By David Hotle, The JOURNAL
From the time he was young, Doug Brenneman remembers playing sports with friends.
Growing up in West Burlington during the late 1970s, he recalls playing flag football with YMCA teams. The junior games were a common pastime in Burlington and West Burlington at the time and many a young person competed. Even between games, he found himself with friends in one of the several front yards in his neighborhood to play sports in. While the games were fun for Brenneman, it was quarterbacking for the West Burlington Falcolns during his junior and senior year of high school that really put the hook in him as far as sports. He said with a smile that during his freshman year of high school, the Falcolns had the dubious distinction of having the longest losing streak (22 games) in the state. That year, he recalls, Coach Bill Nelson joined the West Burlington team and things changed drastically. By the time Brenneman was playing senior ball, the team was the first undefeated team in school history, and made the playoffs.
?I have loved sports ever since,? he said with a wide grin, remembering his days on the field.
On Monday, Brenneman walked through the front door of the Washington Evening Journal office to begin his role as sports editor. He has worked as a sports journalist for eight years after earning a journalism degree from Western Illinois University.
After high school, Brenneman found himself in Arizona with the plan of attending Arizona State University, but life caught up with him. He found himself focusing on his job as a carpet cleaner. Even then, he still found time for a few pickup games of basketball.
?It was a really fun job,? he said. ?You got to go to five different houses every day. I have cleaned houses that were just huge.?
Using the knowledge he gained on the job, Brenneman returned to Burlington and started his own carpet cleaning firm, 3D Carpet Care. After moving back, he also attended Southeastern Community College for a general two-year diploma.
His introduction to sports journalism came in the late 1990s, when Matt Levins, the sports editor at the Burlington Hawkeye, hired Brenneman to answer phones. When a full-time position came open Brenneman jumped at the chance, but was told he needed a 4-year journalism degree to be eligible for the job.
Deciding to pursue the vocation, Brenneman went back to school. He earned his bachelor?s degree in journalism from Western Illinois University. His first reporter job was the Mediapolis News, a weekly paper.
?I liked that community but you cover an exciting game and it isn?t in the paper until the next week,? he said.
During his time at the newspaper, he won several awards for his writing. He began applying to daily newspapers, finally landing a job in Watseka, Illinois, at the Iroquois County Times-Republic. He stayed at the newspaper until it became a two-day a week newspaper. He began applying to daily newspapers and was hired by The Washington Evening Journal.
Brenneman admits that his joy of covering sports is because he wishes he were still on the field.
?I watch sports all the time anyway and now I get paid for it,? he said with a hearty laugh.
In his coverage of sporting events, he said that the story goes well beyond simply who wins the games. He said the preparation and teamwork before is the most important part. He said the story is the players, not just the stars of the team, working together to play their best against the opposing team.
?I like to talk to everyone on the team at some point during the season,? he said. ?Everyone contributes. Guys who don?t get in the game contribute.?
With an ex-wife and three children in Burlington, he is happy to be closer to his family than he was in eastern Illinois. He is also happy to be working for a daily newspaper again.
?I think I have found where I want to be,? he said.