A New Era at The Duffle Bag

The eyebrows are no more.

Translation: My little cartoon won’t be appearing in The News-Times anymore…and this blog will be renamed in a few days.

On Thursday, I took a job as the UConn men’s basketball beat writer with The Connecticut Post (you can find the new blog here). I couldn’t be more excited, but at the same time, I’m an extremely sentimental person, so it’s only natural for me to re-live some of my best memories in my two years at The News-Times. Here we go…

The first coach I ever met was Dave Roach, then an assistant for the Pomperaug football team. Met him in the New Milford press box when I watched Andrew Clements and Ben Crick run wild on the Green Wave.

Pomperaug's Ben Crick

After that game, I just thought the Green Wave had a faulty defense. Seriously, Crick looked like Barry Sanders and Clements looked like Cam Newtown. After a few weeks, I realized that Crick and Clements torched everybody. They rank on the short list of high school athletes that made me say ‘Wow.’ The others, if you must know, are Brookfield’s Brian Kelly, Newtown’s Riley Wurtz, Abbott Tech’s Anthony Henry and Danbury’s Teyanna Green.

On June 7, 2010, Teyanna broke the state open record in the girls 100 meter dash. A week before that, she and her twin sister Charisma embarrassed me in front of the entire DHS girls track team. Some people called it my dumbest story idea; others probably think it was my smartest. Either way, it was a lot of fun.

Believe it or not, I also had fun compiling the Top 25 area athlete countdowns for 2010 and 2011New Fairfield runner John Raneri won in 2010 and Danbury sprinter/jumper Maya Walton took top honors in 2011.  There was plenty of deliberation both years, but in the end, I think the right athletes were selected No. 1.

Luckily, I didn’t have to make a choice for The News-Times Cup. I simply devised a scoring system, and Pomperaug ran away with the title both years. To this day, the consistency at that school amazes me. The Panthers are good — oftentimes outstanding — at literally every sport. Though I’m not the biggest baseball fan (cat’s out of the bag now),  I had a deep appreciation for Pomperaug’s phenomenal 48-6 two-year run. Those kids knew how to win. So did Brittany Martelle, a former girls basketball player at Brookfield. Martelle treated all of her teammates — right down to the JVs — with equal respect and was the best team captain I came across. As for coaches,  Abbott Tech basketball coach Jon Nadeau and Danbury track coach Melissa Nadeau (no relation, surprisingly) were two of my favorites. Both were good at their job, and both could joke around a little, too. And that’s always good.

Jon Nadeau was present for the best game I saw:  Stratford at Abbott Tech boys basketball on Feb. 22, 2010. Two undefeated teams in the regular season finale, loudest gym, most intense atmosphere, everything you’d want in a basketball game.

And the one I wish I’d covered — a girls basketball game between New Milford and Bethel. The Wildcats outscored the Wave 25-1 to start the game…and lost. New Milford attempted 39 free throws; Bethel got to the line three times. You can’t make that stuff up.

Can’t make this up either: If I never worked at The News-Times, I would have never met my cousins from Bethel. That’s right — Madison Duffy, the reigning SWC Athlete of the Week, is indeed my second cousin. And no, I wasn’t playing favorites when I nominated her for AOW. It was simply impossible to leave her off the ballot when she recorded 61 kills in a two-day span.

Something tells me it’s not the last time Madison will be up for the award; just someone else will be doing the nominations.

Three days after I conducted my final interview at The News-Times, which, ironically, was with Dave Roach, I hand The Duffle Bag over to my good friend and colleague Chris Brodeur. He obviously won’t keep the name (or the lame jokes), but he will do a great job.

Thank you for reading over the past two years and please keep tabs on me in Storrs. While you’re at it, give a warm welcome to The Brodeur Bag.

Actually, just give Brodeur a suggestion for the name. His email is cbrodeur@newstimes.com.