When I decided to major in journalism at the University of Montana, covering sports in my hometown was probably the furthest thing from my “dream job.”
The possibility of being paid to write about the Chicago Bears or Boston Red Sox was what fueled my desire more than anything. What a job that would be.
Not only would I get into the games for free, they would pay me to be there.
Those plans, however, changed once I did the one thing that can derail the career of any aspiring bigtime sportswriter. I met a girl.
With that, an apartment in the city and a job on the professional beat went out the window. Instead, I bought a house, got married and raised a family.
Along the way, I got to cover sports in Butte. That job turned into a dream, especially over the last 10 years with Butte Sports.
Under the Butte Broadcasting umbrella, we started Butte Sports officially on Aug. 17, 2012. The site actually went live in the evening of Aug. 16.
A week later, I covered the Butte High football team’s exciting season-opening win over Great Falls Russell at Naranche Stadium. It was my first game in the rebuilt Butte landmark.
The play of the game started as a goof by Bulldog kick returner Dalton Daum, who let the ball bounce around before it rested on the 1-yard line. Then, Daum reached down with one hand and grabbed the ball as the Rustler defenders closed in.
Daum took off like a bullet, and you knew he was gone by the time he got to Butte High’s 15-yard line.
Within seconds, I heard Pat Kearney call my name from the visiting bleachers. He wanted me to make sure that I knew that Daum’s 99-yard touchdown was not a school record.
The Bulldogs kicked off our website with a bang, and they just got better and better. I got paid to follow that team all year long, too.
I was there when Dallas Cook put the team on its back in the semifinals, and I was there when Bozeman took a 36-35 lead over Butte High with 22.9 seconds left in the championship game.
A few feet from where I was standing, Butte High coach Arie Grey calmly say, “Kick return, let’s go.”
After a good Daum return, a Daum reception and a Cook scramble, I watched in disbelief as Jake Dennehy, an injured senior linebacker, knuckled a 46-yard field goal to give the Bulldogs their first title since 1991.
I was there when Butte Central’s girls’ basketball team completed its undefeated season with the Class A State title in 2016. I had the best seat in the house to watch Dougie Peoples hit the shot to give the Butte Central boys the state crown in March.
I got paid to be there, too.
My run with Butte Sports ends as the Butte Miners ascended into their throne as kings of the Mining City.
The Butte boys gave us a magical ride, going 45-9 as they won their first state title since 1953. Nine days later, they won the regional championship.
A day after winning the Northwest Class A Regional tournament, the Miners outdid themselves by stopping by the Big Sky on Waterford to tip their caps to the ailing Jim “Fonz” Hanley.
Boston and Chicago cannot compete with that. Seeing the Butte baseball legend acknowledge the state champions a few days before his passing is easily the highlight of the year.
This will mark my last column for Butte Sports. After nearly a quarter of a century covering sports in my hometown, it is time to step away and take a break.
I am not going anywhere. Until the lottery hits — I mean really hits — Butte will be my home. As of later this week, however, I will no longer be covering sports for Butte Sports. I’m going to stick around long enough to write about a trio of Butte Miners heading to the same college.
I am not leaving the website to work for a competitor, and I am certainly not going with any kind of hard feelings or any diagnosed disease. I just feel I need a change.
For the past 10 years, we have created something really special at Butte Sports. I poured my heart and soul in to the website, striving to make it the place where Butte fans go for their news.
We have done that and more. When I look at the website on the computer or my phone, I beam with pride. Other than my three children, it is easily the best thing I had a hand in making.
Being open 24 hours a day, seven days a week for 10 years, though, has taken its toll on me. My employers certainly never demanded that I put in the hours that I do, but I did. I put in too many.
I realized that recently as I sat in my car in the parking lot of an amusement park and wrote a story while my family rode the rollercoaster. For 10 years, I put at least one story on Butte Sports every single day.
Over the last year or so, the stress of trying to be the first and the best on every story caught up with me.
When I found myself dreading the upcoming fall sports season instead of eagerly anticipating it, I knew it was time to go. Anything less than being 100 percent into the coverage is not fair to the players, coaches, fans, impartial readers or myself.
I have to thank Paul Panisko for helping me get a job with Butte Broadcasting. He knew how bad I needed to leave the newspaper after the parent company fired my boss and friend for the unforgivable crime of turning 60.
I have to thank Ron and Shelly Davis for creating the job and paying me much more than my former employer. I also have to thank them for the friendship and unwavering support over 10 years. I wish everyone could have friends like them.
I have to thank Bruce Sayler for his help on Butte Sports and for always helping me be better at what I do. There is no way anybody had a better co-worker for so many years.
Without Bruce, most of you would have no idea who I am.
Mostly, I have to thank my family. There just have been too many nights and weekends when they missed out on their dad and husband because I was covering a game. That was not fair to them.
It is time to start spending some more time with them.
Finally, I have to thank the athletes, coaches and readers who made the website a possibility. You do not see anything like Butte Sports in any other city. John Thatcher says Butte is the “best sports town in the world,” and I think he is right.
That is why the website is so successful. Butte people care so much about the young Butte athletes. It really is remarkable.
So, today I say goodbye to a job that really has become a dream. It was a hard decision to leave, but it seems like it was the only one.
While I have some ideas about the future, I am not exactly sure what is next. Maybe a podcast. Maybe a book. Maybe both.
One thing I know is that I will finally learn how much tickets cost at sporting events in town, and I can finally drop that impartial hat and root, root, root for the Bulldogs, Maroons, Miners, Muckers and Orediggers.
That will continue even after the lottery finally hits. I mean really hits.
— Bill Foley, who doesn’t play the lottery, can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him at twitter.com/Foles74.