As many of you know, I retired from The Free Press last week. I'm still going to hang around as a freelance writer, so my byline will pop up in the newspaper once in awhile. But my full-time days are over.

I worked at the paper for more than 40 years, starting as a part-timer in 1976. At the time of my hiring, Morgan Brandrup was the sports editor, and Dennis Brackin was the full-time No. 2 guy.

Brackin left for the Minneapolis Tribune a few years later, and I was tabbed to replace him. I was pretty raw at the start as the only real experience I brought to the job was working at the MSU Reporter. But, like most jobs, the more you do it, the better you become so I grew into the position.

I've seen a lot in the last four decades. The two things that stick in my mind as having drastically changed since the mid-1970s have been the rapid rise of organized girls and women's sports and technology.

Title IX was signed into law in 1972 and that, more than anything, contributed to the growth of organized girls and women's sports at virtually every level. Girls and women's programs have blossomed into the activities they are today, taking their place right alongside those of their male counterparts.

Technology has been an even bigger whirlwind.

Believe it or not, back when I started at The Free Press, we were still using electric typewriters to hammer out stories. Soon we were helped by the advent of fax machines and computers, and then email arrived.

Cell phones, websites, Twitter, Instagram, etc., are now just some of the ways we are able to gather information during and right after events take place.

While technology has been a boon for journalism, the No. 1 allure of the job has always been the interaction with people.

Talking to athletes and coaches to find out how they tick has kept the job interesting and fresh over the years.

You learn a lot about a person's character when you interview them after an exhilarating win. Even more so after a devastating loss.

One thing that has always amazed me — and this dates all the way back to when I started — is the dedication of the high school and college coaches toward their programs.

Most of them are grossly underpaid compared to the amount of hours they actually put into a sports season, but they do their best to make it a worthwhile experience for their athletes. Most ex-high school and college athletes will tell you they learned as much about life from their coaches as they did in any one classroom.

My hat is off to them.

I've rambled long enough. I want to close by saying thanks to all the athletes, coaches, sports information people, athletic directors, co-workers and newspaper editors who have helped make my job easier over the years.

It's been a fun ride. The pleasure has been all mine.

Jim Rueda is the former sports editor of The Free Press. Look for him on a sandy beach somewhere in Florida or send a text to 507-720-1322.

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