John F. Russell: Work is worth it

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John Russell

John Russell's sports column appears Sundays in Steamboat Today. Contact him at 871-4209 or email jrussell@SteamboatToday.com.

Find more columns by John here.

— I never dreamed that I would take time out of a Friday to begin the process of renewing my passport.

I’m not what most people would consider a world traveler. When I turn in a vacation request at the office, the first — and usually the only — question from my boss is, “Are you going to Vegas or Disney?”

I guess when you find the places that make you happy, there is no real reason to go anywhere else.

Getting a passport isn’t that hard, but it is a pain for someone like me. I hate filling out paperwork, I hate having my photograph taken, and I’m lazy. So it’s not surprising that I would dread answering all those questions, finding the right paperwork and going through the process of applying for a passport.

I never would have gotten a passport in the first place if not for the 2002 Olympic Games in Salt Lake City. Who knew you needed a passport to go to Utah? But I was required to get one for security clearances, and now when I look back I’m happy that I went through the trouble.

That little book has allowed me to see things that I never imagined.

In 2002, it was my ticket to watch Travis Mayer ski through the moguls en route to the silver medal, and it gave me a front-row seat as a little-known group of Nordic combined skiers — which included future Olympic medalists Todd Lodwick, Johnny Spillane and Billy Demong — race to within a heartbeat of a medal.

A few years later in 2006, that little book helped me get to Turin, Italy, to watch several Steamboat Olympians contend for medals. I’m sad to report that there were no medals for Steamboat that year, but the trip was an eye-opening experience.

It was my first trip outside the United States, and for the most part, the trip wasn’t that different from going to Utah. I learned that I could survive for three weeks on pizza and ham and cheese crêpes. I learned that Italians were pleasant and polite, especially when it came to dealing with an American who was in way over his head.

Before leaving for Italy, my family was placing odds on whether or not I would make it back to the United States. I’m not sure, but I think a few of them would have taken bets on whether I would make it there in the first place. I did, and the experience was worth filling out the paperwork to get a passport.

But it wasn’t until 2010 that I learned the real value of my passport. That year, the book enabled me to travel to Vancouver, British Columbia, where I watched the Nordic combined skiers, whom I’ve spent my entire career covering, race into the history books. Spillane collected silver medals in both individual events, Demong raced to the gold and the Americans finished second in the team event.

I’m not sure where my passport will take me in the next 10 years, but hopefully it will continue to open my eyes to the rest of the world. And don’t worry, I’m not trading in my traditional trips in search of adventure. This winter, I plan to hang out with Mickey, Minnie and Donald on a Disney cruise.

To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209 or email jrussell@SteamboatToday.com

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