A couple of weeks ago, my roommates and I were watching a Phillies game. One of them asked me something about some rule or a player, and after I answered, she looked at me and asked, “How do you know so much about sports?”
I think I was expecting to respond with something like, “I’ve always liked sports,” or “I’ve always followed the Phils,” but what came out was a memory I didn’t know I had anymore: my family’s Sunday morning ritual when I was a little kid.
My mom would make breakfast and then she’d deal out the Sunday New York Times. Everyone had a favorite section — one sister took the Sunday Styles, another got the Arts & Leisure, Mom took the Week in Review, I got the Book Review and my dad and I shared the Sports section.
From sitting next to him at Sunday breakfast, I learned everything I know about sports and sports writing. We’d sit together and read a profile on an up-and-coming pitcher or a big feature on the college football bowl games. He taught me how to read box scores and stat sheets, and when breakfast was over and the weather was nice, we’d all go to the park with a wiffle ball and bat or a frisbee.
My dad died when I was nine. For a while the sports page went unread on Sundays and the wiffle bat and ball collected dust in the garage. But after a while it stopped hurting to read the sports page and to watch football with just my mom, and it began to feel like a connection I still had with him — we couldn’t talk about it, of course, but at least if we could have, I’d have had something to say.
Fast forward to sophomore year of college. I’d just transferred from a hectic freshman year at the University of St Andrews in Scotland and I was ready to start fresh at Penn. I’d been on my high school’s paper but not on the one at St Andrews. I wanted to join a club, so I found myself at the first writer’s meeting of the semester, 15 minutes early because I still hadn’t figured out how long it took to get from 34th and Sansom to 40th and Walnut.
I joined copy first and then moved onto sports. I worked my way from softball to women’s soccer to baseball to football and a couple random articles about gymnastics in between. I wrote stories I was proud of and stories I wasn’t so proud of, stories that came in on deadline and stories that didn’t, briefs that were fourteen inches long because Cal forgot to tell me that briefs don’t need quotes, and only when I became sports editor of the Summer Pennsylvanian did I realize how ridiculously hard it is to actually put a story list together.
I’ve written a lot of stories, been to a lot of games, interviewed a lot of players and coaches, and in between watched a lot of other professional and college sports. And through all this time, I never thought, until watching that Phillies game a few weeks ago, that part of this — my experience as a DP writer over these last years — is recreating something of those Sunday mornings with my dad and the sports page. It’s true that he’s not here to read my articles like my mom does, or to follow the teams I follow or even to help me write ledes because as everyone who’s ever edited one of my stories knows, I stink at writing them, but if there’s any gift that being part of the DP staff gave me, it was a chance to find that feeling again.
I want to end by thanking every person who has made this paper, and especially the sports page, what it is. From the editors I first learned from to the new writers who are just starting out, I’m so grateful to have been a part of this newspaper. Without joining the staff, without showing up to that meeting fifteen minutes early, without leaving the Red Room and crossing over to sports, I don’t know that I would have recalled those Sundays over the Times sports section, and that for my dad, being a fan of sports meant also being a fan of great sports writing — and the DP is and always will be full of that.
Anna Strong is a senior English major from Philadelphia and is former sports editor of The Summer Pennsylvanian. After graduation, she is getting a masters degree in English at Boston College. She can be reached at email@example.com.Comments powered by Disqus
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