I sometimes have distressing dreams about having to go back to working for a newspaper. Oddly enough, one of the very worst aspects of that job never features in any of these dreams. Maybe my subconscious is afraid I’ll panic and dive out the window.
As managing editor of a large-circulation local weekly, I was editor of everything. That included… ugh!… local sports. Specifically, local youth sports. The Humbug Township Youth Athletic League. Sasquatch County Youth Soccer. Etc.
Every week, starting on Monday, my desk would get snowed under with youth sports results, mostly written up by persons who were, shall we say, not highly skilled in expressing themselves. Stuff like “He done good, I seen it.” All of this, and I do mean all of it, had to be rewritten. By me. And plugged into the paper every week.
And heaven help me if I missed a spot! Oops, those two pages stuck together, that’s three soccer games (great gloms, I hate soccer) that didn’t make it into the paper. That will work out to at least three very angry phone calls from moms whose kiddy’s hat trick didn’t get a headline, and, if I were especially unfortunate, a personal appearance by a parent–usually the mother, but not always–leaning over my desk and yelling at me for depriving Buster or Petunia of his or her moment of precocious fame.
Lesson: You don’t have to be playing a sport for sports to bring out the worst aspects of your personality. Ask any player who’s ever had a battery thrown at him from the stands.
A lot of these parents signed their kids up for various “Programs” year-round, sometimes more than one at a time. So there you are, ten or eleven years old, in some kind of organized sport every afternoon, every evening, twelve months a year. I thought it cruel and inhumane. But this way you could get your kid’s name into the paper maybe 50 times a year. What a scrapbook that’ll make! And a great resource for the child’s biographer.
Most of these leagues and programs didn’t let anyone in after a certain age: eventually you were too old to participate. Suddenly you were out of organized sports–out as in “cold turkey.”
Had I been older and wiser at the time, I would have sought out some of these kids who suddenly had to do without what was a major slice of their lives throughout their childhoods. I should have interviewed them. It would have made for a fascinating series of articles.
But it might’ve gotten me lynched, too.