OPINA'S OPINION: Chinook Honors Fallen Teammate by Responding like Champions

Dear Montana

You asked for my hustle. I gave you my heart.

You asked me to be a sports reporter. I became integrated in your culture.

You asked me to find stories. I formed relationships that will last a lifetime.

You asked me to cover your teams. I became a fan.

You asked me to relocate. I became a Montanan.

You asked me to do a job. I fell in love with a new passion.

To me, working at KFBB was more than just a job. It was my life.

Even when I wasn’t working, I was thinking about Montana sports. I was living and breathing local sports.

It got to the point where I knew barely anything about national sports (Who won the AFC South and AL East again?) but I can tell you EVERYthing about local sports (Chinook won state football titles in 2010 and 2015, UGF's starting five, MSU-Northern stats, Carroll national title years are 02, 03, 04, 05, 07 and 10, etc).

Every day I walked into that office I wanted to go above and beyond the call of duty.

The word “standard” didn’t cut it for me. If my work at the end of the day wasn’t above and beyond, then to me, I didn’t do a good enough job.

I gave you everything I had. Even when I didn’t think I had anymore to give. I always found a way to give more.

The bigger the stage, the more I put my heart into the event. One example: I will never forget the night that CMR Football made the 2014 State Title Game in Kalispell. Blake Arthur and I had to make a round trip THAT NIGHT to cover the game and go LIVE at 10 p.m. A snowstorm hit us on the way back and there was probably about 4-6 inches of snow on the roads. Coupled with the fog, sometimes we couldn’t see three feet in front of us. I don’t know how we survived the trip back, but by the grace of God we were able to get back to Great Falls around 4 a.m.

Oh, there was also the time I made ANOTHER round trip to Kalispell that SAME school year by myself to cover State AA Track & Field.

Then there was the time I made the six hour one way drive out to Sidney to cover two of our local Class C Football teams playing in North East Montana. I’ll never forget getting to my hotel that night and witnessing a “Fight Club” moment where two dudes working in construction decided to “relieve stress” by having a barefoot boxing match in the parking lot. Then they asked me to be the timer (I have video to prove this happened). The trip was worth it because both our local teams won.

Montana, I gave you the best four years that I could. I never intended to stay as long as I did. As our viewers know, the on-air talent tends to be a revolving door and most reporters/anchors don’t stay/last past two years.

I won’t lie to you Montana. I was one of those people that tried to get out after two years too.

You know that saying that goes, “If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans?” Well, God must have been rolling around in laughter when I told him I was hoping to leave Montana after two years.

I realize now that God had plans for me in Montana. And the longer I stayed, the more I fell in love with this state.

I originally applied to my new station back in 2014 but it wasn’t meant to be……yet. I see now that people in our viewing area needed me, whether it was for work/coverage or for the extra curricular activities that I became involved with.

The biggest example I can think of is Jesse Dannels, the Chinook Senior who died in a car accident on Super Bowl Sunday in 2016. I will never forget him. I just chatted with him about his wrestling match (which he won) the day before the accident. It was an unfortunate incident that brought me closer to that small town. God had planned to take him home and he wanted me to be around Chinook for whatever reason I can’t entirely foresee, but I’m glad that I was able to be there for his Parents Ruth and Bob. He taught me valuable lessons that will last a lifetime. I will never forget his #LegacyOfLove

I never knew that I would fall in love with this job, Montana and her people. There are honestly many, many, MANY other examples of why I love this job so much but it would take me a whole book to write about. But to list a quick few examples: Starting out in Helena, Carroll, UGF, MSU-Northern, Havre and the entire Hi-Line, The Magic of Class C, the crazy AA Crowds, going to Nationals for NAIA Football and Basketball, seeing a Montanan like Josh Huestis get drafted, getting to interview an Montanan NFL Player, having my first story be about “Air Bud” the dog who plays basketball and other sports…the list built in four years honestly goes on and on.

Montana, I have to be honest with you. I had every intention of leaving the TV News business and going to grad school, getting my M.A. then Ph.D and become a college professor. I was going to make a career change and wanted to teach Broadcast Journalism at my alma mater Cal State Fullerton. I had already gotten accepted into grad school. My time in Montana was already limited anyway. It was more of a matter of WHEN I was going to leave.

I was so set on going to Grad School that I turned down a job offer from Las Vegas and turned away inquiries from Dallas and Orlando (it’s unheard of for a sports reporter to jump from Montana to a major market, but it’s been done before. Elise Jesse jumped to Cincinnati and Jaymee Sire went to San Diego).

I was “burned out,” as some people in this career tend to get.

And once again, God laughed at my plans. When KSBY, the NBC Affiliate in San Luis Obispo, California called me up, I didn’t want to say no.

KSBY is a dream opportunity for me. I had been keeping an eye on this station ever since I started looking for TV News jobs in 2012. Had it been the other station in the market that offered, I don’t know if I would have accepted. I applied to KSBY again in 2014 and didn’t get the job at the time. But after beating 100 or so applications for the weekend Sports Anchor/Reporter job this time, I really, REALLY didn’t want to say no.

For those who don’t know much about the San Luis Obispo/Santa Barbara area, I like to describe them as a college town like Missoula or Bozeman. Except instead of being college towns in the mountains, they are college towns at the beach. San Luis Obispo is located in California’s “Central Coast,” which is basically the beach area in Central California.

If you’ve ever seen the movie “Finding Dory,” the movie basically takes place in the Central Coast, where I will be moving.

Working at KSBY will offer me the best of two sports worlds that I am incredibly passionate about. One of our local D-I teams, Cal Poly SLO, plays Football in the Big Sky Conference. That way, I will still be able to cover a little bit of Montana and Montana State Football.

The rest of Cal Poly’s Sports, as well as UC Santa Barbara (the other D-I school we cover), plays in the Big West Conference. It’s the same conference that my Alma Mater, Cal State Fullerton, competes in. So I will get to cover my Alma Mater in a way.

Covering the Big West Conference is basically how my sports reporting career started. It’s crazy to see how it’s come full circle.

KSBY is one of the few situations that can lure me away from Montana.

I will never, EVER forget the time I spent here. I can’t believe how fast four years goes by. But I am truly and honestly so grateful for every athlete, coach, staff and administrator that has been an absolute pleasure to work with (There are too many to name individuals, but seriously I love you all). Thank you for going easy on me during our interviews. I can’t tell you how much it was a privilege to cover local High Schools and Colleges. Montana sports is something special.

To our viewers: Thank you for allowing me into your homes….both through the TV and literally into your homes lol. I’m lucky to have some invite me over for Easter or Thanksgiving dinners or breakfasts (shout out to the Dannels, Netz and McLaughlin families). I’m also thankful for some of the viewers that cooked food and brought it to KFBB (Shout Out to Lynda Morin for all the CMR Good Luck Cookies).

And to my friends outside of work: I don’t even know where to begin explaining how much you mean to me.

If any of you ever find yourselves in California, please don’t hesitate to hit me up. I’m always happy to see a Montanan outside of Montana. Twitter will always be the best way to reach me (more than likely gonna change my handle to @DerekOpinaKSBY). If we're facebook friends, feel free to hit me up there too.

Until then, it was a fun adventure Montana. There are so many life lessons that you taught me. I gave you EVERYthing I had and I am grateful for the love that you gave back. Thank you for accepting me into your beautiful state. I look forward to representing you in the future as my career continues.


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