March 28, 2012
This weekend marks the 20th anniversary of the day I was first hired as a professional sports writer, and it’s definitely been a wild ride.
I jotted down some of the events that I’ve seen and people that I’ve interviewed since April Fool’s Day 1992 (insert your joke here), and it’s an impressive list. Here is a sample:
State high school championship teams I’ve seen crowned – Voorheesville girls basketball, Naples boys soccer (while I was working in Canandaigua), Colonie girls basketball, Shenendehowa softball, Shen boys soccer, Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake boys volleyball, Shen wrestling and BH-BL girls volleyball.
College championships I’ve witnessed – University at Albany men’s basketball winning 2006 America East Tournament, Siena men’s basketball winning 2010 Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Tournament and UAlbany women’s lacrosse team winning 2011 America East title.
Professional athletes I’ve interviewed – Don Mattingly, Bernie Williams, Andy Pettitte, Andre Davis, Anthony Weaver, Hakeem Nicks, Joba Chamberlain, Bobby Unser, Tim Stauffer, Dion Lewis and Jon Busch, among others.
Legendary NFL coaches I’ve interviewed – Bill Parcells.
Unusual sporting events I’ve witnessed – A dodgeball marathon and a mud run.
Number of times I’ve been hit while covering sporting events – Three. I was run over by a football player while taking pictures on the sidelines, I was hit on the head by a basketball while taking pictures behind the baseline and I was hit in the back of the head by a puck while taking pictures of a hockey game. Needless to say, I should stop taking pictures.
Number of Sectional softball playoff games I’ve interfered with – One. I unthinkingly picked up an errant throw in a mid-1990s game between Voorheesville and South Glens Falls. The player was allowed to go to third base after the photographer interference call. Again, I should stop taking pictures of sporting events.
Number of miles I’ve traveled covering sports – I have no idea, but I have to think it’s enough to qualify me as a world traveler. By that, I mean I’ve probably driven the circumference of the planet many times over.
The most awesome place I’ve ever covered a sporting event – The “old” Yankee Stadium. Sitting in the press box for the 1993 season opener and then being on the field two years later covering a special pre-season practice that was open to the public (a public relations maneuver by the Yankees in the wake of the 1994 lockout that wiped out the World Series). I touched more history in those two trips than any other place I’ve been, and that includes the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.
The farthest I’ve traveled to write a story – Port St. Lucie, Fla. I was on vacation in 2005, and I decided to go to the New York Mets spring training facility to interview former Section II star Kyle Brown, who was a minor leaguer with the organization. I had to borrow my parents’ car to make the trip from their winter condo to the training facility, but it was worth it.
The tiniest place I’ve ever covered a sporting event – Schenectady Christian School’s old gym. Before it was called Mekeel Christian Academy and before it built a beautiful gym, the then-named Falcons played in a gym right out of the early part of the 20th century. It was so small, the mid-court time line rule was not used because you needed to take only a few steps to go from one end to the other. Also, the three-point arc was a line that went from one sideline to the other. You couldn’t hit a three-pointer from the corner because there was no corner.
The largest place I’ve ever covered a sporting event – The appropriately-named Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. I covered two NFL pre-season games when the New York Giants had begun holding training camps at UAlbany in the mid-1990s.
The one sporting event I wished I covered but didn’t – The Albany Firebirds winning the 1999 Arena Bowl title at what is now known as the Times Union Center. Where was I? In Syracuse at a bachelor party for a college friend of mine. Meanwhile, “Touchdown” Eddie Brown was leading the conga line for the Firebirds as they beat Orlando for the only “major” professional sports title this city has ever had.
The one Capital District native I want to interview – Pat Riley. Six NBA titles as a head coach, and he’s the man who brought LeBron James to South Beach to play with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. And that’s only a small part of the Schenectady native’s résumé.
The most nerve-wracking interview I’ve ever conducted – Bill Parcells. I and another reporter had only a couple of minutes to talk to Parcells as he left a Saratoga Springs Pop Warner football clinic, and by that I mean we had to stop him at his car before he got in and drove off. It’s intimidating just to ask Parcells a question under normal circumstances, but to have to do that while he’s standing at his car itching to get in and leave doubles the pressure. I’m just glad we both got direct quotes from him.
The easiest interview I’ve ever conducted – Anything involving a team winning a championship. The players and coaches are always willing to talk, but that’s what you would expect.
The hardest interview I’ve ever conducted – Anything involving a team losing a championship or a person losing a loved one. Unfortunately, it comes with the territory of being a journalist.
Finally, the one interview I’m dreading – The exit interview. I’d like to put that one off as long as I can. Perhaps for another 20 years. Maybe longer.