I often ask myself why continue to write professionally? After doing this for some 25 years, I have come to the realization, it’s not for the money, it’s certainly not for the hours, and increasingly it’s not for the love of sports I have had ever since I can remember, and will have for the rest of my life.
So why continue to travel back and forth from my apartment on Main Street in St. Helena to the high school in my motorized wheelchair several times a week, day and night in all types of weather often working late into the night or early the next morning.
Surely, there is an easier way to make a living.
Then I remember something Duke Men’s basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski said during his induction speech into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 2001.
During his speech, Krzyzewski told the assembled crowd he loved the game of basketball, but he loved the people who played it even more. Additionally, Krzyzewski encouraged the assembled crowd to support their family and friends and provide them with positive reinforcement at every opportunity.
In other words, it is not about you, but something bigger than yourself.
It is a message we all need to hear from time to time in our lives. Furthermore, it is a message we all need to deliver to those around us.
Too often in sports journalism, we dismiss this as something to be ignored when looking at it as part of what others perceive to be more important or the bigger picture.
Like any business, journalism has its fundamentals that must be adhered to at all times. Who? What? Where? When? Why? How? These are essential questions that must be answered when covering a team, any team. Certain standards remain the same no matter the level of the sport.
I strive to give my readers as accurate, thorough, informative and well-written an account of each event, each and every time out. I owe my readers that professional courtesy. At the same time, however, a writer must know his or her audience.
Those we cover at the high school level are, in the end, still kids. In other words, high school athletes should not be held to the same standards as college and professional athletes.
And while there are similarities when covering each level, a writer must also be cognizant of those differences and adjust accordingly.
To cover them as if they are someone else is a great disservice.
Sometimes, that is lost on all of us.
This is not to say we shouldn’t celebrate the accomplishments of those we cover. It is quite the opposite. But it is also important to keep things in the proper perspective.
If I am covering a football game, and the Saints’ quarterback throws three touchdowns in the fourth quarter to win a game or three interceptions that contribute to his team losing the contest, I am obligated to report the information regardless of the outcome. However, I also have a responsibility to remember he is not Tom Brady or Russell Wilson and take that into consideration.
After all, he is not a professional and should not be held to the same standard when reporting on his performance.
What is unique about covering high school sports in a small town such as St. Helena as compared to college or professional sports in a larger town or city is you get to know the players and their families personally.
These situations give me a chance to connect with a portion of my audience on a personal level. And while many in the media shy away from such situations to preserve their objectivity, I firmly believe it is possible to maintain my objectivity while also having friendly relationships with many of the kids and their parents.
These kids, their parents and grandparents make up much of my audience and remind me why I continue to write professionally. In my own small way, I am able to bring these generations together.
We should all remember high school sports are for the kids and a chance for them to further their educational experience.
What’s more, high school sports are not something for those of us who are older -- and presumably wiser -- to use to relive our youth, advance our career, or an agenda.
High school sports and the benefits they provide for the kids who play them are so much bigger than that. And that demands respect from all of us.