When I wrote my recent story about the Troy football team’s Little Man’s Camp, it took a lot longer than usual. For almost two full hours, I sat staring at a blank screen, unable to punch a single word in.
As I sit writing my current story about the Trojans’ first week of summer practice — the one that, eventually, will end up sitting to the right of these words on tomorrow’s printed page — I’m having the same problem. Sure, there are words in my brain, ready to go. There’s tons of good quotes from new Troy head coach Dan Gress that will make everything incredibly easy once I get going. But something is holding me back.
It all just doesn’t feel right, like I shouldn’t be the one doing this. Like I don’t deserve the responsibility. Like it still belongs to someone else.
Because for the past 22-plus years, it did belong to someone else.
Today is the first official day that we are putting together an issue of this newspaper without David Fong on our staff. For 22 years, Fong has been the most consistent voice on these pages, holding practically every job this newsroom could possibly offer and knocking them all out of the park. From sports writer and editor to opinion columnist to even the executive editor, overseeing the entire newsroom, Fong has not only done it all, he is one of the most decorated journalists in the state, winning a countless number of Ohio Associated Press awards during his career.
But he’s undoubtedly best known as the man that covers the Troy High School football team.
The majority of Fong’s awards are for his sports writing, and most of those are for his coverage of the Trojan football team. In my almost 13 years working alongside him, there has only been one Troy football game that he did not cover — former Troy Daily News sports editor Henry Conte, who actually gave me my start in journalism, covered one game against Dublin Coffman in 2007. The reason Fong missed that one solitary game? The birth of his son.
There’s a lot of reasons why Fong’s name has been synonymous with Troy football for so long. For him, covering the team was a labor of love — as in he loved the team, so covering it wasn’t actually work. And for the newspaper, Fong’s encyclopedic knowledge of Trojan football made him an asset that we couldn’t help but use, even when it wasn’t technically his job. When I arrived at the then Troy Daily News in 2006, he was not technically in the sports department, holding the executive editor position, and yet he still volunteered to assist us by continuing to cover the team on his personal time in his off hours, allowing Henry and I to spread our coverage to the rest of the county more easily. How could we refuse?
Truly, no one alive knows more about Troy football and its history. Fong’s brain is a digital catalog full of the Trojans, with some WWE wrestling thrown in for flavor. He is even a published author, writing a novel titled “Ohio’s Troy vs. Piqua Football Rivalry: The Battle on the Miami” in 2015 centered around the long and storied history between the Trojan and Indian football teams. Most of that history he has chronicled in these very pages, and though he said that he went back through old stories and other sources for information, I’m pretty sure he wrote the majority of it from his infallible memory.
For the past 22 years — longer than that, really, since he also interned with the paper in high school — David Fong has been the one person writing about Troy football in this office.
Now he isn’t even in this office, having started today as Troy City Schools’ new communications director. Already, the office just feels different. It feels wrong, like something is missing. There is a decided lack of burp and fart jokes and other various silly shenanigans, and it’s difficult to get anything done in this atmosphere, or more accurately, lack of atmosphere. His going-away party may have been last week, but I’ve been in a state of denial since he announced his departure in early June. It hasn’t really hit me until right now, trying to write about his Troy football team.
There’s a scene at the end of the movie “Avengers: Endgame” — and yes, I’m going to spoil it now. The directors themselves have said the moratorium on spoilers is past, so if you haven’t seen it yet, skip this next paragraph and go see the best movie of 2019. Goodness knows Fong himself hasn’t seen the movie yet. Seeing those is not something he typically does.
When an aged Steve Rogers, Captain America, has Sam Wilson, the Falcon, try on his shield and asks how it feels, Wilson replies “Like it’s someone else’s.” And that, more than anything, is how I feel right now. But, like Wilson, I promise to do my best to honor the legacy that has been passed on to me.
But for now, at least, it still feels like it’s someone else’s.
We already miss you, David Fong.
Contact Troy Daily News Sports Editor Josh Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.
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