One of my favorite jobs I’ve had in newspapers was as a sports gatherer for the San Antonio Express-News. Around 2003 and 2004 I freelanced for them, working from 9 p.m. to around 2 a.m. My and others’ jobs was to take phone calls from high school coaches regarding games, the scores and stats. Fall was for high school football, late fall and winter for basketball and the spring was for baseball. The fall season was the most hectic since high school football is…well, if you’re from Texas you know exactly what I’m talking about.
I loved the Express-News newsroom. It was quiet but very busy. Some chatter but everybody seemed to be chasing down stories. David Flores, the high school sports editor, was a wonderful man. I also liked Tom Orsborne, who covers the Dallas Cowboys for the newspaper.
At 9 p.m., I’d arrive. I remember the first few weeks were pretty hectic as I took the wrong exit and wound up in another area of San Antonio. Then, I found the building that housed the E-N and had a fun time trying to park. Downtown San Antonio at night can be a little creepy.
Around 11 p.m., the game calls would start flooding in. Basically, you listened carefully as the coach gave the final score, told you who scored when, the basic stats. I remember always getting nervous when we’d get scores from Polish towns like Poth or Karnes City since the surnames were hard to spell. You know…Wojciechowski, Pieprzyca, Dworaczyk.
Once you get all the data, you quickly double-check the data with the coach. Then you enter it into the main computer for the people in layout to get to, print it out and put it onto the pile. If you’re handling a call about one of the San Antonio powerhouses like Churchill, Reagan, Madison or Central Catholic, it was best to let the news room know right away. We’d get reports from as far away as Ben Bolt, which is down in south Texas about 100 miles north of the Mexican border.
Around midnight, things would die down. It was fun to relax, gather your bearings, and watch a little television. Sometimes it would be local sports channels and other times it would be ESPN’s Sports Center.
When possible, it was fun to chat with some of the local reporters and other E-N staff members and just see how things were going. I remember David told me a little about how he was once banned from the Alamo Stadium press boxes because the then-USFL occupant San Antonio Gunslingers accused him of negative coverage. So, he covered the game from the bleachers. Funny stuff.
There was even one time where I got to attend a football game with one of the high school football beat writers. I learned a lot by observing him. Raul would make note of every play, who did what for how many yards, anything interesting that happened in the play. Immediately after the game, he’d head down from the press box to the field to interview both coaches. Then off to the newspaper to get it written for the morning paper.
One fringe benefit was getting to take home a free copy of the previous day’s paper. I always liked the Friday issue with the Weekender section, so it was an added bonus.
Sometimes I’d head home by midnight but on busy nights, I usually was out the door by 1 a.m. Sometimes it was fun to get done at 1 a.m., be in bed by 1:30 a.m. and then get up around 6 a.m. to get to work at the radio station. But I had the time of my life doing so.