Football and friends: A reporter’s first sports coverage

Published 7:00 am Thursday, October 27, 2022

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I’m not really a sports fan, and by “not really,” I mean “not at all.”

I didn’t play sports in high school. I tried, but I wasn’t any good at it.

I don’t watch sports on television. I don’t own a wardrobe filled with Alabama or Auburn clothing, and I don’t take sides when they play.

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In Alabama, where football is almost its own religion, this is a problem. It’s hard to avoid swearing allegiance to one team or another. It’s a question people ask, even in job interviews, “Are you an Alabama or an Auburn fan?” And it makes a difference. Trust me.

I adored cheering for my daughters when they were on the field or court and was always happy to support all of their friends who played football, basketball, softball, and so on, but when I don’t know anyone involved, I lose interest.

As the new reporter for The Lowndes Signal, when I was asked to cover a football game for the newspaper the first Friday of my first week on staff, my tummy turned upside down, once, maybe twice.

The game they asked me to cover was not just any game. This was the 56th Annual 45 Classic, an important game for local rivals, The Calhoun School and Central High School in Hayneville.

I signed on to cover the game, but all the while I was worried — would my disengagement with the sports world inhibit my ability to convey the importance of this game, which meant so much to so many?

As I prepared for Friday night, I sought advice on how to accomplish the task.

First, I asked my managing editor, Shane Dunaway, a true-blue sports journalist, for pointers. He did not disappoint and provided me with coaching and resources for reference.

Then, I called my son-in-law Scott Watkins, a “dyed in the wool” sports fan and journalist with The SunHerald. He explained current trends in sports writing and offered tips on “what not to do.”

Lastly, I did what every southern woman would do, I called a friend, Leesa Massey, to accompany me to the game.

Friday arrived, and deep in Lions territory, the battle unfolded before my eyes.

I was immediately moved by the players, coaches, volunteers, and cheerleaders who had trained for this moment, which would culminate in one team claiming bragging rights and the 45 Classic trophy.

As I talked with parents and fans who attended, I remembered doing the same for my daughters. And, as I watched, noting players’ names when they scored and marking down yards gained on each down, I remembered Alabamians love sports so much.

Sports is an entity with a life all its own. It binds us together, as a team and their supporters, to support and encourage, to lift up and make strong.

Sports is a place where everyone can belong. You don’t have to play to be in it, you just have to show up and show love — to the players, the coaches, the school, and the team.

I learned something important that night. I can write about sports. I can love sports. I don’t need a vested interest to be a fan.

I learned you do it for the kids. You show up to say, “I am here because you are important.”

I’m grateful The Lowndes Signal asked me to step out of my comfort zone to cover sports. Shane told me I put together a solid first effort.

And guess what, I volunteered to do it again next week.