PORTSMOUTH — I did something Saturday for the first weekend in June that I’m sure I haven’t done in years — mow grass.
That’s right, you heard correct.
Usually, the first weekend in June means my favorite coverage weekend of the entire high school sports calendar year — the almost surefire opportunity of covering student-athletes at the Ohio High School Athletic Association’s state track and field meet at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium in Columbus.
And, throw in the high probability of this season Scioto County punching a ticket or two to the state softball tournament in Akron, then efforts would have been doubled between the Ohio capital and the Rubber capital — and in all likelihood would have required a hotel room in one of the two cities, or at least somewhere in between.
To boot, the state baseball tournament would have been this coming weekend — ordinarily making it an even more incredible time to cover high school sports in the Buckeye State.
But — unfortunately — the spring of 2020 will be remembered as the season of what would have been, could have been, should have been.
And, ultimately, wasn’t.
In response to the coronavirus threat, the OHSAA officially cancelled its 2020 spring sports seasons on April 20 — thus meaning my May and early June just wasn’t going to be the same this year.
Instead, this past weekend was odd, but bittersweet and tough for those of us which cover Ohio high school sports for a living.
I’m sure it was even more difficult for those student-athletes which would have been, could have been and should have been competing this past weekend and next.
I spent Saturday night in a Facebook conversation with two of my closest colleagues and friends — and us three amigos all shared the same thoughts with the same bitter-sweetness and melancholy tones.
Most of us which cover Buckeye State prep sports always look forward to the state track and field meet.
Not just because of the venue or the event’s electric atmosphere or the coverage assignment or even the mileage and travel expenses paid with it, but because of the camaraderie we often have with other media members in attendance —and the climatic nature as another sports calendar campaign concludes.
It’s an annual, almost routine, ritual by now.
Whether it be Friday and/or Saturday morning before 8 a.m., making good use of that OHSAA-issued parking pass and finding a shady spot in the lot closest to the stadium.
Setting up shop with the laptop in either Ohio State’s softball stadium press box, or down inside the indoor batting cage facility along the third-base line by the baseball field.
Tweeting out that I am live on location, and what student-athletes and events I am covering that day.
Often times, prior to the start of the morning’s events, catching colleague Craig Dunn and others in the media work area — and catching up on all things over pretzels and a Sprite (used to be heavy consumer of) or two.
After that, it was time to get to work for the day—sandwiching in a turkey sandwich and potato chips for lunch near noon.
If it’s a two-day coverage extravaganza, then check into the hotel room for Friday night — and complete more work until often the earliest of morning hours.
And yes, it’s a lot of work — but it’s a lot more fun.
To me, there is just something special about the entirety of the state track and field meet.
It’s walking into and looking up at a full house inside Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium, seeing all these standout student-athletes compete on the statewide stage.
It’s taking action pictures of those athletes in their events — often times being THE final published or broadcast documentation of high school athletics for graduating seniors.
It’s taking the all-Ohio podium pictures and interviewing athletes inside the media tent.
It’s going back to the setup spot and telling his or her, or their, compelling story.
I missed all that this year.
Hundreds of us did.
And it made for an odd and tough weekend without.
But alas, although indeed not the same, at least the grass got cut for another week.
Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @BoggsSports © 2020 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved