I rejoined the Record-Journal 22 years ago this very week.
My first night back, I covered a softball game between Trish Wodatch’s Platt Panthers and Cindy Birdsey’s Maloney Spartans at Falcon Field.
That’s the “old” Falcon Field, back before the turf field and locker rooms, the scoreboard and the new bleachers, the separate press box and concession stand.
Who won that night? Don’t remember. I’ll have to look it up in our archives.
I just recall, with great clarity, a striking sunset and the lights of Falcon coming on and Trish fired up to coach her first rivalry game — she was a rookie that spring — and the fluid play of her shortstop Robin Rossi and that boisterous buzz that envelops all things Platt v. Maloney.
That night’s story was the first of a slew I’ve written for the R-J. I’ve written a bunch of these columns, too, never shy about tossing my two cents.
Yet when it comes to asking for two or three, I balk. I’m a fair example of my industry: comfortable asking questions, reluctant asking for help.
Even when it’s needed.
It’s been a painful, tragic grind since the full scope of the coronavirus pandemic became evident that week in mid-March and the world shuttered all around us.
In sports, in a span of 48 hours, we went from the CIAC canceling Connecticut’s winter scholastic postseason to the NCAA scrapping March Madness to every professional league suspending operations.
There ain’t been much in the way of sports since. These pages have borne testimony. A section that is typically jam-packed with local copy is now sometimes difficult to fill even with wire.
I know. For the first time in seven years, I’ve been asked to lay out pages.
I don’t want to. I’d rather be directing coverage and hustling through those crazy wall-to-wall spring days and game-planning for the fifth annual R-J “Best of the Bunch” awards brunch.
Circumstances change. The coronavirus hits and people in sports media, some at it far longer than 22 years, get furloughed or let go from companies of all sizes.
They post farewells on Twitter. It’s a sad parade, one that’s been passing for a decade, but suddenly in double-time.
I’m fortunate. And I’m wired to do what’s best for the team.
“OK,” I tell myself, “layout it is, but so much for us having any local sports stories.”
Then the phone buzzes and it’s Robin Thompson, the tennis coach at Southington High.
On more than one occasion she let us film our “Athletes of the Week” show at the Southington tennis courts. When we needed a prop for our “Richard III” show, she drove home and brought back a giant tennis ball. It made a perfect hunchback.
Now she’s calling. Three of her girls are going on to play tennis in college. Can I do a story?
I really do not have the time.
But of course I tell her “OK.”
Just as I say “OK” when I’m asked to write this column asking readers to help the R-J via a subscription or donation.
Because it’s one in the same: The R-J serves to tell your stories and to keep you informed. You help us and you are, ultimately, helping yourself.
This isn’t quid pro quo. It’s neighbor pro neighbor.
Does such a phrase exist? It should. Neighbor pro neighbor: wise practice for all times, indispensable in times of crisis.
One sure thing I’ve learned in home ports from Connecticut to Maine to Long Island to Connecticut back again? You can’t take good neighbors for granted. I’ve only been back on the block for 22 years. The R-J has been here for 153, telling your stories, keeping you informed.
Help us stay at it. Our industry is at a critical pass. Already financially struggling at a time when the very concept of truth is under siege, media companies are now pushed to the wall at the very hour they’re needed most.
It is said democracy dies in darkness. It dies in broad daylight, too, if no one’s watching.
In such a “big picture,” sports are not very big, not even the Super Bowl. Yet sports are one of the few threads that still bind up our rents and divides.
Locally, they are more. They are woven into the very fabric of community.
Warp, woof, weft? Yeah, all that and a few patterns more. Truly, in these times of social distancing, of quarantine, of isolation, it is that “coming together” that sport provides that we so deeply crave. Not the wins and losses. Just the shared experience.
That’s what Record-Journal sports has been all about. To the last 22 years, I can attest.
And what I can’t remember or what pre-dated my arrival, I can look up in our archives. It’s all there.
May 4, 1998? A three-run rally in the bottom of the sixth inning, capped by senior Robin Graham's bases-loaded single, lifted Maloney to a 6-5 softball victory over Platt.
Maloney freshman pitcher Kate DuBois snared a line drive and turned a double play to end it.
I seem to remember that now. It is emerging from that striking sunset and the lights coming on at Falcon Field and the boisterous buzz of all things Platt v. Maloney.
I can’t wait to get back to it. I bet you can’t either.
The Record-Journal is part of the COVID-19 Local News Fund, which supports coronavirus coverage by independent and family-owned publishers through community donations.
The fundraising program developed by the Local Media Association enables private news organizations to accept tax-deductible donations to support coverage of the pandemic.
As a service to the community, the R-J has made all of its coronavirus coverage available without a subscription, but the coverage is still just as expensive to produce.
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