Football and Friends, a reporter’s first sports coverage
Published Thursday, October 27, 2022 at 7:00 am
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I’m not really a sports fan, and by not really I mean not at all.
I didn’t play sports in high school. I tried, but I wasn’t good at it.
I don’t watch sports on TV. I don’t own a closet full of Alabama or Auburn clothes, and I don’t take sides when they play.
In Alabama, where football is almost a religion in its own right, that’s a problem. It’s hard to avoid swearing allegiance to one team or another. It’s a question people even ask in job interviews: “Are you an Alabama fan or an Auburn fan?” And it makes a difference. Trust me.
I loved cheering for my daughters when they were on the field or court and was always happy to support all of their friends who played soccer, basketball, softball etc. but when I don’t know anyone involved I lose I the interest.
As a new reporter for The Lowndes Signal, when I was asked to cover a football game for the paper on the first Friday of my first week on staff, my stomach turned once or maybe twice.
The game I was supposed to take care of wasn’t just any game. That was the 56th Annual 45 Classic, a major game for local rivals, Calhoun School and Central High School in Hayneville.
I signed up to cover the game but the whole time I was worried – would my retirement from the sports world affect my ability to convey the meaning of this game that has meant so much to so many?
As I prepared for Friday night, I sought advice on how to accomplish the task.
First, I asked my editor-in-chief Shane Dunaway, a true sportswriter, for tips. He did not disappoint and provided me with coaching and reference material.
Then I called my son-in-law Scott Watkins, a die-hard sports fan and journalist at The SunHerald. He explained current trends in sports journalism and gave tips on “what not to do”.
Finally, I did what any Southern woman would do, I called a friend, Leesa Massey, to accompany me to the game.
Friday came and deep in Lions territory the fight unfolded before my eyes.
I was immediately moved by the players, coaches, volunteers and cheerleaders who had been training for this moment that would culminate in a team claiming bragging rights and the 45 Classic trophy.
Speaking to the parents and fans in attendance, I remembered doing the same for my daughters. And as I watched me jotting down players’ names when they scored and noting the yards gained on each down, I remembered how Alabamaans love sports so much.
Sport is an entity with a life of its own. It connects us as a team and their supporters to support and encourage, uplift and strengthen.
Sport is a place where everyone can belong. You don’t have to play to be there, you just have to show up and show your love – to the players, the coaches, the school and the team.
I learned something important that evening. I can write about sports. I can love sports. I don’t need a personal interest to be a fan.
I learned you do it for the kids. You show up to say, “I’m here because you matter.”
I am grateful that The Lowndes Signal asked me to step out of my comfort zone to cover sports. Shane told me I had a solid first try.
And guess what, I’ve agreed to do it again next week.