I’ve spent much of the past 20 years living in the sports world’s version of an ivory tower (not literally, of course, but how cool would that be)?
Most of the sporting events I’ve seen for much of my adult life have been viewed through the glass windows of the press box, where the seating is frequently cramped, but the climate is controlled and the hot dogs — while frequently soggy — are free.
There are obvious advantages to watching a game from a pressbox — namely, the free food (some pressboxes are better than others in this regard, but I won’t name names), an assigned seat and a roof over your head when the weather turns bad. Of course, it’s not always the perfect place to view a game, either.
For starters, you are surrounded by other sports writers. While we may be talented at what we do, some of us aren’t always known for having the best hygiene or social graces. In the interests of full disclosure, I’m probably one of the worst offenders. It’s not always pleasant trapped in an enclosed area with such folks.
The other big drawback, of course, is there’s no cheering in the pressbox.
Theoretically, sports writers aren’t supposed to have a rooting interest in the teams they are covering. I’ll let you in on sports writing’s dirty little secret, however: Most of the time, we do. It’s nearly impossible not to have at least a passing interest in the teams you cover. At a small-town paper, it’s beyond nearly impossibly — it’s completely impossible.
To not care about the kids we cover would be inhuman. Spend enough time with a teenager putting everything he or she has into becoming a better athlete — not for money, but for sheer love of the game — and you can’t help but care about his or her future.
If you don’t care, to some degree, about the teams you are covering, then what’s the point? The whole idea is to convey some of the passion and emotion from the game on to the reader.
All that being said, however, sports writers are supposed to put those feelings aside and try to present the game in as unbiased a way as possible.
And that means no cheering in the pressbox.
Every now and then, however, sports writers are able to venture out of the aforementioned ivory tower (again, not a real ivory tower, but man would that be cool) and purchase a ticket to the game.
Buying a ticket to a game gives the sports writer an opportunity to cheer just as loudly as he or she wants for whatever team their heart so desires. A ticket — not to be confused with a press pass — to a game is the ultimate freedom for a sports writer.
Sure, the air may be a little colder (actually, a lot colder) and the food a little more expensive (actually, a lot more expensive), but for the chance to change things up and cheer until it feels like every blood vessel in your eyes is about to burst, sometimes it’s worth it.
Such was the case last weekend when I was able to procure a pair of tickets to the much-heralded Ohio State vs. Michigan football game. Not only was I able to buy the tickets at face value (don’t ask me how … I know people), but I was able to go along with my best friend for 25 years, Hughes.
It was the first time I’ve attended a sporting event as a fan — and not a sports writer — in quite some time. So I took advantage of every second. I soaked in all of the atmosphere that comes along with sitting in a stadium alongside 110,000 other rabid fans.
Was it difficult sitting there on that 8-inch slab of bleacher space (which was considerably smaller than my much larger than 8-inch posterior)? Absolutely. Was I exhausted, freezing and starving by the end of the game? For sure.
Would I have traded the experience for a cushy seat in the pressbox on that particular day? No thank you.
It was a sweet change of pace to be there, able to enjoy the game without having to worry about writing a story in time to meet my deadline. It was kind of nice being amidst all of that emotional fervor. It was nice to make a memory that will last a lifetime.
David Fong is an editor with the Troy Daily News, a division of Civitas Media. Follow him on Twitter @thefong.