I am somewhere around a year, working at this job. The first year has been a little tough, covering local sports is much different that reading Mathew Berry’s weekly fantasy column and thinking I can set there jabber for pages. I can jabber for pages but the job is still different.
I didn’t mean to end up here; I was bred as a mechanic. Truthfully, I never cared much for the work. Hours upon hours of holding the flashlight for my father gave me a general knowledge and a grasp of the craft but it never gave me fire inside. After a dreadful end to my high school tenure, I left school with a huge chip on my shoulder. I worked construction for a while after high school and finally settled at Nashville Auto-Diesel College shortly after getting a taste of real life.
It was my ticket, the old man kept telling me. He would say, “Forget the past, if you can get good enough; diesel mechanics make big money around here and you can pretty much name your price.” I set out on that path because it was a better idea than anything rolling through my head at the time. I squeaked through on charm alone and gained more wisdom of the national party scene than I did about the working parts of an engine.
With a general knowledge of the parts of an engine I returned home, following my father’s advice once again, to accept my birth right on top of a hill, running from machine to machine to keep them in working order so some rich person could get even richer as we forcefully swayed this black rock out of the mountain. I found people just like myself on top of that mountain. We worked, we prayed, we drank, we cussed, we spent, and we died.
At the first set of mass lay-offs, I started looking elsewhere while most people stayed the course and waited out the storm. I was only 22 years old; a stint in the military may be good for me. Before you knew it, I was in Chicago at Great Lakes Basic Training base. The military would have been a decent profession for a man like me. I had drive, I had the want to, and I had an attitude. I had spent years being yelled at by coaches and adults, just because this man had a shaven head made no difference to me, he was just another yelling adult in my eyes. So I smiled and done what I was told but I never completely bought into everything they told me.
The passing of my father early in my Naval Career hindered my thoughts. I was angry, sad, and depressed. Although, I had no idea I was. I fit right in with everyone who felt they were “jipped” by the recruiter. I have seen my recruiter since my discharge and how that man didn’t get a taste of the “ole long knuckle,” I will never know.
Towards the end of my enlistment, I was very jaded. I saw not one man around me that I wanted to be like. Surrounded by heroes, I had not one person to look up to. Not one person I respected or admired. I was out; I left Norfolk, Va. with a few fingers in the air screaming “I’m going home to mine some coal, like I was born to do.” We all know how the next part turned out.
I spent a year or more looking for work and drinking away my savings. Nothing was available, I was constantly passed up for work by men who believed their drug addict nephew deserved his tenth chance at finally getting it right because he had kids to take care of and an ex-wife who gave him no slack. The bitterness in me grew, I blamed everyone around me but myself. That’s not what a man does, is it?
That lesson I learned, and I spent the next few spring months returning to cheap English textbooks, re-learning and shaping my mind to take another chance at life. This time, I had no one pushing me, no one giving me advice, and no one but myself to keep my afternoon habit in check.
Sports was something I could always fall back on, I don’t have the best mind for sports and I’m not the most athletic person around but believe it or not, those coaches yelling at me about digging deep after halftime, digging deep for the fourth quarter actually payed off for something.
I walked into the Williamson Daily News with the attitude that I had been writing sports for years. My boss, Mr. Lovern, must have saw something in me, or read something in between the words I had written, or he could have just been really desperate. Either way, I landed the job and I had spent my last cent on gas money to get to the interview. When they called to request me back again to begin the hiring process my only answer was, “I just spent my last dollar to get to the interview.”
They accommodated and the journey began. Long story short, I have found some peace in the last year. I walk onto a field and I feel comfortable being there because I started T-Ball when I was only two years old. I have always been on a field or a court. This job really was an answered prayer.
So for the last year, I have beared witness; with eyes wide open, to the world around me. I have started a family and crossed many milestones. That, in itself, has taught me again I have no idea what I’m doing. But, day by day, I wake up early and follow my heart. I go to work like a good man should, I tend to my family like a good man should, and I try my best to stay focused on what truly matters, which has nothing to do with me at all, it’s all about the ones around me that I love. I fail at it every single day, but slowly and surely I’m making progress. Even when the set-backs hit hard, I don’t take them to heart because I have the ability to change whatever I want about the situation. I trust myself, and my judgement more every day. I am becoming whole again.
The reason you are reading this is because it is a slow news day. Everyone is one vacation and everyone needed a break from sports. Little League All-stars is currently underway but because of politics I don’t agree with, I leave it up to those in attendance to fill me in about the events.
