Ten years ago I left The Advocate for a job at ESPN, which turned out to be the worst one I ever had in my life. I quit six months later without having another position and eventually returned to the paper.
Most people cannot understand why I would leave Dick Vitale, Keith Olbermann and the world of professional and big-time college sports for Stamford High, Westhill, Trinity Catholic and the Fairfield County Interscholastic Athletic Conference.
I thought about the reason why again tonight as I was driving home from Hamden after watching the Stamford field hockey team defeat top-seeded Glastonbury, 2-1, in the semifinal round of the state tournament. Sometimes the best stories are not provided by the biggest stars playing at the highest levels, but by good people right in your own backyard.
And a big part of the allure of a community paper for me has always been the people. Hearing someone tell you they still have stories you wrote about them in their scrapbook has meant more than all the World Series and NCAA Tournament games I have been fortunate enough to cover.
The Stamford field hockey team is just a perfect example of this sentiment. I’m not a big field hockey fan — I don’t hate it and I’m not militant like many who don’t understand the rules and detest the constant whistles. There are just other sports I prefer. Yet I will gladly be getting up early Saturday morning to drive to Wethersfield to watch the Black Knights attempt to win their second straight state title.
A big reason is the players on the Stamford team and Matt Forker, their coach. They are impossible not to like. At a local paper you really get to know who you write about.
I remember Katie Pape when she was a little kid running around the Trinity gymnasium during her brother’s basketball games. Now she is one of the stars others look up to. Madi McLaughlin and Laura Dembofsky loathe losing more than any high school athletes I have met, and they are as gifted at making others laugh as they are scoring goals and dominating games. There isn’t a nicer person in Stamford than Emily Powers, a great defender and huge sports fan who I have no doubt can handle my old job at ESPN one day if she wants it. Heather Wilson is a thoughtful interview with a memorable smile. And a pretty clutch player in goal.
This is not to imply that the Stamford field hockey team is the only one who has roused such sentiments. There have been many others. It is just the latest example of why I am one of the fortunate few who get up in the morning and enjoy going to work.
Good kids and good coaches inspire journalists. It is a challenge to make your words live up to their deeds.
They can even make you look forward to getting up early on a Saturday morning and driving an hour to watch a field hockey game.