The people of Southern Boone County have treated me much better than I deserve. Over the years, and especially in recent weeks, various members of our growing community have paid me compliments and given me words of encouragement that both flatter and humble me.
“I really enjoyed your column last week.”
“You did a great job announcing the football game the other night.”
“My son says he loves having you as his teacher.”
To those of you who have gone out of your way to show this old fool such kindness, thank you from the bottom of my heart. I would also like to say thanks to those folks who do not count themselves as members of the Travis Naughton Fan Club, but nevertheless care enough to give their honest feedback whenever they feel it is needed.
“Dear Editor, what do I have to do to convince you to get rid of that columnist Travis Naughton?”
“You pronounced my son’s name wrong after that touchdown.”
“(You) broke my trust in you as a friend.”
As an opinion writer, I know that I will occasionally offend readers. It’s unavoidable in my line of work—if I’m doing my job right. To those of you who have respectfully disagreed with something I wrote in the Journal, I appreciate you caring enough to express your displeasure, and I am sorry if you felt insulted or disparaged by something I wrote.
To the parents of student-athletes whose names I have mispronounced during football games, I appreciate the timely and polite corrections. I hate butchering a kid’s name after they’ve made a big play. Sorry for the errors.
And to the dear friend whose trust I betrayed, I am very, truly, inexpressibly sorry. Though I did not intend to cause you this pain, I realize now that I hurt you through utter carelessness on my part. A man should never be careless with friends and loved ones, for he is blessed with so precious few of each. I know that I can’t take back what happened, but I promise that I will work for the rest of my life to earn back your trust and your friendship. I have no right to ask you for anything, but nevertheless I will cling to the hope that you will find it in your heart to someday forgive me.
No matter where I’ve lived or what I’ve done, the feeling of being an outsider has always haunted me. I never really felt like I fit in anywhere—until the good people of Southern Boone County accepted me as one of their own. The compliments I have received over the years from readers, football fans, and other folks around town have done wonders for my soul. The kindness you’ve shown me helps keep the overwhelming guilt of my failings as a friend and member of this community from crushing my spirit.
All I can do is try to be a better person today than I was yesterday. I think I’m a better writer today than I was back when Bruce Wallace threw caution to the wind and inexplicably gave me my own newspaper column. I know I’m a better public address announcer than I was when I started calling football games—even though I might have had an embarrassing “hot mic” moment during a middle school game last week. There’s no doubt that I’m a much better teacher than I was when I began subbing six years ago. And now that I’m sober, I’m definitely a better husband and father than I was when I was drinking.
There’s still plenty of room for improvement in every facet of my life. There’s no disputing the fact that I am a work in progress. I guess maybe we all are. Thank you friends, family, fans, and foes, for putting up with me, humoring me, tolerating me, and challenging me. Thank you for keeping me honest, for holding me to account, and for encouraging me to do better.
I’m sorry, SoBoCo, but I’m afraid you’re going to be stuck with me for a long, long time.