Rick Bailey: Filing the final story

Editor's note: Rick Bailey has served this newspaper for 45 years. This is his farewell column.

When I started this job, I carried a notebook, reflex camera and bus schedules to get around Little League venues in Lexington.

As I end this job, I haul a laptop in a rolling computer bag, use a digital tape recorder and get on wireless Internet to cover Kentucky state colleges, Thoroughbred racing and a host of other sports, including amateur golf and high school championships.

I've been fortunate to write about World Series games, racing's Triple Crown, NCAA and NAIA football playoff championships, Final Fours and some of the best athletes of any generation.

I've dictated stories by phone from distant locations. I've typed up reports from Memorial Coliseum, passed the copy to a runner who handed it to a Western Union telegrapher who dispatched it to the newspaper downtown.

I've used countless typewriters, Telerams, laptops, etc. to get the story in. Now the wireless fires copy from Anywhere USA to the newsroom. Blink and you'll miss it on the screen.

The story is what counts. It hasn't always been the tried and true of who, what, when, where and how. It often was the story behind the story. It was the opinionated, occasionally outrageous columns that, by definition, inflamed readers, led to canceled subscriptions and once created a boycott by a coach and his team.

Several years as the paper's first full-time religion writer (we think) was far more than an interlude between gigs in sports. It happened after the two Lexington papers merged and when religion writing was at its peak on the national scene.

The Moral Majority became a force in national politics. Televangelists made more news than the gospel they were proclaiming. The Rev. Pat Robertson flirted with a run at the presidency. One memory was participating in interviews with the Rev. Jerry Falwell (Somerset) and Robertson (Wilmore) on the same day.

A bus trip to New Orleans with a group of Catholic teenagers to hear Pope John Paul II was priceless.

Returning to sports, my main assignment was covering Kentucky colleges in the NCAA and the NAIA, helping with horse racing and joining colleagues wherever we were needed.

The more time passed, the more my appreciation deepened for the "small" schools. The coaching skill and competition is just as fierce at that level as it is at the Final Four this weekend.

Covering Transylvania's move from the NAIA (a few basketball scholarships) to NCAA Division III (none) was a revelation. Heartland Conference coaches are as intense as anyone in Division I. Just watch Brian Lane (men) and Greg Todd (women). I'd as soon cover a game in Transy's Beck Center as anywhere else.

In the Ohio Valley Conference, I chronicled Roy Kidd's pursuit of 300 coaching victories, all for his alma mater, the Eastern Kentucky Colonels. He is still in the top 10 of all college coaches. Morehead State this season played exciting basketball on the national stage.

Because Huntington, W.Va., is an easy drive, I covered five Division I-AA title games, four involving host Marshall. The most exciting 24-hour period was watching Western Kentucky win the I-AA crown Friday night in Chattanooga, then crossing U.S. 64 in Tennessee for Georgetown's NAIA title bid Saturday afternoon in Savannah.

The game-winning shot by Ty Rogers of Western in the 2008 NCAA Tournament was right in front of me. It was perhaps the most dramatic of many game-winners I've seen.

I'll be watching from the stands now or in front of the tube. Hey, save me a seat at the Beck — as long as the Transy pep band is playing.