Hummel: Time out for sports writers

Lynn Hummel column mug
Lynn Hummel

“Satch” Moe had been a sports writer for 20 years. He was good and he loved it. When he came to work on Monday morning he was called into the office of the editor, J.J. Stern, who had been the editor for 40 years. Stern knew his business and his approach was all business.

“’Satch’” he said, “You’re going to have some new writing assignments starting today because of all the recent changes.”

“What changes?” asked Satch (though he knew).

“What changes? Are you kidding? The coronavirus pandemic has turned the world upside down. Minnesota and North Dakota have canceled all high school tournaments and sporting events for the time being, probably all spring. No more playoffs, no state tournaments, zero. The NBA has cut the season, the NHL is halting all hockey. Colleges have cut sports and classes; the NCAA 'Big Dance' basketball tournaments, including the FINAL FOUR, are canceled.

"At first they thought they could play without spectators, then they shut down the whole business completely. Major league baseball is suspending spring training. This is drastic. I doubt that the Tokyo Olympics will even take place this summer. The wide world of sports has called time out for the foreseeable future. No games, no sports to write about. We are going to shut down our sports page and stick with the other regular news until further notice. That’s what you and me need to talk about.”


“You mean you and I” said Satch.

“You and me, you and I − both of us. You know what I’m saying. Let’s get serious. We have two choices for you, Satch. Either we give you a leave of absence without pay until there’s sports news again, or we give you new assignments until the games resume. Right now, we need additional help in the obituary department and in gardening.”

“Obituaries! Gardening! You’ve got to be kidding. I wouldn’t last two days writing obituaries and I know the issue in gardening right now is pruning apple trees − a total turnoff. Obituaries and gardening? No way. Have mercy. I’ve worked hard here for 20 years. I’ve been writing about sports since high school. I need a paycheck. I need a job. Please. What else do you have?”

”Look Satch, it’s a busy world out there off the basketball courts and outside the ballparks. Somebody has to report on police calls and house fires, there’s a pasta festival coming up, city council meetings, a farm implement show, a toilet paper shortage, the milk industry is in trouble, there’s more like the ...”

“Stop. Stop. I can’t believe this. Pasta festival − I’m strictly a meat and potatoes guy. I can’t write about pasta. And chimney fires − if you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all. Farm implements − you’re punishing me. I need to write about sports − action.”

“Here’s an idea − do a special on what the coaches and athletes are going through. Human interest stories.”

“If I want to write about grief and broken hearts, I could do obituaries. No thanks, I need action. And toilet paper? Give me a break.”

“You’re a good photographer. Maybe we could come up with a photo project.”


“I take pictures of action, tension. I’d go to sleep shooting still life. A pot of flowers is as exciting as a rock.”

“What does action give you that ordinary life doesn’t provide? Why not talk about the real purpose of high schools and colleges other than sports. Sports aren’t real life, they’re entertainment. What about science, math, English, literature, engineering, law, medicine, business and government?”

“Here’s what ordinary life doesn’t provide for me – adrenaline − that rush of energy produced by conflict and competition. That’s what sports do for me and millions. Sorry, I can’t write about anything else. I was born to be a sports writer.

"Tell you what − you’ve just lost one of your delivery truck drivers. I’ll drive truck and deliver papers until you get a sports page again. Somebody else can write the obits, cover the pasta festival and write about toilet paper and all the other important stuff like the real purpose of education. I’ll agree it’s important, but the readers deserve better than what I can give them. If the only action is driving truck, I’ll gladly drive truck.

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