Thank you for the compliments, which never stopped landing at my feet, and the insults, which never stopped landing upon my head.
Thank you for your contributions to the sports debate, which has nourished my soul for most of my life and, thanks to my employer, who has allowed me to engage with you for the past 22 years.
For regularly providing me with the nutrition required to gain insight and promote understanding, to feel the pulse of the people in the neighborhood and across the nation, I can't possibly thank you enough.
Four or five mornings a week since 1991, I have appeared in these pages with cases for your review. Well, some of these pages. The Oakland Tribune in 1991 became the Alameda Newspaper Group in '92 and has in recent years evolved into the Bay Area News Group. We've grown from fierce, feisty independent to a struggling goliath, striving mightily to deliver with the potency of the past.
Through all my opening statements and final arguments, you have been my judges and juries. You have been by turns my co-counsel and my opposing counsel, with voices as passionate in support as they are in dissent.
You have told me how wrong I am and how right I am -- often on the same day.
But this is my last column in these newspapers. I have accepted a position with Comcast SportsNet commencing next week. It was, for many professional reasons, an easy decision. For many personal reasons, it was a terribly difficult call.
There is, you see, a part of me so devoted to Oakland and the East Bay, where I grew up and still live, that surrendering this space feels somehow negligent. More like abandonment, actually.
There are, after all, such massive battles to come, certainly in Oakland, with its embattled sports teams -- the A's and Raiders and suddenly gold-dusted Warriors. I grew up in a city with three professional sports teams, all of which won championships, and still believe that committed owners and creative politicians are a time-tested formula for success in the marketplace.
I'll remain in the corner of those making honest efforts to do what's best for a city once defined by its uniquely colorful sports teams. My cases and causes and opinions won't go away. They're moving to another room in the same courthouse.
This old room, however, has blessed me with fabulous memories. It has allowed me to sit at the dinner table with Muhammad Ali, to stun Michael Jordan with my knowledge of his San Francisco haunts, to hear Steve Wisniewski explain the coexistence of deep faith and football violence, to watch Chris Mullin evolve from an alcoholic uncomfortable in his skin to a man without a speck of pretense.
I've been amazed and disappointed by Barry Bonds, exposed by Tony La Russa to the finer points of baseball, educated and entertained by Dr. Harry Edwards and enlightened by Bill Russell and his good friend Jim Brown.
I've been the chief ally of Al Davis, before becoming his arch enemy and forging a comfortable relationship with his son, Mark.
My goal over all these years was to share with you what I'd learned, been told, discovered or otherwise discerned. I realized early in the process to be careful with that because sometimes folks would rather hold the myth than know the truth.
I'd spent two years as a part-timer covering high schools for the Tribune when Bob Valli in March 1985 offered me a full-time position. I jumped on it -- two months before I received my degree from San Jose State. Six years later came the column.
I've never left, never wanted to, especially after the column came in '91. This is home, and I'm happily obligated to represent. My goal, above all others, was to serve the folks who took the time to read. Give them a chance to agree or disagree, to engage or disengage, to thank me or to curse me.
You were there when I've lost family and friends. There when I've exposed lies and revealed truths. There when I was right about the Raiders coming back in '95, there when I was wrong about J.R. Rider saving his NBA career.
I took this job without knowing where it would take me. I knew only that I was eager to go, to roam the arenas and ballparks I knew as a boy, telling the stories of people, perhaps bringing them and their causes closer to you.
Some of the hate mail, I still have, along with some of the letters of support. Isn't that only fair? I know I wouldn't have it any other way.
Thank you again for the years of allowing me on your doorstep in the morning. And, please, no matter where we are, let's remember that sport is about territory. It's tribal and it's addictive and, as long as it's healthy, let it forever be the source of debate.
But this is my last column in these newspapers.
--Monte Poole, Columnist