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Thank you and farewell

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The importance of cherishing good times as they occur is one of the greatest lessons I’ve learned during adulthood. Life is not about the destination; it’s about maximizing the experience of the journey. That, not the fleeting end points, are where we realize personal growth and quality of life.

Now that my stint covering the Redskins has ended, I have spent the last three weeks taking stock of a journey that began more than four years ago. And I can truly say, with great satisfaction, that I managed, amid the stress and exertion this job entails, to appreciate the wonderful people and enriching, uplifting experiences along the way.

My upcoming life change is bittersweet because there were so many of those people and experiences. For those of you who haven’t heard, I have left The Washington Times and ESPN980 to cover the Bears for the Chicago Tribune. You’ll still see my work in The Times’ Redskins season preview section (at newsstands on Friday, Sept. 6!). Also, I authored a feature about a Redskins player that should be published early next week. Please keep an eye out for those.

Brian McNally has replaced me. Anyone who followed his work covering the Nationals and Capitals for the Washington Examiner knows The Times’ Redskins coverage is in great hands.

On Sept. 4, I’ll join Brad Biggs and Dan Wiederer, a pair of super-talented gentlemen, covering the Bears. By then, someone hopefully will be interested in buying my house in Alexandria and my 1999 Buick Century will have survived Sunday’s 12-hour drive to Chicago.

My sadness about leaving the Redskins beat, The Washington Times, ESPN980, D.C. media and the area, in general, is exceeded only by my excitement about the experiences waiting for me in Chicago. So before I go, please indulge me this self-serving exercise of public reflection and thanks. Excuse me if I get a bit choked up. It’s a bit dusty in my home office because of all the packing.

My first assignment on the Redskins beat was Albert Haynesworth’s introductory press conference in 2009. I was working for The Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg. After it concluded and we reporters returned to the press room, several expressed their opinion about what a disaster the signing would be. I remember feeling the way you do on a roller coaster when you’ve reached the top of the first drop and the brake releases.

That first season was total madness, you’ll recall. At the end, I figured if I survived that, I could survive anything on the beat. The ride eventually smoothed a bit, but it was never dull.

As I zoom out and assess the team’s evolution since I began covering it, my overriding belief is that fans should thank the football gods every day that Dan Snyder finally reached his breaking point and brought in Mike Shanahan and Bruce Allen.

Since Shanahan first arrived in Jan. 2010, he has referred to the necessity of having the freedom to build this program “the right way.” That means being able to gut the roster and feel secure after winning only 11 games in the first two seasons. It means the willingness to give up what it took to acquire a franchise quarterback who in some ways transcends the sport.

If Robert Griffin III stays healthy, and if the trust between Shanahan and him strengthens, the Redskins would be well positioned to win a lot of games this year and beyond. It’s a bit bizarre to feel that way because the team has been poor for so long, but that’s how much I respect the minds on Washington’s coaching staff, starting at the top with Mike and Kyle Shanahan and Jim Haslett. They now have the weapons to match their acumen, despite a baffling salary cap penalty.

For the record, my prediction this season is 11-5 and another division title. What happens in the playoffs is anyone’s guess, but I expect the Redskins to advance this time around.

I am eternally grateful to Washington Times sports editor Mike Harris, deputy sports editor Marc Lancaster and managing editor Chris Dolan for entrusting me to cover the Redskins beginning in May 2011. They are everything a beat reporter could ask for in an editor: understanding, smart, and supportive with resources, words and actions. To realize you would do anything for your bosses, not because they ask you to but because you want to, is extremely satisfying.

I am proud to have been part of a coverage team that included such talented, dedicated journalists and even better people: writers Nathan Fenno, Steve Whyno, Amanda Comak, Patrick Stevens, Carla Peay, and many fine interns; columnists Dan Daly and Deron Snyder; photographer extraordinaire Andrew Harnik; copy editors Thomas Floyd and Judd Hanson; designer Matt Pallister; and the MVP of our department, webmaster Jimmy Hascup.

Special thanks to Nathan and Steve. Nathan’s contagious journalistic passion, drive and savvy are some of the most rewarding and fulfilling elements of the last 28 months. Steve’s friendship and endless energy and enthusiasm on the beat during the 2012 season serve as a lasting example of how to approach each day on the job.

