Some recent experiences remind me of what the late great sports columnist Jim Murray said about covering ice hockey.
The Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist said that he enjoyed watching hockey but never knew what questions to ask. “How come you didn’t put the puck in the net?” was about as profound as he could come up with.
I’ve had the same feeling covering high school swimming and wrestling meets for The Charlotte Observer in the past couple of weekends. I’ve written about a few swimming and diving events for the paper over the past couple of years, including the U.S. Olympic Diving trials in nearby Huntersville on two different occasions.
I admire the dedication of the swimmers and divers, who spend incredible amounts of time in the pool — especially the teens who could be doing teenager things instead. But I always struggle for questions. In the manner of Murray, what I really feel like asking is “How come you got across the pool so fast?” Not very sportswriter-ish.
Same thing with wrestling, which I’ve watched for a long time. (I grew up on the TV kind — if you’re Southern and over 50 reading this you might remember some of the guys in the Jim Crockett Promotions stable, like George Becker and Johnny Weaver. (http://www.obsessedwithwrestling.com/pictures/11/johnnyweavergeorgebecker1.jpg) I once ran into the two of them on a church youth choir trip as we stayed in a Charleston, W.Va. motel. It had been a hard night of drinking in the lounge — for them, not me. ) But I digress.
I was introduced to “real” wrestling when I was in grad school at the University of Florida in the mid-1970s and the Gators were one of the SEC’s best teams. (Sadly, the school abandoned intercollegiate competition in the sport long ago.) And I’ve written stories about it over the years, but have never quite nailed down the rules and scoring. But I’m convinced that it’s the most “level” of all the playing fields in sport. As someone who loves democracy, I appreciate a sport which gives 103 and 112 pound kids a chance to compete for state championships against people who wouldn’t break every bone in their bodies.
Other thoughts from the weekend:
n Whitney Houston has made more news in recent years for her chaotic and drug-addled personal life than for her singing talent. (Did even Britney Spears make a poorer choice of husband?) But her soaring version of “The Star-Spangled Banner” still touches folks more than 15 years after it was recorded. The song was played over a tinny-sounding PA system before the wrestling tournament I covered and it got as much of an ovation as anything else that happened that night.
n I think that Boston College has officially made the transition into full membership in the Atlantic Coast Conference basketball family. I say that after hearing some of the BC broadcast of the Eagles game against North Carolina on the satellite radio last night. Much of the broadcast team’s effort while I was listening was devoted to a detailed critique of the officiating crew, assuring the listeners that “Tyler Hansborough is never called for traveling in this league.”
As a long-time member of the “ABC” club, I’d like to say to these folks: “You’re catching on. Welcome to your new home.”