Here's a post from my old blog, "The Varsity Letters" ... I think it's a fun story and consider it a warning to area athletic directors.
No scaffolding please!
had them. Those moments when you ask yourself, "What the heck am I doing? Is
this what has become of my life?" Sure, like most
people, those thoughts occasionally bounced around the cranium, but anything
along those lines was quickly forgotten Oct. 7, 2006 while covering a football
game between Serra Catholic and Beth-Center in Fredericktown. (Remember, turn
right at the butcher shop.) Both teams took unbeaten records into the game, and
the winner would go on to claim a conference championship.
That winner was
Beth-Center. The Bulldogs beat Serra Catholic, 13-6, on an unusually chilly
Friday night and went on to win their first 11 games before stumbling against
Clairton in the WPIAL Class A semifinals.
It was a major step in
Beth-Center’s climb toward the upper crust of Class A football, a place the
Bulldogs occasionally hang out.
It’s also the night I thought my life might
end while covering a high school sporting event.
Normally, a big game at
Beth-Center draws the likes of ... well, me. Maybe one other scribe, possibly a
radio station. This Friday night was different as there was an unusually high
media interest in the game, including a television crew. At a press box with the
capacity of Beth-Center’s, accommodations needed to be made. So, for whatever
reason, a 20-foot scaffold was staged behind the main spectator area.
the assignment for the Observer-Reporter. Josh Yohe, the fine Penguins
reporter for the Tribune-Review, drew the assignment for the McKeesport
Daily News. As guys in the business go, we’re both pretty easy-going,
not the type to throw a fuss over seating. So, when the press box became
overwhelmed with people, the decision to look for other accommodations was made.
To the scaffold.
So, Yohe and I slung our belongings over our shoulders
and made the climb. Twenty feet sure looked lower from the ground.
conditions were far from ideal. In fact, they were a bit unsettling. But, at
least, we figured a good story could be told.
As the game progressed, the
wind picked up. The scaffold swayed. The temperatures dropped.
And that was
only the first quarter.
Yep, this was going to be one long night, but the
investment had been made and, maybe, the thought of getting down from the
scaffold was more unsettling than actually being perched atop it.
the second quarter ended (only one half to go) and many of the game’s revelers
headed toward the concession stand, located behind the scaffold and below the
press box. Among those attending the game was a coworker and his son. The
coworker stopped to chat during halftime. Actually, he came over to make fun of
us for being on a scaffold. As the conversation continued, the coworker’s son
began to rock the recently thrown together structure.
He wasn’t the biggest
guy, but the scaffold wasn’t the most stable. What seemed like some innocent
pushing on firm ground actually swayed the top of the scaffold with some serious
Not sure what went through Yohe’s mind, but I pictured my immediate
future including a rushed ambulance ride to Mon Valley Hospital.
business, particularly at the grass-roots level, holds its share of surprises
and difficult situations, but I sure hope it’s the last time an assignment
If it does happen again, it won’t happen as a member of
the O-R sports staff as Tuesday night marks my last with the Observer Publishing
Starting Monday, July 9, the main contributor to The Varsity Letters
will be the sports editor of the Tribune-Democrat, located in
Johnstown. It’s an exciting opportunity, one too good to pass.
incident is one of many accumulated over almost 13 years working for the O-R,
and definitely a favorite. One reason I waited so long to write about it is,
well, I don’t find it necessary to write about myself.
myself part of the story.
Never will, this lame attempt an obvious
Hopefully, after 13 years, readers realize my desire was to make
high school coverage about the athletes. A novel concept, huh?
occasional friend along the way. Made the occasional person(s) upset along the
way. Cultivated sources. Worked hard. Every time a player, coach or parent
complained about not being an Athlete of the Week, Player of the Year or Athlete
of the Year, I felt validated.
When I arrived, Fort Cherry’s Mike Vernillo
was ready to break the WPIAL career rushing record. Waynesburg football was set
to establish a lasting legacy. Sports that rarely received coverage, were about
to make some headlines.
These days, Twitter has become a popular vehicle for
communication. Like many, I was hesitant in accepting social media. Like many, I
no longer know how to do my job without it. (Yes, I will continue to track the
future success of many student-athletes I’ve gotten to know in recent years via
It’s been one interesting ride, and one that lasted a lot longer
than originally planned. Yet, it’s a stay I’ll always appreciate."