High school sports…. Why?
February 28, 2008, 9:17 am
Filed under: Basketball, Journalism

Last night I traveled the quarter-mile from my apartment (AKA the Spokesman-Review’s Pullman bureau) to Pullman High School to cover a winner-to-state basketball game between the Greyhounds and the West Valley High (Spokane) Eagles. Now, I was given just a day’s notice and hence scrambled throughout the day yesterday to research the teams enough to be able to insert some context into my article. This, of course, is one of the fundamental jobs of a journalist; you don’t just say that something happened, you say why it’s important.

When I got to the high school at 6:30 p.m. and told the ticket-takers I was with The Spokesman-Review, they got all excited. “The Spokesman-Review, wow!” I asked where I should sit to watch the game. “[Random guy wearing a blue Pullman HS jacket], come over here. This guy’s from The Spokesman-Review! Where should he sit?” Anywhere, apparently. No press table (I didn’t expect one in the least, I’m not that dense). So I sat down on the empty bleachers opposite the main stands — mid-court, front row. Great, I thought, a perfect view of the game.

Yeah. Right.

In the first 15 clock minutes (as opposed to game minutes) of the match, just about every annoying, “popular” ninth-grade girl from Pullman High amassed all around where I was sitting. They started talking about clothes, make-up — yes, I couldn’t really believe it was all the stereotypical stuff you’d expect. Some eventually started standing on the floor next to me, not even watching the game and talking to their friends on the bleachers, completely obscuring my view of half the basketball court. I promptly scooted down, trying to look visibly annoyed. More girls came, squishing me down further.

So I moved to the end of the bleachers to get away from the Prada cheer squad. So much more peaceful down by the geeks and stoners — and just mellower high schoolers, period.

You may be asking yourself, “Why the hell is Nick talking about all this dumb crap?” Good point.

That part of the game — the annoying girls — reminded me of the bad things about high school. The cliques, the drama, the ugly braces. But once I moved away and could focus on the basketball game, my reminiscing did a 180. West Valley pulled an upset, a come-from-behind win over Pullman that reminded me of my days in high school sports (rowing, for me). How important it is to the kids. Those feelings you get as an underdog pulling off the unexpected. The excitement, blowing the roof off a small gym like Pullman High’s.

And it answered for me a question I have had since getting into newspapers: Why the hell do we report on high school sports when it doesn’t mean anything?

It means a lot. It means so much to a newspaper’s readers. It’s their kids. Hopefully, it’s the kids themselves (if we’re talking about trying to get people to read newspapers at a younger age). The communities rally around these teenagers.

And while I was scrambling after the game to get statistics (nearly impossible) and talk to the head coaches from both teams, I got that feeling. This happens every day in every town in America. The everyday life, watching high school sports and just feeling good about competition, win or lose. It was fun to report.

And those annoying girls? Well, they were just having fun, too. They had school spirit (my 1A high school didn’t — we didn’t even have a mascot, damn hippies). I started feeling bad for hating them. I was the one who invaded their bleachers. I was the observer. Maybe it had gone to my head a little: “The Spokesman-Review, wow!”

Ha. “Wow,” my backside. I’m just there to report on everyday life. Just doing my job, ma’am.


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