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Sunday Musings: The Beginning of a New Life

It’s Sunday morning and while I drink coffee and prepare to clear out the rest of my card room I thought back to an old blog I wrote in my radio days. It’s still online, and the reason was I wanted to find pictures I took while in California ten years ago. I walked Pebble Beach the week before the U.S. Open and those pictures are stuck on an old phone I can’t revive.

So, in searching the blog I found my final post. After an insanely busy year I made a decision to go back and finish a college degreee at 29. That was one of the best decisions I ever made because through relationships at the university it led me to a job in Madison, Wisconsin, met my wife, and began my ultimate collecting journey.

On this Sunday, I look back at that last post as I left a comfy career in broadcasting to pull a Rodney Dangerfield. Here is that post in its entirety.

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My Most Difficult Blog Post Ever….

Nearly eight years ago to the day I made a tough decision. In all honesty, I just made an easy decision. That decision was to pass on a four year degree and work toward my goal of being a sports broadcaster. I hated school. I hated school because I didn’t put the work into like I should have. I was immature. Sports was cooler. Radio was cooler. I thought I was too cool for school. Of course I was, 21 years old and getting paid to do what I wanted to do the rest of my life, while my sucker friends were cramming for finals and doing homework? Things change.

Over the past eight years I have contemplated on taking classes to get a four-year degree. Do I regret not going finishing in my early 20’s right after getting my Associate’s degree? Nope, not one bit. In fact, had I gone to school eight years ago, I would have pursued a four-year degree in broadcasting. That, I am glad I didn’t do, for I have real world experience at commercial radio stations. Sure, not Chicago, L.A. or New York, but I’ll take Macomb, Galesburg, and Monmouth because I have had a blast in my career, to this point.

As my 20’s are coming to an end, the mind really starts racing. I guess you could call it my quarter-life crisis. When I started the Illinois High School Sports Network in 2008, I had no idea how much interest it would gain, how many visitors would seek the website out for news, information, videos, audio, broadcasts, etc. It was my little side project, a hobby. On the other end, I had no idea how many hours I would sink into the website, and traveling across the state covering events.

The whole idea surrounding the Illinois High School Sports Network was spurred early in my radio career while at K100 in Macomb. The radio stations there had streamed online, however the royalties issues had surfaced around 2002-2003, and the station quit streaming online. A few radio stations around the state were streaming local sporting events online. Various message boards had posters link different broadcasts around the state, but a fan of all sports had to seek out various website to find all of the broadcasts for that particular night, mainly playoff football.

That fact, and the popular message board, Illinois High School Sports, I thought it would be a great way to network all of these stations, and have a website link to all of them. This was an idea that I held in my mind for at least three years.

In 2008, during my transition from the Macomb radio market to the Monmouth/Galesburg radio market, I had some Macomb business owners and girls basketball fans express interest in covering Lady Bomber basketball. I didn’t have the means at the time, but I mulled over some possibilities. During my time in Macomb, we began streaming high school sports through Network1Sports. After this interest grew about Macomb girls basketball, I called Network1Sports President Gregg Hitchcock to find out if it would be possible, and what I would need to begin broadcasting on my own. Surprisingly, it was fairly cheap and easy.

Several years before IHSSN.net was born, my radio career began in a tiny building in Galva, IL. I still remember the day that would start my broadcasting career. I was a freshman in college at Black Hawk East and living at home. It was a cold December morning, and the phone had rang. My mom relayed a message from my best friend Scott’s mom, Joline. She had heard a commercial on 102.5 WHHK advertising a part-time opening at the radio station. Before I had the chance, she called the station to let them know I was interested. I still laugh at that!

I called the radio station that day, and had a meeting with Program Director, Terry James. He had me read two news stories in a room that would later become my office as the full time news and sports director for the two radio stations (WHHK – Galva and WGEN – Geneseo). Apparently, I did an alright job because he hired me on the spot.

My first month in radio was typical, running the boards at night for high school basketball games. I was working about 10-20 hours per week at the radio station, taking a full course load at college, and working about 20 hours a week at the grocery store in Annawan.

In January, the afternoon drive DJ announced he was leaving, so I was groomed to take over his show. My shift was live from 4:00 to 6:00, and it became known as “The Beau Show.” My listeners consisted of; my dad, three of my friends at Black Hawk, the one guy that always called to talk, and the cow in the pasture across the street. I played an off-the-wall mix of music, mainly none suitable for the format it was on, but I was young and dumb. Once, I got in trouble for playing “Angry Johnny” by Poe. Apparently, the doctor’s office found these lyrics offensive,

“I wanna kill you, I wanna blow you…away
I can do it you gently
I can do it with an animal’s grace
I can do it with precision
I can do it with gormet taste”

Live and learn, right?!

Less than six months after being on the air for the first time, or heck, walking in a radio station for the first time, I was put into a full-time news and sports director role. At the time, like any 19-year old, I thought I was ready and capable. I wasn’t.

For about a year I managed to run those two positions, and I think I did an alright job. No lawsuits were filed, so that’s a good thing.

