Sports Editor’s Playbook, Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2011

Patrick Newell

On the heels of my last blog, where I expressed concerns and complaints about the Norwich school curriculum, I launch into another set of gripes, and I must admit, not-so-well-disguised whining…

I saw three high school football games this weekend – two started in the afternoon, and one began in the late afternoon/early evening. If I have not said it before, I will say it again: I like afternoon football games better than night games. Night football games provide a level of ambience and perhaps some extra level of excitement that is nice – to me – once in a while. Not for every home game, though. Not every game is of crucial importance in terms of a rivalry or a key division game. To compare, what time of day do teams at higher levels of football play? In the NFL, the majority of games begin at either 1 p.m or 4 p.m. For college football, a large percentage of games are played in the afternoon. All week, high school kids practice after school – in the afternoon. Yet for all six of our Chenango County teams, their regular home games are scheduled for Friday night. I suppose my preference is due in part to how I grew up. Norwich played Saturday afternoons at Alumni Field, and the backdrop behind the visiting team’s bench was gorgeous.

Speaking of night games, the majority of Norwich’s varsity home soccer games – boys and girls – are scheduled for 7 p.m. I’m sure the athletics program appropriated the additional funds to light up the multi-purpose turf field. But why? Perhaps I am showing my age, but I grew up playing and watching soccer games during the day. Playing soccer in the day seems like a natural fit. I have attended a large number of night soccer games at Norwich over the past three years, and those games do not appear to garner any more fans that the typical 4:30 p.m. games. The occasional night game for soccer is nice, such as senior recognition night. But really, in this time of budgetary concerns, should we be spending extra money on something (night lighting) that is more a luxury than a necessity? Playing strictly day games may not save a lot of money, but it would be a pain-free way to reduce costs. Need more convincing? About seven miles down the road is Emerson Soccer Complex, a piece of property in Oxford with multiple state-of-the-art soccer fields. Look around, there are no lights to be found. Every game is a day game, and no one has complained – to my knowledge – about the lack of lights for night games. Don’t think I’m picking on just Norwich. A lot of local schools work night soccer games into their schedules. Like I said earlier, unless it’s a tournament final or a special occasion, the special feeling of playing a night soccer game is lost.

Close soccer games seem to be the norm in the early stages of the season. Three of the seven soccer games reported to me last night went to extra minutes, and last weekend, Sherburne-Earlville’s girls played a pair of overtime games – one a win, the other a loss – at the Hamilton tournament. At the least, for me, overtime games make for a more interesting story material. For coaches, it make cause early onset of grey hair.

Follow Patrick Newell on Twitter @evesunpat