Being a sports editor at a small-town newspaper is one of the stranger jobs one can have and is one I never envisioned myself being in.
A lot of long hours and tiring work goes into it. Take this past week for example. While the C-P office had closed its doors for Thanksgiving and the door-busting sales of the following day, what would’ve been a four-day mini vacation for most people — though I know Thanksgiving and Christmas shopping can be every bit as stressful as working — mine was cut short.
East Marion was playing Nanih Waiya for the South State Championship in football Friday night, which was a game we certainly couldn’t miss. Don’t get me wrong, it was a game I wanted to be a part of. When you cover these teams as closely as I do for months on end, you develop relationships with the coaches and players and want to see them succeed. But it is also exhausting.
I was with my family in Slidell, La. for Thanksgiving and made the trek to Louisville from there, which was three-and-a-half hours. The last hour or so of the trip was in a torrential downpour, as was the first half of the game. Trying to keep stats and notes, taking pictures and navigating the sea of coaches and players on the sideline while holding an umbrella is not an easy task. I was soaked from head to toe when I got to my car to leave and changed in the backseat. The whole trip took around 10 hours.
During the normal work week, I spend roughly half of my nights going to games while most are going home. Monday I went to Woodlawn Preparatory School to take some pictures of the new basketball team there. Tuesday was a bit more of a whirlwind. After work I went to Columbia High School for the girls soccer game, then left midway through the second half to go to West Marion for some basketball. I caught the second half of the West Marion-East Marion girls game and stayed for the first half of the boys game before heading back to Columbia to catch the second half of the boys soccer game. It turned into a 13-hour day.
As much as I love football, it was a bit of a relief to know I would be getting my Friday nights back after 14 consecutive Friday night games, along with two Thursday nights. But it dawned on me as I was driving back from Nanih Waiya that that would not be the case. Columbia is hosting East Marion Friday night in basketball, and any time two Marion County teams play each other I have to be there. So getting my Friday nights back is on hold, but with the updates Columbia has made to their gym this year there is no better place to take pictures so that’s a consolation.
It’s interesting because I didn’t get into this field because I love writing. I fell into it because of my love of sports. The ebbs and flows of every play, every game and every season appeals to me in a way that is hard to put into words. I knew I wanted to do something involving sports, and as much as I would enjoy coaching I have no desire to teach.
I actually went to school for broadcast and planned on going into television or radio, but I got into newspapers as a freshman in college and it stuck. I’d love to host my own sports talk show on the radio someday, but that’s a hard gig to find.
While I like writing, it actually takes a lot out of you. When you write for a living and pump out multiple stories in a day, it kind of drains your emotions. At least it does for me. Everyone has their outlet for releasing all of their stresses and emotions, and for me it’s writing. I think that’s the reason why I’m so even keel and appear nonchalant about everything, because I’m constantly writing. It’s a little different on the weekends when I’m not writing, though. I can feel that tension building up inside of me, and it makes me a different person until my hands are positioned on a keyboard again.
That’s one of the reasons why this job is unlike any other. There are very few people who can say their job is where they can purge their soul, where it’s part sanctuary. It truly is a blessing to have that, and to be around sports every single day and get paid to watch, analyze and interpret the game, there’s nothing else like it. n
Joshua Campbell is sports editor of The Columbian-Progress. Reach him via email at email@example.com or call (601) 736-2611.