When that group was broken up last December, those of us who remained turned inward with a sense of determination and togetherness that will stay with me for the rest of my working days. The desire to do great work for your co-workers’ sake, for the good of the whole, was never more powerful than it was in our reeling state.

Many thanks to the ESPN980 crew that welcomed me and nurtured me on the broadcast side. Special thanks to program director Chuck Sapienza, who gave me a most thrilling opportunity to talk to D.C. sports fans. It was my pleasure to talk Redskins with talented and knowledgeable folks such as Kevin Sheehan, Thom Loverro, Steve Czaban, Andy Pollin, Al Galdi, Chris Cooley, Scott Jackson, Doc Walker, and Brian Mitchell. Guys working behind the scenes helped me grow in the role—Steve Solomon, Marc Sterne, Pat Malley, Greg Hough, Ray Blankenship, Aaron Leistner, Scott Linn, Tim Shovers, Nick Ashooh and others. Those guys helped open my mind and center my focus within the marketplace of ideas and the noisy conversation about Redskins football. And we had a lot of fun doing it.

The men and women on the Redskins beat were my extended family for five months out of each of the last four years. I hope consumers of Redskins news appreciate what a talented, passionate and dedicated bunch they have telling their team’s narrative. To chronicle all the journalistic lessons, inside jokes, challenges, laughs and fun times in this space would be impossible. But simply put, they are the joys of a beat writer’s unique lifestyle and profession.

I worked closely with—and against—several people to whom I want to devote special mention. Their talent and work pushed me to be better at my job, and their friendship and compassion will continue to enrich my life.

John Keim of ESPN.com; Grant Paulsen of 106.7 The Fan; Chris Russell of ESPN980; Mike Jones, Rick Maese, Barry Svrluga and Jason Reid of the Washington Post and Zac Boyer of The Free Lance-Star are intense competitors whose talent, intelligence and commitment set the standard for the exhaustive work required to cover the team. More importantly, they are dear friends whose uplifting personalities, class and senses of humor made a great job even better. Our special camaraderie enabled us to consistently have fun while maintaining the fierce competition required by the nature of our jobs.

So many other media members impacted my life and work in a meaningful way (on a daily basis in some cases) during my four-plus seasons on the beat. There are too many to name, but I want to try. In particular: Sky Kerstein of 106.7 The Fan; Gary Carter, Mitch Tischler, Chick Hernandez, Rob Carlin, Kelli Johnson and Tarik El-Bashir of Comcast SportsNet; Joseph White and Howard Fendrich of the Associated Press; Dan Hellie of NBC4; George Wallace of WTOP; Lindsay Murphy of FOX5; Dan Graziano of ESPN.com and Rick Snider of the Washington Examiner.

Also: Steve DeShazo, Justin Rice and all of my former co-workers at The Free Lance-Star; Joe Eddins and Rod Lamkey of The Washington Times photo department; Dave Sheinin, Mark Maske, Kent Babb, Dan Steinberg, Mike Wise, Sarah Kogod and John McDonnell of the Washington Post; Chuck Carroll, LaVar Arrington, Chad Dukes, The Junkies, Danny Rouhier, Chris Kinard and numerous producers at 106.7 The Fan; Ryan O’Halloran, Mike Divenere, Jennifer Williams and Rich Tandler of Comcast SportsNet; Chris Kirwan, Lindsay Czarniak and Dianna Russini of NBC4; Dave Ross of FOX5; Paul Woody and Michael Phillips of the Richmond Times-Dispatch; Kristen Berset of WUSA9, Britt McHenry of ABC7; Lou Holder; David Elfin, formerly of The Washington Times; Andy Parks and Ann Wog of the Andy Parks Show; the Washington Times softball team and all my friends at The Washington Times, especially Christine Reed.

Thanks to former Redskins public relations staffers Zack Bolno, Matt Taylor and Michael Pehanic, and the current staff of Tony Wyllie, Ross Taylor, Angela Alfano and Daniel Sampson for their help over the last four years. They are part of a longer list of friends and colleagues with or formerly of the Redskins organization. I’m also grateful for the many players and coaches who were generous with their time and insight, and whose names appeared in the paper and online during the last four years.

And most importantly, thank you, the reader. I hope I enhanced your Redskins experience in some way, and I hope you had the same fun that I did in the process. I promise you I tried extremely hard to achieve those two goals. Your enthusiasm and willingness to engage in the reporting and storytelling processes were most gratifying and rewarding. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Cheers.

-Rich

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