A night with Walter / Aaron Johnson
As this point there aren’t many times that I get to have a fan moment. I’ve been a reporter, in some capacity, for a little over six years now and as I discuss with many of my college friends that have gone on to work at local television stations, newspapers, and radio stations in and outside of the state of Connecticut — the realization that being a fan is bad for business has been one that we all at some point had to reach.
Granted, I love reporting on local sports. I’m a produce of Connecticut, who played high school sports here and being able to experience that atmosphere nearly a decade since graduating high school — don’t let the facial hair and specs on the mug of the page fool you, still hasn’t been 10 years since I was out of 12th grade — has made my job amazing to wake up every morning and go to.
But those moments when I want to root for the home team, or react to a call that I don’t agree with, are non-existent as the veil of the reporter is cast over my face.
It is as against the code of conduct for a journalist as you can get to be emotional and investing into a beat or story. But the dichotomy of the situation is that sports is something that you are supposed to be invested in — especially on an emotional level.
Alas, not for the good journalist.
We’ve have a job to do and an image to uphold.
But for one night, that image was able to be relaxed during the Walter Camp All-American dinner on Saturday night at Yale.
Although it was only for a handful of hours, it was finally an opportunity to return to the reason why I go into the field of sports journalism.
It is because I am a fan.
Sports has been a staple in my life for such a long time that going into the business seemed like the right move regardless what the direction my life went in.
Basically if playing centerfield for the Yankees didn’t pan out.
But getting the opportunity to look on at some of the great former and current college football players and be just a fan for a night was something I never knew I had missed so deeply.
As a reporter, your mind is molded to think a certain way and that is always story first, when an opportunity was given to me to attend the dinner as a member of the Hearst Connecticut Media organization — the first thing I said to Sports Editor Gary Rogo was ‘do you need me to write out of it?”
That’s just how my mind works.
Always thinking of the next story, before Gary had a chance to respond, I had already developed a lead and headline for the story I was planning on writing.
That’s just how my mind works.
So it was obviously a pleasant surprise when the job for me that night wasn’t to write a story on the night, but to be apart of it. Journalist report the news, we aren’t apart of it.
But there was no way I was going to let this opportunity pass by, so just this once, I think my old professors in New Haven will let it slide that I took part in an event.
While covering sports offers a rare chance to witness incredible moments live, it also takes practice to be able to have the demeanor that is expected of a reporter.
That was a lesson that took the longest to stick for myself.
It is a difficult thing to be expected to do. It goes back to fans being passionate, invested, and emotional. When it came to sports, I was that. Most people are like that.
They love their teams. They are invested in their favorite player. And they are absolutely emotional about the rise and fall of their team.
Whether on the professional level or at the high school level.
State championship weekend in Connecticut produces a slew of emotions from grown adults and teenagers. Coaches cry after being so proud of their team that moment overwhelms them. Parents look on with smiles as they watch their children play the sport they love.
And of course the kids.
They are the ones that are in the middle of it all, putting all that hard work that comes from weeks of long hours and dedication against an opponent that is in the same situation.
Tears, laughter, smiles, pain.
It all is accompanied with this thing we love called sports.
But not for the journalist. We have to be stone-faced in our resolve to keep the emotions out of the situation and tell the story.
It is a catch-22 at times. Being there and speaking with players and coaches after a hard loss, or grand victory, but unable to cheer on.
That was what made this weekend at Walter Camp so special for me. Aside from meeting Eddie George, seeing Calvin Johnson, hearing Baker Mayfield.
It was the opportunity to simply be a fan once again.
To have a chance to be reminded exactly why doing this thing called sports reporting is so special. I love the position that I am in. I get to cover some of the most dedicated, passionate, and emotional human beings on the planet playing some of the most intense and entertaining games there are.
It seriously doesn’t get much better than that.
While it can be difficult to hold my tongue at a bad call or make sure not keep a straight-face while watching a buzzer-beater go through the net — it is worth it every time.
Besides anything worth having isn’t easy. It’s a cliche that’s much older than I am, but it still rains true.
It may be a difficult job, but someone’s got to do it.
I’m happy I get that chance.
ct.com; Twitter: @aronJohnson_