‘The sportswriter’ relishes revisit to glory days
When I came to Chico in 2006, I became known in some circles as “the sportswriter.” Those who called me that, one in particular, didn’t mean it charitably; it was a reductionist take on my journalistic experience.
I did in fact start my journalism covering sports: gymnastics and basketball for my college paper, high schools and general assignments at my first daily. It was great training. Moving up the ladder — assignment editor, section editor, editor-in-chief (the latter locally) — I drew on lessons from the field, literally and proverbially.
So, I never saw “the sportswriter” as derisive. I’d addressed the notion at my interview, when an editor from a sister paper asked me about my bona fides given my background. I replied, “You know, they give out Academy Awards to comedies, too.”
The same requirements for news reporting extend to sports. I covered allegations of racial discrimination and sexual harassment. I took deep dives into budgets when the university’s athletic program moved from Division II, in Chico State’s conference, to Division I. I learned libel law.
“That’s a very good answer,” the editor responded, and she suggested I use it again should the question repeat.
I didn’t cover any sporting events here, though I did attend. Some of my fondest memories include watching Paradise High football in Om Wraith Stadium, then a bowl surrounded by towering trees. That’s where I met Rick Silva, my current colleague. I still recall the halftime when he got a call about a car driving off Lookout Point; as he tallied his stats, he directed the Post’s coverage by phone and even swung by the scene before returning, just in time, for the third quarter.
There’s something special about high school sports. Whether football, basketball, baseball, volleyball, soccer, tennis — any prep sport — the atmosphere is different than at any other level. Especially during the playoffs.
I got a refresher this week when, for the first time in twoplus decades, I returned to my roots.
State tournament brackets brought six games to Chico for Tuesday. My boss extended an invitation to jump in; I chose basketball over soccer, given the stormy forecast, and staked out a spot in Chico High’s gym for a doubleheader.
In the stands and at the scorer’s table, I saw familiar faces. I sat next to the PA announcer, who’s also a coach for wrestling and golf — and English teacher for the exchange student I hosted this fall. A player’s parent, who I know from City Hall, was across the court on bleachers near the halfcourt line.
The Pit wasn’t full, but it might as well have been, given the volume of cheers. The Chico girls got off to a strong start against Lincoln, survived a dry spell and eight turnovers in the third quarter, then regained control for a 65-52 win. In contrast, the boys fell behind 8-0, recovered by halftime, went back and forth with Calaveras and finally, with a rally in the last two minutes, held on to win 59-56.
Both Panthers teams advanced to last night’s quarterfinals — girls at home, boys on the road. I couldn’t go to either, as the scheduled Planning Commission meeting overlapped the tip-offs. Back to work, so to speak.
I tell people I cover city meetings like sporting events. The agenda is like the scouting report, but once the whistle (or gavel) sounds, anything can happen. I love that.
Put me in, Coach!