May 2003 was scheduled to be my last month at the radio stations in Galva and Geneseo. That last month came a little sooner than expected. No, not because I played, “Angry Johnny,” again. Our owner, John Hoscheidt (who owns WRMJ – Aledo) sold the two stations to Virden Broadcasting. On March 31st, 2003, we locked the door for the last time.

Even though I was only going to be around for another month, it was a sad day knowing that I wouldn’t get to stop by the radio station on my way back through the area from Macomb. A few years after the station closed, I noticed my old desk was sitting in the ditch next to the building, out for trash. I could pick out that horrible old 1960’s turquoise desk that weighed about 100 pounds anywhere, and it still had the same magnets I had placed on it years prior.

When I first moved to Macomb, I struggled. It was all so foreign to me. It took a good year to really start feeling comfortable in my job and in town. In fact, I struggled handling being 21 years old, living in a college town and handling a full-time job. About one year after I had started, trouble found me. It was one of those awakening moments. From that point on, I straightened up.

I was paired with Chris Smith on the K100 Morning Show. Just like IHSSN.net, it started out as a fun little show (for me anyway, Chris did all the work, I just read the newspaper and opened my mouth). The crowning moment of my time on the K100 Morning Show was a little skit we did after Easter. Chris was talking about what to do with eggs after you decorate them. I mentioned that I like to make those, “eggs where you take the yellow stuff out, and then put it back in with the red sprinkly stuff on top.” I couldn’t think of the term, deviled eggs, so since radio is theater of the mind, I explained in detail.

Following that segment, I was challenged to make those so-called deviled eggs. I did, and I can’t remember how that initial show went, but it must have drew some laughts. “Cooking With Beau” became an instant radio sensation. I had the tendency to not follow the directions, take shortcuts, and use improper cooking utensils. Hilarity ensued.

One of my all-time favorite morning show moments was our final segment of the morning. As I mentioned earlier, I read the newspaper a lot. I also played with things near me in the studio, until Chris discovered me paying more attention to the pen cap or paper clip and took away any “toys.” One day, I found a tennis ball. Ironically, a pair of fluorescent tube lights was standing against the wall near me. You see where this is going? One bounce off the shoe for that tennis ball, and it meandered right into those tube lights. Live on air, a thunderous explosion could be heard, with a plume of dust filling the studio.

In June 2008 we were notified that Prairie Radio Communications was selling the three Macomb radio stations (WKAI/WLMD/WLRB) to Prestige Radio. Most everyone on staff decided to stay with the company, and made the move from Macomb to our offices in Monmouth and Galesburg.

It was a tough move, because living a few blocks to 35 miles is a big change. Honestly, after almost three years of working 35 miles from home, I have never adapted. What I did adapt to, though, was the markets in Monmouth and Galesburg. The listeners, coaches, and players.

I thought it would be tough taking over as the sports director in a new market, but really thrived. I really found myself in sports broadcasting in these two markets, and along with IHSSN..

The Quest 2: 150 was something that I thought would be difficult, and it was in a way. I told many people that if time and money were no object, I could broadcast 500 games in a season. Of course, if time and money were no object, we could surely do a lot of things. All in all, the 2010-11 school year/sports season was a defining moment for my career in sports broadcasting. IHSSN was redesigned, I was asked to be a panelist on the IHSA Football Playoff Pairings TV Show, the Quest 2: 150 getting publicity in a number of media outlets, including Sports Illustrated’s website, and broadcasting both weekends of the IHSA Softball Finals for the IHSA Network. It was a season that I will always look back on with fond memories.

And, that is why this blog post has been the toughest for me to ever write. There may never, ever be another season like the one I just finished. Over the last two months, I have considered going back to school. For 14 months, my house in Macomb was on the market. It didn’t sell. On a few occasions I would think to myself, how many opportunities am I going to have to go back and take some college courses, especially living in a college town?

I learned a lot about myself over the last two months. Maybe I won’t want to work 18-hour days in succession in 10 years. Maybe I would like to have a family someday. Maybe I would like to do things that I can’t do now.

One of my weaknesses has been a comfort zone, and not leaving that comfort zone. Last summer, I was scared to death to fly to California and D.J. my friend Quincy Bejster’s wedding. I had never flown, nor Dee-jayed a wedding. It’s a fear of uncertainty. That trip to California was probably the best time of my life!

After mulling this decision over for nearly a month, I have decided to stay in Macomb, and have applied to Western Illinois University to pursue a Bachelor’s degree in Marketing. I will be leaving the radio stations in Monmouth and Galesburg in August. As for IHSSN, it will be put on pause for the time being.

To everyone who has read this blog, the Quest blogs, visited the websites, listened to my broadcasts, read my articles, or just know who I am, I thank you for taking the time to do so. I hate to leave a profession that I am so passionate for, but I feel that this is the right thing to do, and the right time to do it.

There will be a Quest 3. No, it won’t be broadcasting 300 games or anything crazy like that. It will be even crazier! Introducing, The Quest 3: Dean’s List. I never made the Honor Roll in school, because studying Sports Illustrated was more important than studying Biology. It’s only taken 29 years, but I guess I have grown up a little!

Please drop me a line at beauspencer82@hotmail.com, or post a comment on this blog. I always love to hear feedback, even the negative ones.

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