I got a nasty call from a reader a few days ago, demanding to know why I hadn’t covered a junior-high softball tournament in which one of her kids had played. These kind of questions always make me feel defensive, but I explained I’d been covering a McAlester High School football scrimmage, and as the only sports writer, I couldn’t be in two places at once.
Unappeased, the woman basically accused me of having a bias against her particular small school. After I politely told her the second sports story that would run that Sunday was a small-school softball story, she muttered something incoherent and hung up on me.
I can tolerate people questioning my coverage choices, though I’d prefer they tell me about an event beforehand instead of yelling at me after, because I don’t know everything. But I have a far harder time accepting the defensiveness and accusatory tone some people take when they call. Sorry, but yelling at me doesn’t help your cause.
If I can’t cover your team, it doesn’t mean I have anything against your sport or your school. But I have to fulfill two obligations each week: submit two articles of approximately 750 words (or one of 1500) for each edition of the paper, and do so without working more than 40 hours in a week.
When I choose which games I’ll cover, I base a lot of my choices on those two demands.
If a local team is playing at home, that helps. If the team is playing a double-header or a three-way, that helps even more, especially if at least one of the other teams is local as well.
I have to cover McAlester football on Friday nights, and when the Buffs are on the road, it usually means at least three hours of travel, plus three more for the game. So unless it’s the playoffs, there’s no way I can justify traveling for a small-school road game.
I don’t even travel with other McAlester teams except in the playoffs.
Because of travel concerns, I’ve pretty much abandoned live coverage of two high schools ostensibly in my coverage area, because even their home games are 40 minutes away. And in trying to stay on top of the other 10 high schools in my area, plus doing occasional community features, I just can’t cover junior-high sports in any real capacity.
In my entire first year of coverage, I think I did maybe seven stories exclusively on junior high athletics, and with the exception of a baseball doubleheader and a track meet, all of those stories were based on 15-minute interviews instead of live games, which can take upwards of two hours.
I just don’t see a way to fit comprehensive junior high coverage — and especially of non-McAlester teams — into my daily workload.
Sorry, but I just can’t fit it in. But that doesn’t mean I have anything against your school or your team.
When people call to discuss coverage with me, I just want them to approach the conversation with calm and politeness, not anger and accusations. Here’s everything I’ve written since Aug. 27.