Wide World of Sports

I played hooky yesterday, although it really didn’t feel like it. We’ve decided to try opening Pat’s again on Saturdays, and I used my shift to shift books around. We may get our used bookstore open by the time Pandemia finally abates.

sports balls 0820

Once upon a time I was a sportswriter. I wrote about sports for just over a decade, despite barely having any credentials when I started. I fell into it by default, and kept going when I decided sports were more interesting than going to meetings. (In one of life’s ironies I turned into a meetings junkie after I left the newspaper and was no longer getting paid to take notes.)

As a participant in formal sports I was not much of a success. I didn’t like soccer or tennis. In junior high I went out for basketball one season and played — this is a completely unexaggerated story– one minute of one quarter of one game. I did earn a varsity letter in track as a high school freshman, but I wasn’t enjoying that either, so I quit, earning my coach’s enmity until Terri the uberathlete arrived three years later to make up for all my failings and then some.

But while Terri played and loved everything, I didn’t witness many of her athletic triumphs (which included 11 varsity letters in three high school sports and four more for college basketball). I was at college for most of her high school career, but even when home I opted to stay home over going to a gym or track.

I didn’t even pay much attention to the football, basketball and baseball that showed up on TV. So no one — least of all me — would have predicted I would take up sports writing as a vocation.

Before I got my my job, where I was not hired to be the sports editor, at the Gunnison Country Times, I interviewed unsuccessfully at a handful of other small papers around the state. One of those was specifically a sports position, so before I went I asked Terri for information.

She mailed me a multiple page “cheat sheet” with the basics of volleyball and basketball, and she went to a college student assistant coach (who is still a friend of ours, and still an assistant basketball coach, now for the college women) for a tutorial on football.

This did not get me the sportswriter job at whatever paper I can’t even remember, but I saved the instruction sheets, and when I began edging into sports coverage at the Times I used them for reference.

Some time shortly thereafter I ended up as the sports and school reporter, then editor. I took one of the pressmen with me to my first wrestling matches, because I had no idea what that sport entailed and he was a former wrestler, and I learned bike racing (it’s spelled “prime” but pronounced “preem”) and gymnastics terms even as I became quite a proficient statistician, if less so an analyst, of volleyball, football and basketball.

It seems odd now, given how huge it is around Gunnison, but I never did learn much about hockey, because it wasn’t played by too many people back then. That one started taking off shortly after I left the paper.

Ten and a half years into my completely accidental sports writing career, I departed due to a change in management that left very few impressed and almost none of my co-workers still at the paper, either by their choice or the manager’s. He fired two of my friends in one day, so I went the next day to the bookstore, which I had just heard was hiring. (That became the job I loved above all others, but I only had it for three years, up until new management fired a friend and I quit once again. It’s a theme.)

I didn’t leave sports completely, as perhaps you are aware. My friend J.W. was still the sports information director at the college, so I would help him keep statistics in a few assorted sports, and I continued with the sports officiating duties I had taken up over the course of the years at the middle school. I ended up on the “chain gang” for college football games for something like 18 or 20 years, and if I wasn’t down on the field I filled in a couple times as the scorekeeper.

I judged volleyball lines and kept basketball books. I counted laps for the mile and two-mile at middle and high school track meets, which might sound easy until you have a meet with 30 teams, half of them wearing red. I lugged hurdles around and timed races.

But as the people who tapped me to help moved on, new people asked less and less for my assistance, and I now seem to be down to volleyball officiating and timing the occasional middle school football game.

As for watching sports, I used up all interest in basketball with 10 years of 12-game weekends (on a big weekend I could take pictures at middle school and freshman games on Saturday morning, sit through four junior varsity and varsity games both Friday and Saturday nights at the high school, then go catch the last of the men’s game at the college).

I watched the National Football League during playoffs, but as the game becomes slower and more tedious I just can’t do it any more. I don’t mean to ruin it for you, but while you’re sitting there for nearly four hours you might start toting up the minutes spent on TV timeouts, huddles, replays, penalties and players picking themselves up out of the scrum (an official rugby term I learned while on the job) and wonder whether the 12-second bursts of action are really worth it, especially knowing that everyone out on the field is going to end up brain-damaged.

I can see I’m still warming up rather than winding down as intended to make this a discussion of how I and others are functioning in the limited sports world of covid, and I am already midway through a day of endless piles of things that need doing. I can’t promise that I’ll come back to this and get where I was originally going, but it might happen. Perhaps even tomorrow.

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