Every season when we publish "The Inhuman Awards," I get asked where the name of the award comes from.
It's a long story about an old nickname.
The nickname stems from my college days at UW-River Falls. To say I was something of a sports nut would be an understatement. I went to a high school that no longer exists (Glidden), with a graduating class of 23. We only had enough boys to offer two sports, cross country and basketball. And the only way we could get enough kids for cross-country was the basketball coach blackmailed us. If we wanted to play basketball, we had to run cross country.
I am certainly not constructed for long distance running, but I did it. I wasn't terrible, making varsity for probably half my career, but it was like watching a plow horse run the Preakness.
On to college. At the end of my freshman year, I was asked to pledge Alpha Gamma Rho, an agricultural fraternity. I did, and it was one of the best moves I've ever made. It helped me immeasurably, as a struggling student, to find a place where I belonged. I changed from an ag major to journalism in my junior year, but I am still proud to be an AGR.
Our frat had intramural teams in every sport. I was finally able to compete in every sport and probably enjoyed it more than most people. I was always competitive and this finally gave me an outlet. Football, basketball, volleyball, softball, broomball, whatever the sport, I loved playing it and hated to lose.
One of my frat brothers came up with the idea to come up with a nickname for me. He decided to use words that rhyme with my last name. It got annoying rather quickly. His nickname was "Lucky" and we all thought it was because he's lucky that nobody had punched him because he was so damned annoying.
Apparently, because of my competitiveness, the one rhymed nickname that stuck in most people's minds was "Inhuman."
One of the people who liked that nickname was Nancee Melby, who happened to be the editor at The News and who hired me in 1988. When I was trying to decide on a name for my column, Nancee told me "Inhuman Newman" would be the title. When Nancee made a decision for you, there wasn't much point in trying to argue.
A couple years after I joined The News, I thought an award system at the end of each season would be a fitting way to recognize athletes who had outstanding performances in each season. As I searched for a name for the awards, it was decided for me, and thus, "The Inhuman Awards" were born.
I put more thought into the awards than anything I write each season. It is a responsibility, because I want to make sure the most deserving students are recognized. I listen to coaches every season to help formulate my opinions and I'll seek out the opinions from coaches to make sure that all the most deserving kids get mentioned.
As far as being Inhuman, it's more an emeritus nickname now, I guess. Being in my 50s, I don't have many inhuman moments any more. And after surviving cancer, being inhuman is almost against my nature. People have been so kind and caring in helping me through the cancer battles, I feel fortunate to be here. I hope it has helped my nature, because I think it has helped me look for the positive, in life and in sports.