Beginning in August, we will go back to being sports nuts; we will lose ourselves and pay no attention to what Donald Trump says. We will care less, what the West Virginia law makers are doing to the budget. The amount in the rainy-day fund will be forgotten as well.
Despite my grumblings, I care about this job. The pay isn’t great and sports moms are a beast all their own but, I can completely understand why people are so passionate about sports. Sports are something we all share but it is entirely ours. We get out what we put in, we may all get a trophy but only you know if you earned it. Beneath all of the laws and rules, sports is the most honest thing I know. The scoreboard doesn’t lie. The scoreboard will tell you exactly which team had the most participation during summer practice and the scoreboard will tell you exactly what team gave everything they had.
Coaches yell because, you can tell a kid over and over what to do but until they learn how to do it themselves they will get yelled at. Everyone gets passionate about sports and we yell when we feel we know what should have happened. However, yelling is not always teaching. Throughout the last year I have watched referees and umpires hinder the teaching of kids. I have watched coaches hinder the teaching of kids and of course parents will do the same thing, maybe not their kid but the teaching of another child.
Currently, there is a kid at Phelps High School who has been labeled ineligible to play his senior year because he transferred in district, which according to the KHSAA does not constitute a “Bona-fide change of address.” To me it doesn’t matter which school the kid plays for as long as he gets the chance to play, and the school he came from won’t have any problems replacing him.
Umpires have made it impossible for young pitchers to develop their accuracy because they have such a limited strike zone. Kids are afraid to pitch on the corners for fear of getting behind on the count. This is high school baseball and these kids are not getting paid money to play, this is where they are supposed to learn so they can get good enough to play for money, should they choose to.
During last season’s 15th regional softball tournament the Belfry Lady Pirates were, in my opinion, cheated; because an umpire was so far out of place to observe the call because he was setting up for a loud and proud “You’re Out!”
A football game was allegedly thrown last year in hopes of getting in an easier bracket. That one I’m not so sure I care about because sometimes in life it is necessary to work the system in your favor. The ethics involved with the move can be left up to the individual to decide if it is right or wrong. Everyone is different.
The basis of the argument is: we sometimes move away from teaching a child the skills that will be useful later in life. For the same reasons, we all have problems in life.
I wouldn’t have made it to the point I’m at today if someone hadn’t taught me earlier in life that it’s okay to fail. Failing is not the issue; it’s how you deal with failure that makes the difference. Sport is life, you never grow out of it and as long as we are blessed with another day we have a chance to continue pushing forward.
By now, you may be saying, “But Bill, you haven’t made it anywhere, you’re only a sports writer.” My reply is, well at least I’m not a referee; those guys have it rough.
I find myself worrying about the kids whose names pass through this paper per season. I hear tales of bad home lives and I worry, not how it will affect the season but, how it will affect them later. I can always see a little bit of myself in these kids.
Everything humans develop is flawed because we are flawed. The circumstances surrounding a program often get the most attention. “How come Mingo Central has enough money for a state of the art football facility and can’t even put some dirt down for a baseball or softball field.” I’ve heard that one a few times. To answer, I’m not sure. I have an idea but, I honestly don’t feel like being sued.
On the other hand, I understand there is still good going on in the world and not everything is bad. The Mingo Central cheerleaders just blew everyone away with how much they were able to accomplish with their flood relief efforts. If you feel nostalgic and want that old fashioned single-A ball game feeling, go watch Tug Valley boys basketball play a game at home. The place is a mad house and I love every second of it.
Phelps is beginning to see some light in the tunnel in all sports. Belfry has one of the best football programs in the state of Kentucky. Coach Haywood has helped shape and mold a lot of youths and helped them go on to better lives as better people. People still take time every year to remember John Fry, an assistant coach at Matewan and Mingo Central who cared more about the game of football than anyone I ever had the pleasure of meeting.
There are constantly races and events being held by the Tug Valley Road Runners club for various causes. People have been gaining interest in living a healthier lifestyle with the pop-up of local farmers markets.
The people of this area were hurt when “Daddy-Warbucks,” (Big Coal) turned its back like we never mattered. Slowly but surely we will make it, I believe we will all make based on the principles we learned when we were all just kids on a field.
(William Plaster is the sports reporter for the Williamson Daily News, he can be reached at 304-235-4242 ext. 2274 or at [email protected] or on twitter @sidplaster)