When I decided to make the plunge to become a sports writer, I never realized the danger I could possibly confront.
Sure, there’s the possibility of getting a cramp in a finger from writing or typing too much, a leg could fall asleep from sitting too long, or a stomach ache can happen from gorging yourself in a hospitality room, but the dangers run far deeper than that. Physical harm is a real possibility.
Recently while covering a prep golf outing at Lockhaven Golf Club in Godfrey, I experienced the firsthand danger of being a sports journalist. While attempting to get a quick picture of players teeing off, perched in a position about 100 feet in front of the tee box, I promptly took a drive to the gut on a shanked shot. I was at an angle where it would be difficult to be hit, but not impossible.
Ripped on a line drive, the ball blasted into my belly, leaving me with a bit of embarrassment and a nice purple and blue souvenir.
It’s not the first time I have put myself in harm’s way for the plight of journalistic integrity. I once broke my foot slipping on spilled water at a volleyball match at Metro East Lutheran’s Thomas Hooks Gym. I also hit a deer with my car outside of Lincoln, driving back from covering an event.
At an Illinois vs. Missouri college basketball game taking photos, former Illini guard Calvin Brock flew into me chasing a loose ball. No sports writers were injured on the play, but it did get me on ESPN for a second.
I even crashed into Cardinal broadcaster Al Hrabosky once covering a game at Busch Stadium while looking for my press box seat, sending the Mad Hungarian tumbling to the floor. Fortunately no one was hurt from this encounter, just a little embarrassment on my part.
There are plenty of scary encounters in media lore, like the time a fellow sports writer was plunked on the head by a puck that wiggled through the net at a high school hockey game. There’s the story of a reporter having his leg broken after being bowled over on the sidelines at a football game, too.
AdVantage News’ Diane Cox admitted she was tackled in pregame warmups at a football game in Wood River once while taking pictures. Players made sure the camera was OK after the hit.
Steve Porter of AdVantage News has a plethora of stories from centuries of sports writing experience. He’s had close calls, but no physical harm done.
He once had his windshield shattered at Arthur Fletcher Field in Collinsville covering a baseball game, a laptop fried from a soda being spilled on it at a state bowling tournament and has come close to being nailed by runners at high school track and field meets.
He’s dealt with pushy out-of-town media, the worst being from Boston in the 2004 World Series, admitting the physicality of jockeying for good position in interviews can get hairy.
Basketballs landing in his lap at the media table may be the most danger Porter has faced. He said it was difficult to fight the urge to spin it on his finger Globetrotter-style before tossing it back.
There are also fights to avoid, in the stands and on the field, and lights have gone out at games making visibility tricky, too.
Locating fields at local high schools can be troublesome and possibly dangerous while driving. As an Alton High grad I’m OK, but Alton is notorious for out-of-towners getting lost attempting to find Public School Stadium or Gordon Moore Park, instead heading to AHS or Marquette Catholic High School.
So the next time you think it might be fun to overeat and get underpaid being a sports writer, remember ... there are plenty of balls, pucks, bats and sticks flying around ready to cause bodily harm. I know from experience; getting hit by a golf ball doesn’t tickle.
Follow Bill Roseberry on Twitter @broseberry51.