Sports Editor’s Playbook, Thursday, Oct. 4, 2012

Patrick Newell

I am over 15 years into this job and past 40 years old, but it’s good to know my parents will still jump to my defense – even when it isn’t necessary. Earlier today I was talking to my dad at the YMCA (we were both working out), and he mentioned that my mother read a comment online in our reader forum, “30 Seconds.” Mom was bothered by the anonymous remark, and my dad was indignant: “Don’t they know, you’re just one person, you can’t be everywhere. You have a tough job trying to please everyone.” If I thought of my job in that particular light, not only would my hair accumulate more gray, but it would also be less abundant. I used to take every negative comment personally. I remember talking to myself where I passionately defended my position. I won every one of those arguments. The truth is that no one in the writing profession is immune to criticism. Even Stephen King has received the occasional bad book review. Over time, you develop a mental callous that allows you to quickly sort out a valid criticism from an inane comment. On this level of reporting where the bulk of my news is high school sports, criticism not steeped in facts are typically born of self interest. If I do get something wrong, I take immediate measures to correct it in the next day’s edition. When it comes to coverage in the fall, I report on six football teams, 17 soccer teams (boys and girls), six volleyball teams, three swimming teams, two field hockey teams, two cross country teams, one tennis team, and one golf team. That is 38 high school sports teams, and it used to be more. Ever try to be in 38 places at once? Not possible. A trite cliche aptly sums up my game coverage process: All I can do is take it one game at a time.

I first met Kyle Edwards when he was a six-year-old in my son’s kindergarten class. I volunteered once a week, the last hour of the day, and assisted the teacher with whatever she needed. I noticed right away that Kyle was ahead of the rest of the students with his reading and writing. That year, not once did I help Kyle with any in-class assignments. Eleven years later, Kyle is now a senior at Norwich High School, and he is tomorrow’s selection as Athlete of the Week. The theme of my story was born of those first experiences, and my narrative could only come from first-hand knowledge. He was a bright-minded, outgoing young kid who was a step ahead then, and not much has changed in the now.

The late Rodney Dangerfield used to include copious “I can’t get no respect” jokes in his comedic schtick. On a more serious note, it is obvious the Norwich varsity boys soccer team “can’t get no respect” either. In reporting yesterday’s result against Chenango Forks, the NHS head coach was displeased with his team’s home field conditions. Throughout the year, the team has used the all-weather field turf for home games and many of its practices. Wednesday, the team was relegated to the modified team’s grass field adjacent to the field turf, while the varsity and junior varsity football teams practiced on the field turf. For one, seating at the modified field is BYOC (bring your own chair) Second, the field is beat up from repeated use by other teams (and Physical Education classes). And third, it is a MODIFIED field, not varsity. A friend of mine has a son who plays on the Norwich team. In all of the years I have known him, I have never heard him utter a cross word or a complaint. Following Wednesday’s game, this mild-mannered gentleman was fuming. He sought me out Thursday morning, and told me about this injustice. I am sure he is not alone in his thinking. Can you ever imagine in a 100 years the football team moving its game to an inferior field so that the soccer team could conduct a practice? Now that deserves a chuckle.

Follow me on Twitter @evesunpat