As a way of introduction, let’s play a game of “Two Truths and a Lie,” OK?

If you’ve never played before, the game is simple: I present three statements about myself as a form of introduction, and you pick the two that are true. Ready? Here we go …

1. My name is John Wagner, and I am now covering sports in my new hometown for the Forest Lake Times.

2. While I may be new to The Times, I am not new to sports writing, as I have worked in sports journalism for more than 25 years.

3. I am president of the “Sweet Caroline” Fan Club.

If you are reading this column, you know the first statement is true. In addition to my byline and title above, Brad O’Neil spilled the beans in last week’s newspaper: As he transitions to a role as community editor, I will attempt to take his place covering sports for Forest Lake.

I already have jumped into action, covering Forest Lake Area High School’s Nordic ski teams as well as the Rangers’ girls hockey team for this week’s edition of the paper.

And while I am a relative newcomer to Minnesota, I have lived in Forest Lake since Labor Day of 2018 after having lived my entire life to that point in Ohio. I have two daughters who go to school in this area – one attends LILA, while the other is at Forest Lake Elementary – and you may have seen me walking around town as I attempt to cultivate an exercise routine.

By the way, thanks for not hitting me when you drove past me.

The second statement also is true. I worked for The (Toledo) Blade newspaper for more than 25 years, covering high school, college and professional sports. You may have heard of one team I covered: The Toledo Mud Hens, a Triple-A baseball team made famous by Cpl. Max Klinger on M*A*S*H.

Side note to younger readers: Please ask your parents about M*A*S*H. It was really big back in the day. No lie.

I also covered college athletics, particularly Bowling Green State University and the Mid-American Conference, and spent a number of years covering high school teams around Northwest Ohio. I enjoyed working with the high school athletes and coaches while at The Blade, and that’s one of the primary reasons I look forward to telling this area’s sports stories. I freely admit I could use your help in doing that; if you have ideas for sports stories, or there are photos you wish to see in this newspaper, please let me know. Send me an email or snail mail, tie a message to a carrier pigeon’s leg and set him free, or give me a phone call with your ideas.

Or stop me in the middle of my walk to share your idea. If you’ve seen me walk, you know I could use the break.

As for the third statement? That’s the lie: There’s no “Sweet Caroline” Fan Club I am aware of. And if there were … well, rest assured I would not be a member.

It’s not that I don’t like Neil Diamond. It’s just that particular song is massively overrated, in my opinion. And these days it seems everybody has to play it at sporting events. Since I attend a lot of sporting events, I hear it — a lot. Too much, at least for my tastes. So if there’s ever a petition to ban it from ballparks and arenas around the world, you will see my signature on that petition.

I hope to see you as I cover area sports teams. Please introduce yourself when you see me, because I look forward to meeting you.

And that’s the truth.

John Wagner is the sports editor of the Forest Lake Times. He can be reached at

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