I was just getting started, too.
Writing about a gosh-darn, genuine football game, 8-man variety excepted, was a marvelous experience on Friday night. The solitude, personal and enforced, of the novel coronavirus, made me yearn for a ballgame to cover. The insufficiency of old replays, simulated stock car racing, real racing with empty stands and, of course, empty stands in general, all came together to give my craft an inescapable air of artificiality.
To summarize, I wanted to “be for real” again.
I wanted to furiously snap photos on a dimly lit meadow right up to the point where it got too dark to capture fast moments that didn’t blur. My statistics were approximate. I had too many tasks to do any of them really well. Politics isn’t the only art of the possible.
While the two teams were getting ready for the game, I was, too. I’m an habitual early arrival. I loosened up by playing a few country tunes on the tailgate of my trusty pickup. I don’t require a game face. I just need to relax.
Art of the possible, man. Snap those photos. Try to figure where the ball is. Scribble something descriptive on the clipboard that is moistening because it spends time held in place by my armpits.
This is the way I covered high school games almost 40 years ago. In some ways, it’s easier. I don’t have to use a darkroom in the wee hours. It still takes a long time, though, to go through all the photos, deleting the bad ones, touching up some of the good ones, choosing some to run and saving others for file use once Laurens Academy plays a game without me there.
Right now, with the public schools a month behind, I’m marching with the Crusaders like a platoon across the desert. Their football team is not the biggest in the county, but it is right now.
Once I had done the appropriate damage with my camera, I spent the rest of the game in the stands, overhearing what fans said, making my own occasional contributions and, from time to time, blurting out something like, “Hey, who caught that pass? Robertson?”
Occasionally, I’d jot down some observation in the margins. HH def duznt know Lowry runnin past em.
Next week I may print out some forms for the clipboard. This was my opening game, too, and some was trial and error. A T&E is necessary even with something that is basically second nature. I might figure out a better way to do what I did last year. I might wear a short-sleeve shirt and shorts next week.
It’s impossible to shoot photos and take notes without one detracting from the other. It’s why I generally shoot early in the game. The venues vary. At Laurens, I sit in a small stand in the end zone. At Clinton, I usually retire to the grandstands. At Presbyterian College, I shoot photos on the field and then go back to the press box, then go back to the field to do interviews after the game. On the road, I take a look at the stadium and try to figure out what is best, and there are many factors. One is whether I unexpectedly happen upon a friend.
Small-town ballgames have a lot of small-world moments.