Friday, May 9, 2008

The scribe

Like John Inman, I was once a sports writer. He served the profession for a much longer duty, and no doubt, did a much better job.

I never planned on working at a newspaper while growing up. I always liked to read and some said I had a creative mind. Let's pass on what others had to say about my thinking.

It was a career that happened almost by accident. After high school, I attended Carl Albert Junior College for two years and somehow received an associate’s degree for my troubles and tuition.

After that, I transferred to Oklahoma State University since that was where most of my friends were going. You typically don’t find that response among serious students. “Why did you go to OSU?” a person might ask. “Cause my buds are going there…” That was my thinking. Flawed? Yes.

I also enjoyed the night life at OSU. For a person fresh out of Heavener, it was almost mind blowing. In fact…never mind.

Looking back I probably should have gone to one of the smaller schools like Northeastern or Southeastern. My future plans were to coach and teach.

After arriving at OSU, I soon found out that was not one of the more respected majors. In my first semester, one of my classes was Coaching Volleyball and Soccer and no, I am not making this up. We were taught the rules of soccer and how to return a ball in volleyball.

I must say, at no time did I burn the midnight oil that semester studying for a rigorous test in that class. However, my major required me to take and pass a class called physiology.

Aside from college algebra, I have never had a class kick my tail so bad. If it was a boxing match, I would have been knocked out in the first round. The class was held early in the morning, there were 300-plus students in the class and I quickly realized that the teacher did not take roll. Did I mention it was early in the morning? Plus, they talked about stuff that sailed way over my head.

After realizing I would have to borrow somebody’s brain to pass the class and that coaching maybe wasn’t my best career choice, I decided to give journalism a try.

Everybody talked about how you couldn’t make any money as a newspaper writer. I thought they were kidding. They weren’t.

So I embarked on a newspaper career. I got to cover OSU athletics and interview Jimmy Johnson, Pat Jones, Thurman Thomas, Gary Ward and many others. I quickly realized that hey, I could get paid to go to sporting events!

Now is that a great country, or what? I would go to games for free! I was the sport’s editor for the school newspaper for two semesters and was then offered a job at a newspaper in northern Texas.

I still got paid to go to games! Not much, but some. I did that for four years, going all over northern Texas and southern Oklahoma to cover athletic contests for schools most people have never heard of.

I met some good coaches, and some who should have done something else with their lives. Like writing for a newspaper. It didn’t take long for me to sour on a few parts of my career. Some coaches were great, others lied only when their mouths were open. Then there were the coaches who were always quick to call in when their team won, but were MIA if their team got whipped.

Plus, we always got the complaints about not covering little Johnny’s t-ball game or not putting something in the paper like horse-racing results. Want to hack some people off? Don’t publish Oaklawn results, by gosh.

I could almost always count on a complaint (or two), from parents after I did cover a game. “You never mentioned my son Billy’s name in your story!” the parent would say. I would research the matter, making sure young Billy did not do something important, like score a game-winning touchdown, and usually found out the young lad was a reserve lineman who played two downs.

But again, I enjoyed covering the games. I loved the Friday night football games. Think football is important around here? Multiply that by about 50 times and you might get close.

I also enjoyed going to the basketball games and especially the baseball season. I got to kick back, relax, take a few pictures and keep score. Although, I did have my first experience with fire ants at the baseball field in Allen, Texas.

But things soured during my fourth year. Our newspaper was sold and the new owners came in, cut staff, overtime, travel and whatever else they could think of.

I realized this wasn’t going to work. I had turned down jobs at newspapers in Marshall, Texas and Rogers, Ark., when I didn’t need another job. But when I needed one, nothing was open.

A friend asked me to help out at the Boy’s Club and I did that for a year, before returning home to Heavener. The rest is history. Or is it...?


At May 9, 2008 at 9:12 AM , Blogger John Inman said...

Like you, I stumbled into sports writing by accident, but it was a good career. I wasn't lying about that job or working with Randy Chote in Henderson. And you're also right, there's no money in newspaper work, but I had a good time while it lasted. And I got to meet you. What else could a guy ask for?


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