Friday night, I embark on my 14th season of covering high school football in Okaloosa County.
Twenty-nine years ago, I began as a sports writer, stringing for the old Gulf Breeze Sentinel. Thirty-nine years ago, I was a senior at Gulf Breeze High School getting ready for my final high school season.
As I think about 14 years, 29 years and 39 years, I’m reminded at how quickly time passes.
At age 56, I have more football seasons behind me than I do ahead of me, but none of that seems to matter as I think about another fall on Northwest Florida's sidelines chasing my football dream.
It may sound crazy, but my football dream today as a mid-50s sports editor isn’t too much different than the one I had as a player so many falls ago. I dream of a state championship for Baker or Crestview. And I wouldn’t be upset if both teams won it all.
I know my job requires that I be neutral in my approach to covering games and teams. But I wouldn’t be human if, deep inside, I didn’t want the teams and players I know best to do well and win.
I believe the best part of this job is the relationships I’ve built and not the games I’ve covered. It’s hard not to pull for teams or individuals when you spend two, three or four years getting to know players during their high-school careers.
Just as, so many years ago, I wanted my friends and teammates to do well, I want the young people who have befriended me to do well.
My body now has aches and pains the young Randy Dickson could have never imagined. However, each Friday night I find myself immersed in my own Fountain of Youth under a local high school's stadium lights.
If Juan Ponce de Leon were alive today he could find that magic wellspring he sought some 500 years ago at Crestview High School’s Jack Foster Stadium or Baker’s Doug Griffith Memorial Stadium.
And so another football season is upon me. Players I once covered are now coaches as the game comes full circle in the path of life.
I’m at the point where I have learned to savor the seasons and the games that make up those seasons.
I will never again put on helmet and pads in anticipation of a Friday night. My days of hitting are behind me.
And yet another football season calls me and I will answer that call Friday night.