If you’d told me two years ago, when I began working for Triad City Beat as an editorial intern, that I would helm the sports section, I would’ve laughed in your face.
Yet here I am, having occupied the column for the past 20 months, for better or worse. And the end of 2016 represents the first full calendar year I’ve covered sports for you.
It’s been a crazy ride around the sun in the wide, wide world of sports.
There’ve been some incredible wins.
The Chicago Cubs advanced to the World Series for the first time since 1945, breaking two curses along the way, and won their first championship since 1908. I had the opportunity and pleasure to see them play at Wrigley Field back in May, when they beat the Philadelphia Phillies on my birthday. On an only tangentially related note, I got to watch the Boston Red Sox beat the Chicago White Sox at Fenway Park this year, too.
Sadly, we’ve witnessed some harsh losses, as well.
The Carolina Panthers, who unequivocally kicked the asses of (nearly) all comers throughout the 2015 regular season, flopped hard in Super Bowl 50 against the Denver Broncos early on this year, thanks partly to referee Clete Blakeman. (Ugh, Anthony, you know not to blame the officials….)
Then, the UNC-Chapel Hill Tar Heels men’s basketball team ran riot through the NCAA tournament, reaching the national championship game against Villanova University Wildcats. Their loss was unlike the Panthers’ tortuous defeat, but the quick, Band-Aid pull stung all the same, partly because I’m a lifelong Heels fan, but also because I watched them begin their tournament journey in Raleigh.
After the Wake Forest University men’s soccer team defeated Atlantic Coast Conference rival Virginia Tech to move on to the College Cup Final Four, they were trounced by none other than Stanford University during extra time in the championship game — kind of like the last time Stanford and Wake faced off in the tournament.
Speaking of crazy happenings at Wake, how about that #WakeyLeaks scandal? It’s the stuff of political intrigue.
As politics would have it, the state and the Triad lost some major athletic opportunities due to the despised House Bill 2. The NBA pulled the 2017 All-Star Game from Charlotte. Greensboro lost the honor of hosting not just the ACC Women’s Basketball Tournament and others, but also the NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Tournament’s first- and second-round matches for the South division.
Allow me to point out that I advocated for such repercussions back in May, not that I am happy about it.
But honestly, there’s a silver lining to the loss of these opportunities. I get to seek out funky little events to write about, which are just about as fun as the huge ones the other papers around here cover.
Most recently, I found myself checking my elitism at the King of the Concrete go-kart races at the Greensboro Coliseum. I questioned appropriation of racist symbols at Winston-Salem’s Heavy Rebel Weekender car show. I rooted for a classic-style, side-scrolling video game created by High Point University students that seemed poised as an underdog to win an award at a major gaming convention. Quite like TS Eliot, I lingered in the chambers of the Greensboro Aquatic Center and watched mermaids and mermen glide gracefully through the water with silicon tails. If ever I attend to a steer-roping contest, I can proudly proclaim, “This ain’t my first rodeo,” sans irony, because I went to a Professional Bull Riders event at Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum.
Against my editorial board’s insistence, I even snuck in some participatory journalism.
I shot a legit bow and arrow for the first time ever thanks to Remy Epps’ archery clinic at Greensboro’s Hester Park. I wrote about fishing in the still, quiet hours of a summer morning. I braved a torrential monsoon attempting to rocket down an enormous slip ‘n’ slide. I ruined some nerds’ lives at a Raleigh spelling bee, and I danced my butt off between innings of a Winston-Salem Dash game at BB&T Ballpark.
Speaking of things we can never forget, remember that time I rambled insanely about my March Madness bracket-filling system, then had to report its subsequent, abject failure in praxis?
Of course, it’s not all about me.
I had the honor to interview two incredible local women, Dee Todd and Doreen Bryant, who helped usher in a new era of women’s basketball. I spoke with a humble, mild-mannered giant of college football, NC A&T head coach Rod Broadway, about his upbringing and career. And though the conversation was a bit one-sided, I had the chance to profile a local legend: Greensboro’s World War Memorial Stadium.
Finally, I’ve found plenty of time to cover a rising star in the local athletic community: the Greensboro Swarm. The D-League NBA team captured my attention in ways other events haven’t.
I mused with TCB Managing Editor Eric Ginsburg about the team’s importance during the Swarm’s close Dec. 22 loss against the Los Angeles D-Fenders. No matter if they’re D-League or not, these talented men are just one step removed from the pros, world-class talent right here at home.
In the same way, I’ve taken it upon myself to deliver the most entertaining sports writing I can for you, whether you give a damn about sports or not.
Hopefully in the next full and fun year, you will.
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