Half a Life at the Games – Eagle News Online

Sometime on Thanksgiving weekend I’ll step away from quality family time and get back to work, the fall season is fading, winter is about to begin.

And it will begin my 25th season on the Central New York High School sports scene. Just writing these words can I honestly believe that a quarter of a century has passed.

The young man who arrived at our old Firestone Drive offices single, hungry, eager to work, is now a grown man, married, middle aged…and still quite excited to venture into gyms, ice rinks and everything in between.

Why is that? When so many others in this company and industry have long since moved away, why am I still returning to the same places to follow the hopes and dreams of students who are now old enough to be my children?

The answer is complex. Some of that has to do with the way the media world has changed and the fact that the places I might have gone are just shadows of what they used to be, and if I had gone, I would perhaps would have been swept away with so many other people far more talented, gifted and successful.

A bit of it has to do with the deep connection I have felt for this area since my student days. Not everyone can handle the extremes here, especially the insatiable snowfall, but we get at least four seasons here. Sometimes all in a month.

Sport is a big deal here, as it is everywhere, but instead of being overwhelming and suffocating, it fits well into a larger social fabric. There’s an appreciation for culture and art without being overly pretentious, a place for faith and family, and a generosity that only lies beneath the surface if you stay here long enough.

Most importantly, at some unknown point all those years ago, the stories, people, and vibe of high school sports entered my bloodstream and settled permanently.

So began a season, everyone full of optimism and looking forward to the competition. The way a season built week by week, with special teams and athletes showing up and their stories evolving to a post-season climax.

Then, when the championships were awarded, the full spectrum of human emotions was on display. Hugs and cheers, sadness and tears, sometimes just meters apart, outcomes that were decided in a few moments but would stay with them for a lifetime.

No matter how many times I’ve experienced it, these raw scenes still touch the soul. In these cases, if you didn’t understand beforehand what sport means, then you surely figured it out quickly.

Maybe that’s why I get angry at all the criticism and hate that people in sport get when they don’t win. It’s almost as if they somehow lacked character or heart because they didn’t get a point more than the other team, even though they gave the full measure most of the time.

Spend enough time in college or (especially) in pro sports, and that nitpicking and character assassination becomes a full-time job. Everyone wants to show how tough they are. Big thing.

For the vast majority of kids who participate in college sports, this is their sporting pinnacle, and they still see it as a game, at least when the adults around them haven’t tried to take all the fun out of it.

And being around me always brings some light and joy to my life, even when everything else seems so dark or hopeless or overwhelming.

So I can’t thank them all enough for the excitement and fun they’ve brought to the (still weird writing this) 24 years they’ve spent in this job, with a 25th just before the beginning.

Maybe one day that fire, that passion, that love for high school sports will fade. But not yet and not for a long time, I suppose.

As long as there are young men and women bringing recognition and pride to their communities through the unique spectacle and stage of high school athletics, I will do my best to ensure their efforts are not forgotten.


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