I’m under no illusions that the sports section is the least important of the newspaper.
There’s nothing terribly life-threatening on my pages: nothing about this convicted felon being taken off the streets, what the mayor has to say about this policy taking effect in the school district or the report from any sort of five-car pileups on I-80 going into the city.
But at the same time, I’m not under any illusions that the stories on these pages aren’t important to people.
Take the Tooele football team’s run into the state semifinals. No one is (probably) going to literally live and die by how many yards the linemen open up for the Buffalo running backs or if the team earns a state title.
But my, oh my, it is fun to talk about.
How many of you wouldn’t trade it all for another chance to strap on a helmet and be back in that high school uniform? How great would it be to take the field — or the court, or the track, mat, whatever — one more time just to make that key block that would lead to victory, to get that pancake dig to help keep the rally alive. What would it be for you to execute that reversal from that one time in the region wrestling tournament, the one that you should have seen coming but ended your senior season anyway? Have you ever wanted to lace up your track spikes for just one more attempt at a personal record?
Obviously it’s impossible to go back now, even though I know I and countless others think about it almost every day.
I assume I’m not just speaking for myself when I say that’s part of why so many people care about the sports section. It’s reading about what your teammates-by-extension are doing on the field today. It’s having that sense of identity with the Hometown High School football team.
It’s that feeling you get watching an 84-yard kickoff return, when the blood drains from your face and your gut into your arms, with the muscles in your legs mirroring the instructions your mouth screams to the players on the field — you know there’s no way little Travis can actually hear you, but by some miracle he breaks free with the exact move you willed him to make.
It’s watching from the stands as little Emily dribbles out the clock at the end of the fourth quarter with the game tied, as she in turn looks back to Coach for instructions while trying to keep Rival High’s defending guard at bay.
It’s when you attend the state track meet out of obligation, but can’t help but rise to your feet as the lead runner in the 800-meter noticeably hits an energy wall and struggles to hold off the kid 20 meters behind vying for a state title in his last season as he pumps arms and legs in desperation, ready to collapse across the finish line.
I say again: How many of you wouldn’t jump at the chance to change places with these kids and live out the memories instead of experiencing their stories second-hand from the bleachers?
And since none of us will ever be given that chance to trade, how many of you don’t fully cherish those second-hand stories as the only acceptable alternative?
That’s why I consider myself fortunate to be a part of the industry. That’s why we make room for a few dollars to spend on a seemingly out-dated medium. That’s why you and I value the sports section to be just as newsworthy as the front page.
That’s why we care about sports writing.
Tavin Stucki is a life-long athletics enthusiast who hasn’t lived through a day in which he hasn’t thought about his high school and collegiate athletic careers. Send any comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.