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147 morereasonsto smile

Friends and family members have often asked whatever happened to my ambition to one day write for Sports Illustrated.

Of course, that was always the plan: spend a few years writing for a community newspaper, get my foot in the door of a major metro and then, magically, my mug would be the one to replace the retiring Rick Reilly from the back page of SI.

A funny thing happened on the way to landing my dream gig. I found out what a wonderful one I already had.



Don’t get me wrong. I still fondly remember sitting in the right-field cheap seats of San Diego’s Jack Murphy Stadium, surveying the palm trees that lined the outfield wall and thinking “this is where I want to be covering a baseball game.”

And yet, just last night, while watching the Nevada Union Miners rally back against Woodcreek, I looked out upon towering tall pines across the outfield fence at Ted White Field and thought “Nah, this is where I want to be covering a ballgame.”




So why would writing sports for community newspaper be such a rewarding job?

I’ve got 147 reasons for you.

Where else can you bring a smile to the faces of 147 kids on a single morning?

That’s what we did on Friday in The Union Sports section, where readers found that exact number of first and last names of young athletes in our community.

And best of all, it’s not as though we set out to see just how many names we could collect and publish within a 24-hour period. It was simply our typical Friday morning edition, which always includes our weekly Youth Sports Report and our daily Local Roundup and typically includes a feature story or game coverage.

As we hammered out those reports, I quickly realized we had quite a few names on our hands this week, which led me to actually counting the kids when I picked up the print edition the next morning.

So what’s the big deal?

I’m not so sure I can help many of my fellow adults understand what’s so important about little Dylan’s name appearing in the paper, reporting on the double he hit earlier this week, or little Alicia spotting a report announcing her third-place finish in last week’s gymnastics meet.

But maybe if the adults were able to return to the days that they were little Dylan or Alicia, stepping into the batter’s box or onto the balance beam, maybe then they’d see what it means to find your name in ink, clip it out of the paper and paste it into a scrapbook.

That’s what I did – and I still have the yellowed clippings to prove it.

But what’s the actual benefit?

I’m not exactly sure.

Maybe it will move them to want to read their names there more regularly.

Maybe it will inspire them to work hard both in practice and in the classroom, ensuring them every opportunity under the sports-world stars.

Maybe it will even motivate them to point of someday landing a scholarship.

Or, maybe not.

Maybe they’ll only read their name once.

But for that one brief moment, there’s a swell of pride rising from somewhere inside, as you realize everyone in town could be reading your name that very morning.

Of course, this also might be a good time for mom or dad to point out everyone could be reading your name for all the wrong reasons, if you don’t stay on the straight-and-narrow, as my grandpa so aptly puts it.

Still, a community newspaper is only as strong as the involvement of the community it serves. And we all know how involved our community is in this newspaper. If you need a good gauge, check out the contributions on the Opinion pages any day of the week.

And that’s also how a staff our size can end up with the names of 147 kids in one single edition of the Sports section. Coaches call us with game reports, or appoint assistant coaches or parents to assume the responsibility.

Of course sometimes, when coaches don’t think it’s important enough to call in their reports, it’s the parents who assure them that, well, it actually is important to someone.

(And, by the way, we absolutely adore those reporting who take the time to double check the spelling of each name, ensuring that all 147 of the youngsters are wearing smiles and not frowns when they spot their names in the paper.)

As we move more into the digital age, with the seemingly infinite space of the Internet, we’ll be able to handle more submissions than ever, and more than just the game results.

We’re already receiving more submitted photos than ever, thanks to some readers who e-mail us regularly with contributions. And we hope to soon be able to post digital video submissions on our recently revamped Web site http://www.theunion.com.

Sports organizations can already post their games and events online at our site, and we encourage them to do so, whether it’s Little League or Senior Softball. Simply click on the Recreation Calendar tab under Sports and then “add your event.”

I have no doubt that as more opportunities to submit Sports reports are afforded, that we’ll likely surpass the number of local names appearing in Friday’s edition of The Union. (I’ve learned that even the avid golfer doesn’t mind seeing his team’s win over his buddy’s foursome in the weekly club play reported in the paper.)

And if you’re that golfer, or that athlete of any sort, who wants to see his or her sport reported in the paper, encourage your organization to join in the fun.

Just think of all those smiling mugs we’d have out here in western Nevada County. And if you ask me, that beats the heck out of having just the one on the back page of Sports Illustrated.

Sorry, Rick.

ooo

Brian Hamilton is sports editor at The Union. His column appears Saturdays. Submit your sports items to him via e-mail at brianh@theunion.com, by fax at 477-4244, by phone at 477-4240 or by stopping by The Union, 464 Sutton Way, Grass Valley.


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