For the first time since I was in high school, I’ve been attending high school sporting events as a fan, and I have to be honest, it feels a little weird.
You see, for the first half of my career in journalism, I was a sports reporter. When it comes to being a professional, there are a number of rules governing etiquette and ethics. Chief among them is no cheering in the press box. You also have to be able to objectively report on all the teams you cover, so picking a favorite is also a no-no. Certainly, there were some teams I enjoyed covering more than others, but I like to think I was rooting for all of our local athletes to do well.
Anyway, as a high school student, I went to lots of games as a fan — Friday nights under the lights was part of the social scene. I’m sure not everyone from school was there, but it sure felt like it, and we brought the noise.
In my decade as a sports reporter, I sat in all those noisy venues and hardly said a word myself. Of course in high school, I couldn’t have told you how many rushing yards a running back had accumulated or what the basketball team was shooting at the free throw line, whereas as a reporter, I was furiously keeping stats throughout the event, usually on two different notepads.
With the exception of a few times filling in for someone on vacation, I haven’t covered sports in about 10 or 11 years. I do some cheering while watching my favorite pro teams, but it’s mostly loud clapping (which I’m told is annoying by certain others watching games with me). I just don’t feel quite as comfortable hooting and hollering as others do.
I hadn’t been to any high school events since I stopped reporting on them, but my kids are now both in high school, and I am once again attending prep sporting events.
First, I have to say, it’s a lot more fun to attend as a fan, especially when you know the kids involved. When I covered sports, one of the things I tried to think about when writing was “what would my mom want to know?” The answer was not so much the stats or the play-by-play, but which of the neighborhood kids got some playing time. That the girl that used to in her Brownie troop had a good game was enough; the exact number of blocks, digs and kills was strictly for the sports geeks. While I understood, I didn’t fully appreciate the concept until watching my own kids, and then spotting kids I remember from kindergarten or Boys and Girls Club sports on the roster, too.
It’s still a strange feeling to watch a game without a notepad on my lap, kind of like I’m playing hooky. at recent football games, I haven’t been able to help myself from doing a quick down and distance computation before the next snap, or watching for the players to unpile so I can see who made the tackle.
I will say that attention to detail has been beneficial at home. In addition to being able to give a good account of the game to family members who weren’t there, I’ve been able to ask my son specific questions about how things went. For example, did he like lining up at defensive end for those couple plays when he usually lines up at tackle?
I still get the same grunts and one-word replies in response, but I hope he appreciates that I’m paying attention.
Some sports reporter habits might never die. I think I will always cringe when I hear someone talking about their favorite team using the pronoun “we.” I’m always tempted to reply with something snarky, like “didn’t know you were on the roster.”
Then again, if your kid is on the team, your name is on the roster, in a way.
So I guess I can say it: Here we go.
Reach Clarion editor Will Morrow at firstname.lastname@example.org, unless he’s out watching his kids play sports.