Goke’s Guesses: The end is at hand

This photo of Chateaugay’s Jonah McDonald (the younger one) and Malone Telegram Sports Editor John Gokey was sent to the paper by CCS Athletic Director Michelle ‘Babs’ Reynolds and was taken by Aiden Tam’s father during the halftime break of a home game in Chateaugay – which turned out to be the same night that Jonah became the all-time Section 10 scoring leading in boys basketball, surpassing former record holder Declan Porter (Canton).

Hello sports fans.

I’d ask how everyone is doing, but I am sure that all of you are in great need of a sports fix. I know I am.

Seeing how this article’s original intent was about football, let me begin with one of my all-time favorite sports quotes that came from iconic NFL Hall of Fame coach Vince Lombardi – “What the hell is going on out there?”

Now, I am positive that coach Lombardi was referring to the progress, or lack thereof, of his charges during a gridiron encounter and not our current issues with the coronavirus – a world-wide pandemic that brought a swift halt to the 2019-20 winter high school sports season and curtailed the entire 2020 spring season for all of the Section 10 teams, as well as the rest of the state programs.

My first question to you, the readers, is how do you like the new normal? Personally – and I hope I don’t offend anyone with my response – I think it sucks! Wally, Voice of the Huskies Paul Walbridge, always stated that “Goke tells it like it is.”

The COVID-19 pandemic brought a total stop to my livelyhood of high school sports coverage, not to mention that it kept all of the high school athletes from participating in their respective sports. Still, I will send out kudos to those winter sports teams – the Chateaugay and Madrid-Waddington boys basketball teams, the St. Lawrence Central and Hammond girls basketball teams, as well as the Franklin Academy and Chateaugay boys and girls composite bowling teams along with the Massena boys hockey team – who were not able to complete their respective state playoff runs.

I was certain that two of those four hoop squads would have made even deeper runs into state play than what most people thought, with Chateaugay and Hammond having a better that normal chance at bring home state titles. I was all set to cover the NYSPHSAA Region Final games at Onondaga Community College in Syracuse when everything came to a sudden and emotional stop.

Damn this coronavirus!

Well, another aspect of the COVID-19 pandemic is the uncertain future for high school athletes, as the 2020 fall season has already been altered, which may have an added effect for the remainder of the 2020-21 sports seasons. The NYSPHSAA Task Force committee has already made a contingency plan if schools do not reopen until later in the year.

But, I won’t be around to cover any of it – as I am retiring as The Telegram’s Sports Editor effective at the close of business today (Friday, July 31, 2020).

Yes, this is true and not a late April Fool’s joke. I am retiring as the paper’s Sports Editor!

During my two stints at The Telegram, which was known as the Malone Evening Telegram when I began my journey back in September of 1990, I have seen a ton of high school sports and was fortunate enough to report and photograph several state championships, beginning with the Salmon River boys hockey title, followed by the Franklin Academy softball championship a few years later. Charlie Disotelle, did your mustache ever grow back? And this year, I was looking forward to seeing the Chateaugay boys basketball team cap off my reporting career with the school’s second state crown. I am sorry that I was not able to see Ron Boyea and his charges bring home the school’s first-ever state basketball championship. That was a couple of years before I did return to the paper.

Because if my work at The Telegram, I have been the recipient of several awards, including an Athletic Administrator’s Award thanks to Eileen Kilcullen, who will also officially retire this year – a year that will go down in history as one that saw the feces hit the rotating oscillator. Eileen, Wally and the rest of the Franklin Academy/St. Joseph’s Academy Hall of Fame committee also accepted me into their prestigious fold – why, I still can’t understand, as I feel that select grouping should be reserved for standout athletes, coaches and administrators.

In my duties, I was also presented the Golden Media Award by the Basketball Coaches Association of New York – and I am still trying to figure out who nominated me for that award? Tim Lamay said he had no part in it, while Weasel and Mikey refused to give me a straight answer.

Regardless of the hardware that has been bestowed upon me, perhaps my most favorite moment has nothing to do with a plaque or trophy. It would be the memory I have of entering the Franklin Academy High School gymnasium (now known as the Eileen M. Kilcullen Sports Facility) with Will Bilow on my left and Eileen on my right for the annual fall pep rally. Much to my surprise, the 900+ students, student/athletes, teachers and administrators in attendance all rose as one and proceeded to give me a humongous standing ovation – one that still resonates in my head to this day. This I will never forget!

Before I conclude this, my final article as a full-time sports reporter, I would like to thank those who have made my job easier, while I put just another burden on their’s. To the athletic directors of my five coverage schools – Franklin Academy’s Joey Santamoor, Eileen Kilcullen and Paul Harrica, Chateaugay’s Michelle “Babs” Reynolds (and Paul Harrica again), Salmon River’s Shawn Miller, Brushton-Moira’s Missie Hastings-LaVigne and Adam Britton and St. Regis Falls’ Wilbur Bailey, along with the numerous people who preceeded him – I greatly appreciate all that you have done to help make my job easier and provide me with the information that I requested. I would also like to recognize some out-of-the-area AD’s who have also made my job a tad bit easier with their respective information. St. Lawrence Central’s Joey Reome, Canton’s Bill Porter, Madrid-Waddington’s Bryan Harmer, Potsdam’s Mark Wilson, Lisbon’s Erika Backus, Ogdensburg’s Tony Bjork and Hammond’s Shawn Dack and former OFA coach Bill Merna, as well as Section 10 Athletic Coordinator Carl Normandin. All of these folks had a hand in helping me out in one way or another.

I would like to thank all of the high school coaches who scrambled after events to rush their respective game information to me, especially those of you coaching winter sports teams, as there wasn’t much time between the end of those late-night events and my early deadline time. At this time, I would like to send a special thank you to coaches Tim Lamay Sr., Chris Yaw, Ryan Childs, Shawn Martin – and his wife Andrea – Tim Cook Sr., Wilbur Bailey for their respective comments regarding my retirement. Thank you all and I promise not to be a stranger.

I also wish to thank all of the student-athletes whom I have seen, covered and gotten to know throughout my tenure. I have been fortunate to get close to many of you, gotten to know you on a different level other than just from a sporting perspective. Some of you I will never forget, and then there are some that I will try desperately to forget, but will never be able to (LOL)!

And in closing, I must extend a special Thank You to you, the readers, for without you, my job would actually be meaningless.

Special thanks go to my mom, Dawn Gokey, my wife, Mary Ann, and my children (Andrew, Jason, Nichole and Michael) for putting up with all of my bitching, complaining and full-blown rants throughout my career. A nod to the clouds to my father, Francis, my father-in-law, Nicholas, and my recently deceased mother-in-law Elizabeth. May you continue to rest in peace!

As for retirement, I will be busy painting my grass, thanks to the product presented to me by my neighbors Bob and Cathy Brown, and I will have to keep a watchful eye out for my other neighbor, Eddie-Ray, as he vowed to retaliate upon the jackalope joke we all took part in while he was away camping. Beside, I have a “honey-do” list longer than I am tall to chip away at.

I will end this personal piece now, as there is a fishing line at my house just dying to get wet!

Thanks to all – it has been a great run, and here’s hoping I get to see some high school athletes in the near future.

There is nothing to stop you, the readers, from turning your collective attentions to Todd Weber’s tall tales, which will continue to appear in the Friday editions of The Telegram until sometime in September.

You just can’t make this stuff up!

Johnson Newspapers 7.1


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