Thursday, September 2, 2010
Long time on sidelines
For whatever reason, Friday night I got to thinking about how long I’ve been on the sidelines for high school football.
It’s been 30-plus years. And it continues to be a blast.
The fun started with coverage of my alma mater, the Hamilton, Ala., High School Aggies, the fall after graduation (1979).
Good friend Les Walters gave me a chance – even before I went to the University of North Alabama and majored in journalism.
He gave me a pen, a reporter’s notebook and a camera and turned me loose.
He taught me how to take notes and shoot photographs at the same time.
It’s become pretty simple – camera around neck and notebook and pen in pocket. Or sometimes, if in a big hurry, just put the pen between your teeth. Before the play, get ready for the perfect photo. After snapping, grab the notebook, write down the number of the player who carried the ball or made the pass and catch, plus how many yards gained. Then quickly put the notebook back in the pocket and get ready for the next photo.
If it sounds complicated, it was – at first. But I got so good that I could even total game statistics from my notes.
I don’t recall missing too many Friday nights since – from Marion County, Ala., to Itawamba County, Miss., to Franklin County, Ala., to Monroe County, Miss., to Jones County, Miss., to Marshall County, Miss.
I’ve covered Indians, Mustangs, Red Devils, Bulldogs, Panthers, Lions, Tigers, Seminoles, Tornadoes, Braves, Patriots, Hawks, Cardinals and probably more.
I’ve followed teams all the way to state championships. I’ve covered winless squads. All have been enjoyable – thanks to the relationships I’ve built with players and coaches.
My method of coverage is still the same – camera and notebook – unless I’m fortunate to have another member of The South Reporter staff in attendance at the game. That doesn’t happen often because the staff is small and we’re spread out among games.
But some things have changed over the years, too.
Several years back I switched to a digital camera. And even though I resisted at first, that’s been a huge advantage. Before the switch, I would take photos at a game and had no idea whether or not I had a good shot – or even if any were in focus. I had to wait to process the film in the darkroom and pick out the best ones by squinting to see the negatives or printing proofs.
Now I can look at the photos as I take them on the camera and decide if I need more or not. And then it’s just a matter of downloading them to my computer and selecting the best ones in good view.
Most former newspaper dark rooms are now storage rooms or offices or they’ve just been demolished, I guess.
Once upon a time, when I first started covering games, I actually typed the stories on a typewriter and turned them in to a typesetter at the newspaper office.
Later, with the arrival of desktop publishing, I would just go into the office every weekend to type my stories.
Now I can do that from home – via my laptop.
Call it habit. Call it enjoyable. Call it work.
All of those would be correct. But one thing is for sure, I can’t imagine being anywhere else on Friday nights during football season.
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