It's Friday night, after 10 p.m., and I'm still at work. But don't feel bad for me! Because this is the most exciting time of the year. Better than Christmas, even. It's high school football season, baby! I LIVE FOR THIS.
OK, so maybe this being my seventh season of high school football, I'm not actually as gung-ho as all that. But it IS pretty much the most exciting time of the year when you have my job. When some people hear that I work in a sports department at a newspaper, they get all starry-eyed and ask "Oh! So do you get to go to all the games?!!" Ah, no. Actually, all those guys out there tonight, walking the sidelines with a notebook and pencil? They will go back to their computers in a little bit and write stories. Then they will send those stories to newsrooms that contain folks like me, who read the stories, write some headlines, and then poof! You have a newspaper. It really is just that simple.
But the real thrilling part isn't even those stories -- it's the phones. I have to write this post sorta fast, because in about 15 minutes or so, the four public lines in my department are going to light up my phone like a Christmas tree. And I have a small team of folks in the room with me right now who are going to pick up those phones, talk to a bunch of coaches, take game statistics and type them into the computer. Then I'll gather up all that info and smash it into a "roundup" that will contain information on a bunch of games. Maybe it'll be five games. Or maybe 10. OR MAYBE 25 GAMES! WHO CAN TELL?!?! It gets very chaotic, because it is impossible to predict how many calls and results you'll get. And what you WON'T get, meaning you have to scramble to find it yourself. And we'll have to accomplish all of this in the span of about an hour, which is how much time we have before our first deadline.
It is during this hour of an autumn Friday night, an hour that happens just 11 times per year, that I actually look like those journalists you see on TV and in movies. My colleagues and I actually look, you know, COOL. Fingers flying over the keyboard ... phones ringing and slamming, ringing and slamming ... hollering out scores to each other ... running laps around the room to see what games we're getting ... sweat on the brow and a hard-thumping heartbeat. It is pure, exhilarating chaos.
My attitude about it today is a far cry from that of my very first football Friday night, back in 2000, when I worked at The Bakersfield Californian and was one of those clerks spending that hour being trampled by ringing phones. I literally knew nothing about football, and I had this paralyzing fear that all my new coworkers would sit there listening to me sound like a total dumbass with these coaches. And they would probably send each other secret e-mails mocking me behind my back. "Can you believe she didn't even know what a two-point conversion is?! What a dumbass!" It was the only time in my life I was so nervous that I actually barfed, in a bathroom stall an hour before my shift started. So every year on this night, I feel so grateful that nothing about football, not first downs or fumble returns or quarterback keepers, makes me want to toss my cookies. Well, except for Michael Vick, but I don't have time to go into that right now, because the phone just rang! Gotta go! Woooohoooooooo!