This will be the last weekly sports column that I will be submitting to the Commentator. Since COVID restrictions will not allow for a big press conference to ask me questions this column will answer the questions you might have asked.
1. Why is column ending? As sports began to start up again in July and August, I found it harder to talk about sports as if it was a big part of life. In the old days – before COVID – sports was not important either. Since COVID sports is what it always has been a form of entertainment and distraction. (Not the everything I once thought it was.) Once we got past 2021 surprises and 2021 predictions, it seemed like a logical place to end.
2. When / how did the column start? On the morning of January 1, 2000 after we all did not disappear because of Y2K, I got up and read the morning paper. As I read a random sports column, I thought I could write something like this. Within two days, I had three sample columns. Since Rob Schellenberg, the Commentator editor, was a sports fan it was an easy sell.
3. How did I come up with topics every week? One community member, who submitted columns once a month, asked me how I could come up with ideas each week. During some of these years, we had children in sports. Following them from here to there led to many ideas. Over time I set determined to write specific topics that met the calendar. These included: Predictions for the Year (January); Sports Report Cards (June), Sports Classes that Should be held (late August), Sports Santa’s wish list; Review of the Year’s predictions (December); and Biggest Sports surprises in the last year.
Sometimes real life brought sports columns to my mind. One year I wrote about ordinary superstar humans I met that summer. Hiking, nature, animals and kayaking are topics that came up in my travels.
Most topics are planned a few weeks ahead. Watching the news and sports, ideas and tangents off current happenings led to sports columns.
4. How long does it take to write a column? Writing the column always took an evening. Often I would tell my wife I would just be finishing up my sports column and then I naively promised “I’ll be back in 20 minutes.” Inevitably it always took more than two hours, even when I knew the topic. When I reviewed my 2020 predictions, I knew what I got right and wrong. But there was still detail I needed to look up.
5. What is the hardest part of writing the sports column?
a) Deadlines are good and bad – Writing for the Commentator has a specific and real deadline. Since the paper comes out on Tuesday, the column had to be submitted on a certain day of the week. (That varied from Friday to Monday morning). I always wanted to do one more proof read before sending it in. Should I add this or take this out? Thankfully it had to be done or I would keep editing.
b) I often got facts wrong. A few weeks ago when I was writing about the NHL players who played only one game, I went on a 45-minute detour. As I wrote about the one game career of Brent Krahn, I calculated how many NHL goalies were drafted in the top ten. My research concluded that before the Salary Cap, teams averaged drafting one goalie in the top ten per year. Since the salary cap there had been no goalies drafted in the top ten. A week later, a loyal Montreal Canadiens fan asked me about Cary Price. My research was wrong – Carey Price was drafted fifth overall in 2005. My conclusion (that teams don’t draft goalies as much) was still correct, but it bothered me to have missed that one goalie in my totals.
6. Technology and the sports column – When I first started writing I collected a few reference books such as NHL and CFL year book. Within a few years the internet became my sole resource.
In the early years, I emailed a copy of the column to the Commentator and I faxed one as a back up. Eventually the editor of the day said they did not need the faxed copy. A few times, bad internet in down town Bow Island led to quick calls about how to get the column to the office.
In 2017, I wrote an entire column on my phone something we would never have imagined in 2000. That Wednesday afternoon in July, the Commentator editor asked if my column could be in that day, as she was going away. Since I was not home, I wrote it all on my phone. That column probably had more spelling errors than all the others combined.
7. What is the best column? Without a doubt the column I got the most feedback on was April 2015 when I wrote about Doug Conquergood, Bow Island’s ice man. Doug is a farmer in the summer and worked the Bow Island hockey rink in the winter for the last 32 years. It was interesting to learn about the changes in the process Doug has gone through to put the ice in. The column ran in two different parts, so for the next 3 weeks when I saw people they told me how they enjoyed that close to home story.
8. What columns did you not write? This week after I told Justin Seward (Commentator editor) that I was going to quit the column, more ideas came to me.
a) The Real Home Run King – When I read that Hank Aaron passed away I thought how in my brain he is still the home run king because Barry Bonds cheated.
b) What other records will never be broken? Glenn Hall played 502 consecutive games for the Chicago Black Hawks over eight seasons. If I had written that column, there is history on why Hall played every game for 8 years. What other records will never be broken? (I don’t know because I won’t be writing that column)
A final line to that column would have been: “When I was growing up Lou Gehrig’s 2130 consecutive games streak was said to be unbreakable. Cal Ripken beat the record. Which of these unbeatable records will one day broken? Check back in 50 years.”
c) Local Baseball Umpire – There is one more sports column I have to do when baseball season starts. There is a baseball umpire in our community that has a story to share. We’ve talked about doing an article. You will read his story when the weather clears and Umpires can yell “Play Ball!”
9. What will I be writing? Another reason for stopping the sports column now is another project I have been working on since summer. My plan is to use add my sports column time to this project. The following are the types of articles (or chapters) I have been writing:
a) Can you climb Mount Everest alone? Simple answer is yes and no. In 2019, Nepal made it illegal to climb Everest solo. Prior to that people could climb alone, but no one ever did. (Except one or two depends on what you mean when you say climb alone…)
b) Big Mouth Cost him Millions – Robert Henderson had been mining in the Yukon for two years. He thought his last strike was the big one, so when he saw George Carmack and his two Native brothers in law, he invited them to join him on Gold Bottom Creek. Not so quietly, he told Carmack not to bring those Natives with him. Henderson later angered all three when he refused to sell tobacco to those Natives. Carmack and Henderson parted with the promise to let each other know if they hit a real big one. Two weeks later George Carmack, Skookum Jim and Tagish Charlie found the biggest gold strike in world history. Carmack chose not to tell Henderson about the claim. A few weeks later when Henderson heard about the strike (10 miles away) most of the best claims had already been taken.
10. Maybe you should write for Commentator – This week the Commentator is putting a notice asking community members to share their stories and ideas.