I have to say, when it comes down to it, I’m kind of an outdoor cat. Whether it’s going on a hike, spending the day fishing or playing in a bevy of recreational sports leagues, I spend that majority of my time, weather permitting, outside. It only makes sense that the profession I’ve chosen—covering sports—allows me the opportunity to spend as much time unchained from my desk as possible.
I mean, just look at last Saturday. I got to watch top-flight high school football on a beautifully sunny, 60-degree day in Kingston—and I got paid for it. Not a bad way to spend an afternoon.
But with the fall season winding down and winter creeping in, I’m going to be spending the majority of my time over the next few months indoors, traveling from one dimly lit gym to the next.
But you know what? I don’t mind.
As fun as covering games during spring and fall can be, for my money, it’s tough to match the atmosphere of a good winter contest. Of course, there are exceptions. The way the venue fills up for a tilt between Harrison and Rye, or the way the stands fill up at Mahopac when a Section I title is on the line, in those instances the atmosphere for a fall game can come alive.
But too often—and this was the case at Kingston this weekend‑the crowds can’t conceivably fill the stands. For the state quarterfinal game between Rye Neck and Burke Catholic, held at Dietz Stadium, Rye Neck traveled well—more than filling the visiting side bleachers with scores of fans who made the hour-and-a-half trip to cheer on the Black Hats. The same can’t be said for Burke Catholic. Maybe 100 fans dotted the massive stone stands on the opposite sideline, dwarfed by the stadium itself. After a quick glance across the field at the desolate Burke bleachers, it was tough to remind myself how important the football game was for both teams.
This isn’t a problem during the winter. Friday night basketball games never fail to get the gym rocking, whether they feature Eastchester taking on Walter Panas or Mamaroneck squaring off the cream of the Class AA crop. Weekend hockey games at Hommocks‑with the Tigers hosting perennial rivals like Suffern or Rye‑never fail to pack the spectators in to the rafters.
Then, of course, there are the two—and sometimes three—games that see New Rochelle square-off against their foes from Mount Vernon, each game played in front of a rabid basketball crowd expecting a hardwood classic in the making. Even the various wrestling tournaments, from The Huguenots’ Shoreline Classic to Rye’s Bernie Miller Invitational, fill the area’s gymnasiums year in, year out.
There’s always the sense that these highly anticipated games and tournaments are more than a competition. They are an event.
It may be a while before I get to wear my shorts again. It will be a while before I get to spend an idyllic day outside as the clacks of field hockey sticks and pings of baseball bats fill the air.
So, for a few months, I’ll trade that in for cramped gyms with fluorescent lighting, hundreds of screaming spectators and the crunch of a grinder being smashed against the boards a couple of inches from my camera.
I think I’ll manage.
Follow Mike on Twitter, @LiveMike_Sports