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7:21 p.m. - August 21, 2005
Back At It! Covering HS Sports for Fun (and 25 bucks).
Tom Wolfe was wrong. Dead wrong. My friend Lisa! would say Balls to you, Tom Wolfe!. It seems you can go home again.

Because I’m home again, all the way back in my hometown. I’m living in a house that a fraternity brother grew up in, I went to the same church today that I grew up in (attention you all: if there was a lightning strike, power outage, sudden gust of wind, or other weather event today at about 10:30 Land That Time Forgot Time, it wasn’t because I was in church. It must have been your fault.), and recently, started covering sports for a local newspaper again.

While in college, I worked at the local radio station doing odds and ends (every shift, every duty, but the farm world, but I was a roving reporter at the 4-H fair a couple of years). That gave me some extra cash, but being a college student over the age of 21, I needed more. (I had a need – a need for….cheap beer and crappy cigars). I was the sports editor of the college newspaper for a semester (and created a controversy when I said, in print, that our new offensive line coach was horrific and should be canned) and I must have done something right because the sports editor of the local paper, the Journal Review, offered me a gig covering high school games Friday nights (and some Saturdays in basketball season) as a stringer.

I accepted, as $25 is $25, same as in town. And that’s what I’d be paid, per game.

So I started spending most Friday nights and some Saturday nights from late August through early March at either a high school football or basketball game. I graduated from college, found a job in town, found a job out of town, moved to Indianapolis, went through a couple of serious girlfriends, received my MBA, got engaged and got married, yet I still covered these games.

The madness finally stopped when Liz and I decided to buy a house and move. My friend Tank asked me to cover a couple of games for his paper in Lebanon, and I did. But I thought I was out of the stringing business, for good.

Then I moved home.

Crawfordsville is a smallish city – Montgomery County, Indiana has about 27,000 residents total. But last year someone who I have known and respected for years came back to town and wanted to start another local paper. It seems that the Journal Review had broadened its coverage to other counties and that they weren’t serving this county as well as they could. This new paper would be solely focused on Montgomery County and its issues.

They named this new paper….wait for it….The Paper of Montgomery County.

So Indianapolis has only one daily newspaper, whilst little ol’ Crawfordsville has two. Hmmmm….

Anyway, I subscribed to both papers (and receive a third paper from Lafayette daily and also get the Indianapolis paper on Sundays) and read the local coverage with zeal. This is my hometown, and it’s my town again, and I have to care about the issues going on here, especially with two little ones. So I care about the drainage board and the county council and the C’ville School Board and all that. (I know, it’s lame – I never said I wasn’t lame.)

When we moved back I had taken the family to a few basketball games last season. It was refreshing to see those games as a fan. I knew a lot of the people in attendance (heck, the crowd hadn’t changed, just the kids and the parents) and it was still a fun atmosphere. Even though the state of Indiana royally screwed up by going to class basketball, high school hoops in rural Indiana is something you really can’t beat. Not even with a long, sharp, pointy stick.

So this year I anticipated getting an all-sports pass for the family and taking everyone to my share of games. I especially wanted Katie to see the girls’ teams in volleyball and basketball – I think she’d get a lot out it.

Then I got the call.

The publisher of the Paper left a voice mail for me and asked me to call him. I had left the office early, so I called him back close to 6:00. He was still there, and asked if I wanted to cover football for them this season. I would cover one team and one team only for the season, and I would really get to know the team and its players.

The Smed of old would have said yes immediately. The Smed of new had to consult the council.

The request, put before the council, was approved on the first reading. Liz understands that $25 is $25, same as in town, too. And that can buy a week of dance class, or a big can of formula.

So Friday night was the first game of the season. I was almost excited about going back and covering games. I did have realistic expectations though.

Crawfordsville High School had a successful football program for many years. My senior year we went to the semi-finals in football (losing to Ft. Wayne Luers). But about 10 years ago the program hit a long dry spell, and it’s just starting to recover now.

This is also Indiana high school football. It definitely takes a back seat to basketball. Plus, Crawfordsville is in Class 3A out of 5 classes. While not a small school, per se, it’s not a large school with multitudes of athletes. On the roster this year, the Athenians (yes, that’s the nickname – at one point Crawfordsville was considered the Athens of the Midwest. They had a lot of writers who made their home here – like General Lew Wallace (of “Ben Hur” fame) and now they have me! Heeee!) have just 44 players listed.

Plus many of the parents and friends of the players know who I am. That sometimes makes it hard to cover games and write about things objectively. In one of the games I covered in Lebanon for my friend Tank, my next door neighbor’s son made a critical mistake at the end of the game that cost his team the win. I had to write about it – and I was afraid my jaw was going to be separated from my face. (It wasn’t; he basically said I had to write it like I saw it. His WIFE, on the other hand, didn’t talk to me for three months. I guess the son was a mama’s boy after all…)

I put on my electric green polo shirt, signifying that I am, indeed, a member of the sports staff of the Paper of Montgomery County, (Why they chose that color is beyond me. It’s greener than a shamrock!) and went to the game.

First thing I noticed was all of the familiar faces. I said howdy to about eight or ten people within a minute or two of walking into the place.

Second thing I noticed was the humidity. Have mercy, Miss Percy, it was hot and humid!

I went up to the press box, found my seat, and got ready for the game.

It was a fairly even contest. It took forever, though, because one team passed the ball a lot (and they weren’t so successful so the clock stopped a great deal) and they took extra time outs due to the heat, in order for the players to be properly hydrated. They also had an extra long halftime show featuring both bands, including an arrangement of “Somebody Told Me” by the Killers. Yep, the Killers, played by a high school marching band. I think next week they’re going to do “Maps” by the Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs.

Then the game went into overtime. I already had a tight deadline and this was going to blow it. So I called the editor and said that I’d be late – but I’d get it in as soon as I could. Not a problem, I was told.

The good guys (oh, wait I’m a JOURNALIST, damnit, I’m not supposed to root)….Crawfordsville won 15-14 in overtime on a gutsy two-point conversion. I did my interviews (mind you that high school football coaches aren’t paid to be articulate to the press – so sometimes it’s a bit rough to get usable quotes) and high tailed it back home.

In the past I’d have to go into the newsroom to type the story – or when I was out covering a game at a distant locale I took this Radio Shack terminal that had acoustic couplers that you cradled a phone into. You wrote your story, loaded the front with all of this gibberish code, then called the number and placed the phone in the cradle. Five minutes later, you received a confirmation that the story was sent. If it wasn’t – then you resorted to plan B. READING your story out loud to someone that typed it in. Inevitably, you had to read your story to someone while there was a high school dance going on and everyone would just give you funny looks. All you could do was say “hey, this isn’t MY idea of fun!”

At any rate, I am glad I can write from home. So I did, and I waited until the morning to see my handiwork.

The Paper is normally an afternoon paper, but on Saturdays they publish in the morning. So on Saturday morning I have three papers to read. (I love that!) I normally have a very strict order of how I read the papers, but I skipped ahead and looked for my story first thing.

I was aghast. They lopped off half of it. And there wasn’t a jump, either. It just ended.

No one told me how long I needed to write. No one said anything about a space issue in the paper. I just wrote a game story that told the story, put in a lot of quotes and sent it off.

Wow! It’s like you were reading a novel, got to the good exposition, and then it ended JUST…LIKE….THAT!

I wasn’t too happy about it – but I’m getting paid just the same. So I’ll live with it. Sigh.

However, gentle readers, all is well. The website of the paper published my entire screed. So here…you….go….C’ville Wins!

Enjoy!


But some things don't change in small town papers. They spelled my last name wrong. Sigh.

 

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