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I get to cover sports for a living.
When I first went to college, I thought I would graduate with a business degree and work in an office. But then my sophomore year, I had a realization. There was a chance that I could get paid to go to sporting events.
It was then that something clicked and I decided to go into English and work to become a reporter. When I started at the Grant County News in August 2007, I was the staff writer and one day hoped, whether it was here or someplace else, that I would get to cover sports.
Then, my chance came at the beginning of this school year. I jumped into the fire and I’m sure I got burned a little, but I hope I did the athletes that performed this fall justice.
I got my first taste of the Grant County and Williamstown rivalry during the volleyball season and saw the passion in both teams.
I’ve known rivalries in my life. My high school had a huge rival, but I’m not sure how much of a rivalry it was when we were dominated from the time I was in middle school to after I graduated.
Presbyterian College had a rival in nearby Newberry College. My professional and collegiate sports teams (Miami Dolphins, Atlanta Braves, Georgia Bulldogs) each have their rivals.
The fun part for me of rivalries is just talking trash with friends, making friendly wagers about the outcomes and then, hopefully, reaping the rewards. But this past year, I’ve seen the downside. I’ve seen Georgia Tech come away with a win in Stanford Stadium. I’ve seen the Philadelphia Phillies win the World Series. I have not been happy.
But the Grant County and Williamstown rivalry is something I’m not used to. I’m used to having a dog in the fight. When I cover Grant County, I root for the Braves. When I cover Williamstown, I want to see the Demons win. But when they face each other, I can’t root for one or the other.
For me, the easiest stories I’ve ever written were after a win. The hardest ones were after losses that end seasons or careers. I root for the players I cover to succeed; mainly because I’ve gotten to know the players who give everything they have to be good at something they love.
Now, when Williamstown plays Grant County, I’m left in the cold. Players lay their hearts on the line for a win against a rival. Talking to players, they say they are friends off the court and rivals on it.
The players say they started to play basketball because they fell in love with the game. They waited months from the time their previous season ended for this one to begin. I hope they know that one win or one loss doesn’t make them winners or losers. The lifetime they’ve dedicated to what they love makes them all winners in my book, regardless of records.
So when this rivalry starts anew on Jan. 5, I’ll be there. But I’ll be there as a neutral spectator. I can’t enjoy a clutch bucket by a player or a crucial steal in crunch time. The only thing I can root for is that each player keeps their heads up and remembers that they’re getting to do something they love and hopefully will keep loving long after the ball stops bouncing.
(Ryan Naus is the sports writer for the Grant County News. He can be reached at 824-3343 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.)