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Larry Peterson - Straight Shots

After four decades on the job, just being a fan is something new

The writer's view of Creston's state tournament game Monday, from behind the center field fence, rather than the customary media box location. A portion of the Creston crowd at Monday's game is shown in the bleachers at left, above the Panthers' dugout.
The writer's view of Creston's state tournament game Monday, from behind the center field fence, rather than the customary media box location. A portion of the Creston crowd at Monday's game is shown in the bleachers at left, above the Panthers' dugout.

You’d think just sitting and watching a game would be easy.

This summer, I found that it is not.

My status is still considered a temporary layoff due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so hopefully the reinstatement is just around the corner and I’ll soon be covering things again for the News Advertiser.

But, since I was not able to work as high school sports returned to Iowa schools this summer, I chose to attend a few games as just a fan, trying to keep my distance from people. Sitting alone doing nothing during an entire game is not my nature.

The last time I worked at a game was near the end of the last winter season, as the Creston girls baskeball team was playing a regional final in Corning against Red Oak. In the course of covering such a game, I was multi-tasking at a pretty high pace.

I kept notes on the game action, took photos (also making notes on who I was shooting at any given time), posted updates on Twitter whenever there was a break in the action, and occasionally recorded short video clips with my cell phone to post along with the updates on social media.

It’s hectic, but second nature after being on the job for 40 years, starting in Atlantic in January 1980. In fact, the last summer that I had not covered any Iowa high school baseball or softball games before this year was 1979, when I was a student intern in Gainesville, Fla., for the University of Florida News Service.

Sitting behind the center field fence Monday night watching Creston play Albia at the State Softball Tournament, and then again the next day behind the right field fence watching Mount Ayr play Ogden, all I could do was just sit idle in my lawn chair while CNA sports editor Tyler Hetu and sports writer Brennen Normand were performing their newspaper duties.

Normally, I would have helped in some capacity, whether it be with another camera for shots from a different angle, or maybe relieving them of video duties so they could concentrate on covering the game and getting photos. I would have done something, because that’s what I do at high school games.

I found it relaxing, in comparison, to just watch it all unfold in front of me with no distractions. But, time seems to drag on a little. I felt like I should be doing something with my hands, checking on stats of a key player in the game, or writing down questions to ask a coach or player afterward about a significant moment in the game.

Instead, when the games ended I just folded up my lawn chair and headed out to the exit with the rest of the follks. No postgame interviews or photos, no checking the official stats, no introduction to the opposing coach before asking questions about the game.

This summer’s experience has made me realize that I don’t feel ready to give it up permanently yet. I felt a little out of the loop, as Tyler and Brennen and the other media folks covering our teams were in the know about the opponent and what it would take to be successful in the matchup. I felt ill-informed about what I was watching, compared to the way I would research the teams if I was working the game.

I want to jump back into the fray this fall, hopefully. I missed the relationshps with the coaches and athletes that you get from day-to-day coverage. I enjoyed watching the games, but there was something missing.

Congratulations to all of our teams for getting through the season successfully in this global pandemic, when some Iowa teams weren’t so fortunate. Creston natives Casey Bryant (Western Dubuque baseball coach) and Dave Hartman (Southeast Polk baseball coach) saw their teams sidelined by positive COVID-19 cases. They both had quality teams that could have contended at the state level.

I’m glad our kids here got to play all the way through. I was particularly proud of the Creston girls advancing to state in softball, after having most of them on my seventh-grade basketball team when they were in middle school. It’s fun to see kids you know experience the joy of winning a regional title.

I thought all of our local newspaper and radio people did a great job covering the teams this summer in difficult circumstances, due to the precautions necessary to stay safe in the pandemic. The next generation of journalists is stepping up and providing quality coverage.

Hopefully, as we move into the upcoming fall season I can help out again. THAT’S the natural way to observe a game for me. I like recording history, not just watching it.


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Twitter: @larrypeterson

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