GRAND RAPIDS — As I was sitting down at my desk at work the other day, I slammed my shin into a part of the desk and it hurt like heck.
It’s not the first time I have had a battle with my desk, and the desk always wins.
That got my mind to thinking about the dangers of being a sports writer and the perils involved in the job. Yes folks, there are even dangers in the world of sports writing.
Since I have been in this business for 35 years or so, I have come up against danger. Probably the biggest danger in my job from day one until now is covering football games.
When I cover football games, I am always on the Grand Rapids side of the field and moving along with the football. While that doesn’t seem dangerous, think again.
When taking photos, and with the photo equipment I have had through the years, a lot of times I waited until the action was coming my way before even trying to take photo. Then the running back is coming at you full speed with three young, robust men chasing him. You are watching the action through the viewfinder of your camera and you really can’t tell how close they are, but you wait until the last possible moment to take the photo, and then bail out.
In my younger years, it was no problem to wait and then easily get out of the way. But as I have gotten older, I don’t move so fast and danger lurks.
Luckily, I have never even been knocked down at a game and let us hope that continues.
Probably my most painful injury came about 20 years ago at the IRA Civic Center. I was in the penalty box covering a hockey game when a clearing pass went awry and went into the penalty box area, hit off a wall and richoceted and hit me on my funny bone on my elbow.
Believe me, that hurt.
Another time, when I was working at the Hibbing newspaper, I had two separated shoulders at the same time. Don’t even ask how those injuries occurred.
Any way, I was covering a college volleyball match and taking photos. I was lucky that I was able to raise my arms high enough to get the photos because of my injuries, I couldn’t raise my arms much higher. A hard kill skipped off the court towards me, and forgetting about my shoulders, I reached out to stop the ball like I usually do. That ball was hit hard and when it hit my arm I almost dropped in pain. It would have been an embarrassing ordeal in front of a crowded gym.
Another time at Hibbing, I was taking photos at a hockey game and was standing on a platform on one end of the Hibbing Memorial Building which was situated above the rink. There was another guy from another newspaper standing on that platform with me and a deflected shot came flying towards us. The puck hit the wall behind us and deflected right into the cheek of the other photographer which caused painful injury. I shuddered at the thought that it could have been me.
Years ago at baseball games at Legion Field in Grand Rapids, I would take photos behind home plate where the backstop fence was low and I didn’t need to shoot photos through the fence. While I never was hit, several foul balls almost sent this guy for a trip to the hospital. The rule is if you see the ball coming at you through the viewfinder in your camera, duck and hope you do it in time.
During baseball and softball games, I like to stand down the foul lines to get photos. There have been instances where I have had to jump out of way of line drives and was fortunate to not get hit.
Another danger is taking photographs at basketball games. I stand underneath the basket to take photos, and you better watch out when a hard-charging player goes in for a contested layup and momentum carries that player out of bounds. If you are in the way – and it has happened to me – you are going to have a collision.
Well, those are just a few of the dangers that a sportswriter faces. While those dangers may not be as severe as those working on an oil rig or a fishing boat, they still can cause you problems.