I haven’t lived in Montana for many years (since 1996, to be exact), but ask anybody who knows me in the four states in which I’ve lived since then, and they’ll tell you without hesitation that I am a Montanan.

So, when Chris spoke with me about writing for the new eGriz.com, one angle for a blog we came up with was to write about the Griz from the perspective of distance.

That’s easy and hard all at once.

It’s easy because distance is the perspective I currently have since I don’t live in Missoula, or Montana, anymore.  I don’t get the daily contact with all things UM that people do who live in Missoula, whether they even follow the sports teams or not.  And even people who live far away, say Alzada, run across the Griz in some fashion, whether it’s in the local paper, or on area TV or radio, or when they see someone at B&J’s store wearing a Griz t-shirt or hat.

It’s a hard perspective, too, because even though I’ve lived elsewhere, I’ve never considered myself anything other than a Montanan. And I never will.  So, while I don’t have coffee with anybody from the school, let alone the athletic department, I still keep up on the happenings at UM, on the Griz teams and I hold the state and the school close to my heart.

Not a day goes by that I don’t check the Missoulian, the Independent or the Billings Gazette or KPAX and KTVQ web sites for updates from home.  Of course, I visit eGriz, mostly lurking the past couple of years, tho I post now and then.  So, I sort of don’t feel as though I have a distant perspective since I’m fairly well clued in to the big events going on.

It’s this constant need to know what’s going on with Montana and the Grizzlies that results in my reputation amoung friends and neighbors for being “that guy.” That guy who always finds a way to bring Montana into a conversation.

In fact, I wear my Montana pride on my sleeves, both literally and figuratively.

I’m sure those of you who’ve traveled or lived elsewhere know what I mean.  When you’re walking through an airport in some unfamiliar city, and you see someone wearing a Griz hat or shirt, don’t you want to go up to them and say hello?  I do.  Usually I don’t actually do it, though. I think it’s being brought up in Montana, where we tend to leave people the hell alone, that keeps me from dashing across the terminal to say hey to a total stranger just because of his hat.

I even wore my UM tie to an admissions interview for grad school.  That’s a story I’ll share in another post.  But the color was mistaken for Harvard and the disappointment and scorn in the tone of one professor doing the admissions interview was very clear. Remind me to tell you later what she said to me after I was admitted and then finished the master’s program with a 4.0.  She now has a whole different appreciation for Montanans and the University of Montana’s graduates, I assure you.

For a time, I was an assistant high school track coach in Ohio.  At an early-season meet I saw a guy in the stands wearing a Montana State hat.  That time I couldn’t resist the temptation.  I told the head coach I needed to go over to speak to him.

“You know him?” she asked.  No, but, I explained the hat.  She thought I was nuts.

“I don’t talk to everybody wearing a Kentucky hat,” she said.  I replied that KU gear is a wee bit more commonplace in southern Ohio.

While she shook her head, I went over to him and struck up a conversation, immediately starting off by introducing myself as a UM alum.  But that was no hindrance to a nice few moments talking about home as we sat in the stands and admired the kids running on the track below us.  One of our athletes wound up playing football for one season at Montana State.  For whatever reason, he came home after that year, but talks fondly of Bozeman and Montana.  He’s not the only kid who contemplated going to school in Montana.

During my coaching period, I was also a substitute teacher.  I never failed to talk up Montana to the teachers in the teacher’s lunch room or to the upperclassmen pondering where to go to college.

If you’re ever speaking to someone from southern Ohio, don’t be surprised if they happen to know how highly ranked UM is for producing Rhodes Scholars, how many Pulitzer Prizes have been won by its graduates or about Jeanette Rankin or Mike Mansfield’s impact on American history or, yes, even what Playboy said about Forester’s Ball.  Folks, I’m a walking billboard for UM and Montana. The Montana Office of Tourism really outta pay me a retainer.

For several years, I was a TV reporter and morning news anchor in Tucson, Arizona.  It’s a city that was crazy about its college basketball team, which won the national title the year after I moved there.  I’m not much of a basketball fan anyway, but each December, we’d be covering the University of Arizona Wildcat basketball team and after these stories would run, whomever was anchoring with me would try to make small talk about the team.

Almost invariably, I would reply, in a tone dripping with sarcasm, that I’m sorry to be clueless, but football is still going on.  And they would say something about it being over.  No, I would say, MY college football team is still playing games. In a playoff. So I haven’t turned my attention to lesser sports matters.

It left some viewers cold, but I didn’t care. I wasn’t interested in playing cheerleader for anybody else’s school.  I wasn’t rooting against them, I just didn’t see the need to live up to the cliche of the local newscaster who acts like a homer for only the local sports teams.  So if you ever run into someone from southern Arizona, don’t be surprised if they’re closet Griz fans and know a few facts about the program’s history or which former Griz are playing in the NFL.

My point here is that despite the distance and no matter what part of the country I was in I was, in the parlance of Millenials, “representing.”  I always will. I have a tremendous amount of pride in UM, Missoula, and Montana.  It is, and always will be, home to me.

So, what can you expect going forward from this space?  Well, I figure there are standards and we outta live up to them so here are some basic parameters for my intentions here.

I’ll try to keep the boring stories of my misspent youth to a minimum.  But I’ll do my best to share humorous exchanges during which I put someone in his or her place after s/he dished out a negative comment about the University of Montana born from ignorance.

I’ll comment on current events as they relate to the school.  I did go through the J-school and R/TV department, after all. I might not do journalism professionally anymore, but the lessons I learned still guide me.  My “job” nowadays, by the way, is full-time father to my two daughters. My wife is in marketing for Starbucks (packaged coffee, not the stores) and we live in Seattle.

I’ll definitely try to do something I did way back when I was a mediocre (at best) sports editor at the Kaimin: expand the scope of coverage to the Grizzly athletes who tend to toil in anonymity on the track and soccer squads and maybe even a note or two on club teams.  I might even write about something unrelated once in a while, so don’t be shocked. I would like to think we all think about something other than sports occasionally.  But I’ll always try to keep it relevant.

What I won’t do is let my love of the school and the state cloud my vision entirely. I root for the Griz no matter who’s coaching or playing, but I don’t wear “rose colored glasses” as the accusation goes on the forum pages here.  For example, if a player commits a serious crime, says something that garners national attention and gives UM a black eye, I’m not going to excuse it or ignore it.

But generally, I’m just going to enjoy doing a little writing here about the Griz student/athletes and the school and sports.  I have my own web site where I write about running shoes and gear, so this will be a great diversion.

I registered on eGriz in 2003, so I’ve been around long enough to have watched it evolve.  I’m really glad to be blogging here and I want to thank Chris for the opportunity.

If you have a topic you’d like me to write about, send me a PM.  I won’t guarantee I’ll get to it, but I’ll do my best.  And I’m looking forward to seeing how this goes.  Until next time…

Go Griz!

*GrizGuy is Frank Field, who has posted on eGriz since 2003.