I know that as long as a reporter accurately reports a story, he isn’t supposed to care about the reaction from his readers. And I know that most people have responded very positively to my work since coming to the McAlester News-Capital — I’ve even won a couple awards for my sports coverage.
But for whatever reason, criticisms just eat at me. They bother me deeper and for a longer period of time than compliments do the opposite.
One of my stories below, “Cowboys fall at State,” elicited an extremely negative reaction from a portion of Kiowa’s fanbase. And a month later, it’s still bugging me.
Fans seemed primarily angered with the headline. They wanted something more positive, focusing on Kiowa finishing second in the state, taking home the “Silver Ball” or setting several school records in reaching the state championship game.
The first sentences of my story concerned all of those things. And you don’t win the Silver Ball — you’re awarded it by losing the Gold Ball.
The Cowboys lost. That’s what happened. Reporting it as such doesn’t “disgrace” the school or its players, as some online commenters said.
When it comes to high school sports, I try to keep an even hand. I won’t completely shred a team for playing badly — they’re kids, after all — but I also won’t patronize those kids with cliches like “they tried their best” (did they?) or “everyone’s so proud of them” (are they?).
I’ve played competitive sports, and I’ve played in season-ending games. In those moments, the last thing I ever wanted to hear was how “proud” everyone was of me or that we “tried out best.”
These fans are all parents of players — I’d hope they’d be proud of their kids no matter the outcome.
I deeply believe the most humane thing to do in those moments of sorrow is to report the story exactly as it happens. I won’t be mean, but I also won’t minimize the team’s season-long efforts with meaningless expressions that could be used no matter what happens.
So that’s why I used the verb “fall” in my headline — because it was the right verb to summarize the game, and it was the most empathetic thing I could do for players I’ve had the pleasure to watch for the last two seasons.
If fans don’t like that, there’s not much I can do. But to accuse me of not caring or not devoting enough time to small-school coverage is absolute crap.
Here’s everything I wrote in March.