The newspaper business is anything but a 9-to-5 job.
Most of the big news events occur on nights or weekends, something that's also true when it comes to sporting events. Early last week when the volleyball team's playoff match and the girls soccer team's play-in game times were announced, I took a deep breath thinking about the coverage challenges that were ahead on Saturday.
In addition to the volleyball and soccer matchups, Philomath's cross-country teams also had a pretty important meet with interesting storylines coming up the same day at Cascade. But as I considered how it was all going to work out, I realized there would not have to be choices on which teams to cover. I could just cover all three.
To add a little more writing to my plate, I decided to keep a journal of a full day of Warriors sports. This was going to be fun.
10:42 a.m. — I arrived at Cascade High School to cover the Oregon West Conference Championships. The Philomath girls were heavily favored to win while the boys would be in a dogfight to keep a 33-year state-qualifying streak alive. On the way up, I cursed myself for not filling up the tank the night before in preparation for my sports marathon. The gas light came on right when I arrived at Cascade and I was going to be hard-pressed for time after the meet to get to the girls soccer game on time.
10:45 a.m. — Walking on the track toward Philomath's "camp" at the meet, Hannah Hernandez jogged past with "Wonder Woman" socks on. Hannah loves her socks.
10:48 a.m. — While chatting with Joe Fulton, he flashed back to last season's district track meet at Cascade, which was plagued with horrible weather. Lightning even forced everyone inside for a period of time before the meet could resume.
11:24 a.m. — The girls' race had wrapped up and I wanted to interview Hannah about her first-place finish. A lot of runners and parents were in the area but I found her. Just look for the socks.
12:11 p.m. — After finishing interviews, I headed toward the parking lot. Fulton called out to me and said Newport and Philomath had actually tied for second and it came down to the No. 6 runners as the tiebreaker. The Cubs' No. 6 was 18th and Philomath's 20th. My first reaction was that made it even more painful that they didn't make it. So close.
12:25 p.m. — I can't find a gas station in Cascade and don't have time to mess around with it. I can make it pretty far with the gas light on so I figured I'd just get on I-5 and find one down the road.
1:01 p.m. — I had the tank filled at a gas station at the Highway 34 exit. I had 29 minutes to make it from there to PHS for girls soccer.
1:24 p.m. — Now at the soccer field, player introductions were being announced as I drove up. I chatted briefly with Jeana and Haidyn Ecker at the ticket table and got into position for first-half photos.
2:02 p.m. — My wife called. Philomath was threatening to score right at that moment and I couldn't answer. When I had a moment, I texted her that I'd call her at halftime.
2:13 p.m. — It's halftime and I called back my wife. I panicked for a second because I realized she's 38 weeks pregnant today ... maybe I should be taking those calls no matter what I'm doing. Thank goodness, she's fine and just wanted to know if I'd be done working in time tonight to have dinner with friends. Nope, not going to happen.
2:45 p.m. — Watching the second half while standing next to Ruth Post and her daughter, Samantha, I heard one of the top quotes of the day: "Fiona, don't drink the salsa." Ruth's granddaughter had apparently developed a thirst while running around (I asked Samantha if Chief Joe had tried to recruit the 4-year-old yet but they live in Portland).
3:38 p.m. — With interviews completed and some time before the 4:30 start time for volleyball, I had time for a side trip for lunch at McDonald's. I even had time afterward to check the mail and the bulletin board at the post office.
4:12 p.m. — Sitting on the PHS bleachers waiting for volleyball to begin, I noticed students walking in while wearing Halloween costumes. One of them was toting a fake chainsaw. An administrator did not allow the chainsaw to remain, however, and the student had to take it out of the building.
4:38 p.m. — The match begins after introductions and the national anthem. Lately during the national anthem, I find myself looking around to see if anyone is disrespecting our flag. The act of kneeling as a form of protest bothers me. People can protest, it's a free country, but the flag is a sacred symbol to me, always has been. Oops, getting political, I'll move on now.
5:37 p.m. — I texted my wife that it appears it's going to be a long night with a match that could go the full five sets. She's making stuffed green peppers tonight.
6:58 p.m. — Volleyball season is over for Philomath with an agonizing loss to Scappoose. The girls were understandably upset and left the gym right away to be alone. I did an interview with the coach and just left the students alone this time.
7:16 p.m. — Driving home from volleyball, I was thinking about the players and how bad I feel for them. They're a great group and I think most everybody in the building thought they had this trip to the state tournament wrapped up this year. Newspaper reporters are trained to be objective and all that, but it's hard to not feel something. They're just kids and that's my school.
7:36 p.m. — It's been a long day and I'm home to eat stuffed green peppers that got a little wrinkled staying warm in the oven. There was good news awaiting me on my voicemail, however, with a call from Anton Grube, who reported the 3-1 boys soccer victory at North Bend.
8:31 p.m. — I'm posting the volleyball story (had to eat the stuffed green peppers while writing). I had made a commitment to the Corvallis Gazette-Times (the same company owns our newspapers) that I would write the story right away so they could get coverage into its Sunday newspaper.
8:55 p.m. — I wrapped up my work day and decided I was too tired to mess around with writing the soccer stories or the cross-country stories tonight. A good night's sleep and fresh perspective the next day can do wonders for my writing. Instead, I'll watch the recording of Nebraska's football game. I had avoided finding out the final score. Poor Mike Riley.
Certainly, it was a full day and there would be several more hours of writing to do Sunday. But covering sports is so enjoyable to me that it doesn't seem like hard work. It was a bittersweet day with the boys' cross-country streak ending and the volleyball team's upset loss being downers while the girls' cross-country team won the conference title and both soccer teams took play-in games.
See you at the next game or meet.