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MT Sports Chat hits the century mark

There simply is no other way to start this column other than to say thank you.

Without inspiration and help, there would not be a 100th episode of Mail Tribune Sports Chat.

The live, unscripted and interactive Internet show was launched around May of 2010. Just about every Friday at noon, I've invited a guest into the newsroom to sit down with me and talk about their teams, their careers and their lives. If you'd like to check out one of the interviews as it is happening, visit www.facebook.com/mtsportschat. Archived episodes are available at that same website and at www.mailtribune.com/mtsportschat.

I'm hosting a reunion with guests from the first 99 episodes at noon this Friday. To view the gathering, visit the facebook page and then hit a button on that page labeled "Ustream". Those who are interested can post questions and comments in the chat box below the video and we'll answer them on the spot.

OK, I think that's about all the promoting that both you and I can stand.

Let's get to the good stuff.

Thank you Rogue Valley. Getting to know community members here has been deeply gratifying. In short, my local guests have amazed me.

We've had magnificent high school athletes with 4.0 GPAs who play sports every season and participate in other youth programs. I can't imagine doing more than one of those things smoothly or successfully. These kids are pretty awesome.

We've enjoyed semi-professional football players who've become entangled with the game, their passion like vines in an untended garden. They give up a lot — money, time, pain — to suit up, but their desire seems only to grow.

We've had rising stars like runner Liana Bernard, go-kart racer Camden Robustelli and rafting company owner Will Volpert, and we've had well-known sports veterans like Southern Oregon University football coach Craig Howard, speedway promoter John Skinner and stat guru and historian B.G. Gould.

Along the way, we've also welcomed in Jenn Shelton, an ultramarathoner who was mentioned in a book that made the New York Times Best Seller List (Episode 13); Jordan Kent, the former University of Oregon star who played in the NFL (Episode 57); David Prewitt, a mixed martial arts fighter and star of the VH1 reality television series Tough Love 2 (Episode 49); and Harlem Globetrotter Wun "The Shot" Versher (Episode 93).

Just about every Friday, I've shared a slice of time with guests who have shown passion, spirit, commitment, hunger, confidence, humility and even vulnerability.

I feel like I've learned and even grown from them all.

I owe a big thanks to my co-workers, including the kind and skilled Anita Burke, my Sports Chat assistant. She makes sure everything goes off without a hitch. And when Anita tells me the show went well, I'm satisfied.

Thank you to Tim Trower, a very cool and supportive boss, and thank you to my sports department comrades.

That said, I'll write up my thank-you note to talented sports designer Kevin Goff if and only if he agrees to contribute a weekly Andy Rooney-like segment.

Going back to the show's origins, I must thank innovator Evan Kruse. He came up with the idea when we both worked at the Roseburg News-Review a few years back and hosted shows together. I simply brought the concept with me to Medford, but only because Evan led the way.

On a stylistic level, props to a very generous soul named Carl Moore, whom I consider a great friend. You know those nice dress shirts that I occasionally sport on the show? Well, they were donated to me by him. Carl is a king of comedy and style, an outstanding community member and someone who took pity on my poorly dressed soul early on. Carl, thank you.

There are plenty of others that I'll have to thank another day.

I was initially going to sum this column up by ranking some of my favorite Sports Chat interviews. I began scrolling through the long list of webcasts before quickly realizing I simply couldn't do it. No chance, actually. Each guest was equally important. They all make me feel lucky and thankful.

For the moments we've shared and the memories I hope we'll make down the road, I thank you.

Reach reporter Dan Jones at 541-776-4499, or email djones@mailtribune.com