I’ve always believed that the best stories are found where no one else is looking.
When I teach the Sports Reporting class, at this point in the semester we will talk about the concept of “pack journalism” — a multitude of reporters chasing the same story from the same sources. Last night’s Super Bowl is probably the best example, as much as been written about the two weeks of media hype that precede the game. It rarely results in great journalism.
You can also list many other “big events” in sports that fall into the category of pack journalism. I’ve covered a few — Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game, the U.S. Open Golf Tournament, the NHL’s Stanley Cup playoffs and the All-Star Game.
Those experiences were a lot of fun — some of my favorite memories include hearing Tony Bennett in concert at the MLB All-Star Gala in 1994, shaking hands with Chicago Black Hawks legend Bobby Hull at the owners’ pre-NHL All-Star Game party in Montreal, and exchanging pleasantries with Arnold Palmer in the clubhouse men’s room at Oakmont, where he played in the U.S. Open for the final time.
But I don’t recall getting any really memorable stories out of those assignments. On the other hand, some of my favorite stories have come from events on smaller stages.
I’ve enjoyed my five seasons covering the Queens University men’s basketball team here in Charlotte. Although I went to three schools from NCAA Division I’s “powerconferences,” I’ve developed a fondness for Division II basketball — especially since I teach at another Division II school. And especially since I’ve always believed that just because an event is small, it doesn’t make it automatically inferior to a big one.
For example, I saw what will almost certainly be the best basketball game I’ve seen this season this past Saturday night when Queens defeated Anderson University 104-102 in double overtime. It drew a crowd of about 500 people at the Grady Cole Center, a little multipurpose facility in Charlotte which back in the Sixties hosted concerts by the likes of the Rolling Stones and Janis Joplin.
It was an entertaining game played at a high intensity level. There were 22 lead changes and 21 ties in the game, the great majority of them after halftime. Queens, struggling through a 5-14 season with a lineup heavily dependent on freshmen, put together its best game of the season. Senior Patrick Fox was a hero twice over, hitting a shot with two seconds left in the first overtime to send the game to a second extra period and then putting in the game-winner with one second left in the second overtime.
The Royals have lost by six points or fewer seven times, and, while we reporters really aren’t supposed to pull for anyone to win — and I remained true to my “no cheering in the press box” credo — I coudn’t help but hope that Queens, playing its second overtime game in three days, would pull this one out.
“Coach (Wes Long) put up on a blackboard the games that we’ve led with a minute left but have lost,” said Fox. “We wanted this one to turn out better.”