Covering high school sports is a lot like the fine arts. Just as all types of art are subjective, I find the same is true of high school sports and how they are ranked as far as significance by coaches, players, parents and fans. The so-called marquee sports—football, basketball, baseball—usually are considered to be the more significant sport. At this time of the pre-season every year, all newsrooms wrangle with the same decision-making processes as they prepare to cover the high school sports scene.
So, just who reigns supreme? That all depends on whom you ask. Even in our editorial meetings the opinions vary. Who cares about football, what about the swimmers, some queried. Another questioned why it was such a big deal to have what they called the “lesser sports” covered in a more encapsulated form, shortened abbreviated manner.
It matters; and big time. Even among my staff, there are differing opinions on what qualifies as a lesser sport and what should be considered a marquee sport.
Here’s just one example: To say tennis is a lesser sport as compared to football or volleyball just doesn’t sit well with myself or one of my other reporters because we both played high school tennis. Decades apart and miles apart mind you, but nevertheless, we simply don’t consider that to be a lesser sport. Neither do the golf or cross country athletes, their parents and supporters. To them, big deal, football gets all the attention, or if a school doesn’t have a particularly good football program, maybe their soccer team or volleyball team excels. Others on our staff hate golf, love the martial arts, and groan when they are asked to sit through long daylong tournaments.
So, who’s right? In their own way, everyone. It’s like hanging five different paintings on the wall and then asking everyone in the room to rate the paintings. There is no right or wrong. It’s all subjective and based on the likes, dislikes, and taste of each individual.
Even stepping outside the sports department, we get varying opinions when our sales staff, management and support staff gets drawn into the conversations, as they often do. Some say watching golf and tennis is akin to watching paint dry or grass grow, a real snoozer. Others feel the same way about baseball, hockey and football. It just holds no interest with them. And, that’s okay, to a certain point.
I recently purchased an oversized official Wimbledon tennis ball that is the size of a regulation basketball. It’s awesome, yellow-green in color, covered in the same fuzzy felt as a standard tennis ball, and, yes, it bounces.
Especially off walls, the floor, or the noggins of those who dare disparage my “significant” sport. We also still have a basketball signed by the
Davison boys’ varsity team a few years back floating around the office. The urge to bounce both is irresistible to many.
I digress. I often hear from other sports parents in the building that they just can’t sit through one more basketball or seven-inning baseball game without a Kindle or good paperback in the bag, occasionally checking on the score and the efforts of their sports child to appear engaged. That doesn’t mean what their child is doing on the athletic field doesn’t matter, they’d just rather be doing something else. Any sport is a lot more fun to play than watch, and that’s proven. That doesn’t mean any are more or less significant than another. It just makes for really interesting conversation.
It also matters greatly how we–and every newspaper in America–covers the sports in print. A mere typeface change, format change, or small photo can incite the masses to protest. That’s why we have done away with what the industry calls agate type or box scores. The readers hate it, and we aren’t that fond of it ourselves. It serves a purpose, but also sends the wrong message. We hear that every time we try to mix up the coverage to ensure that everyone gets into the paper each week. The readers say it makes their sport seem less significant and gives the impression that we don’t care to cover those sports as much as the sports that get a much larger typeface treatment or front page coverage.
Starting next week, you’ll see just how we intend to cover ALL of the varsity sports. We think everyone will like this approach a lot better than in past seasons, regardless of which sport they follow as marquee in their own minds.