The Herald Bulletin

October 21, 2013

Scott Underwood: High school football coverage miraculous


— Among themselves, newspaper people sometimes refer to the production of the daily edition as the “nightly miracle,” because so much work has to go into each product, much of it with tight deadlines rapidly closing in.

Many nights in the newsroom, there is more than a little gnashing of teeth, sweating and cursing as we battle against computer crashes, late-arriving news and — we must admit — our own failures to communicate.

Perhaps nowhere is the nightly miracle more evident than in sports coverage. Sports journalists for generations have battled against the clock to get game results, stories and columns in ahead of encroaching deadlines. Today, that battle is fought on both the print and digital fronts, making immediacy even more important.

High school football coverage is a miracle within a miracle.

On Friday nights, often under dim lights and sometimes on mud-splattered fields that obscure players’ uniform numbers and yard markers, coverage of prep football is as much an interpretation as a recitation of facts.

From the press box or the sideline, what transpired during a play can be difficult to figure out. ... Did No. 23 just gain seven yards, or was it nine yards? Or was that No. 32 with the ball? ... And, generally, sports writers covering high school football must keep their own statistics, unlike at college and pro events, where stats are provided for reporters.

Sports Reporter George Bremer and our team of correspondents in the field, as well as Sports Editor Rick Teverbaugh orchestrating the effort from The Herald Bulletin office, have fought through obstacles and against the clock all season long.

George did a particularly amazing job this past Friday night of reporting from Alexandria, where Elwood’s Sammy Mireles set the state career rushing record.

The game ended at 9:50, George grabbed a couple of quick interviews on the sideline and had the story finished by 10:18. But he had trouble sending it from the field, and had to drive quickly (but within the speed limit!) into Anderson to access Wi-Fi and file the story.

Anyone who has struggled to write a 1,000-word term paper or essay by the end of the semester can certainly appreciate the ability of the sports journalist to craft a cogent and engaging 500-word game story in a half hour!

I have a great admiration for that ability, having been a sports writer myself for about a dozen years, including several at The Herald Bulletin. I was the wretched sort of sports reporter, though, who cannot let go of his story and perpetually misses deadlines.

I’m sure Rick finds it particularly ironic these days when I am critical of missed deadlines!

Unlike me, Rick and George have natural gifts for writing on tight deadlines, and their decades of experience covering high school football, basketball and other events serve them well.

Editor Scott Underwood’s column appears Mondays. Like him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter @THBeditor. Contact him at scott.underwood@heraldbulletin.com or 640-4845.