and know it was – no, that it is – a pleasure and a privilege to be in this line of work.

Best wishes for a happy new year, and you’ll be hearing from me in the not-too-distant future.

–- Patrick Stevens