Dunning: Read this quick, before the facts change


Dunning: Read this quick, before the facts change

The toughest job in journalism these days is sportswriting.

OK, wait. Let me take that back, or at least rephrase it before my colleagues elsewhere in the newsroom scream, “No it isn’t!” Actually, truth be told, they’re right and I’m wrong. Mea culpa.

Like it or not, sports is still known as the toy department at any self-respecting newspaper.

Sportswriters, after all, go to “cover” games in climate-controlled press boxes with the best seat in the house while eating free hot dogs, drinking Diet Pepsi and attempting to explain how a fumble on the 2-yard-line by an 18-year-old freshman quarterback changed the course of human history.

Our fellow journalists, meanwhile, are covering courts and cops and councils and crime and COVID-19 and just about any other serious situation beginning with the letter “C.”

To be sure, we are all basically typists, pounding out copy at 100 words a minute, knowing that the one who finishes first is also the one who is likely to win a Pulitzer.

The reason for my outlandish and outrageous claim in the very first sentence of this daily grind is that the world of sports has been changing extremely fast over the last few months. It’s now nearly impossible to write even two paragraphs of a story without the first paragraph already being rendered obsolete by rapidly changing circumstances.

Let’s say you’re writing a column for Wednesday’s paper on Tuesday evening with a midnight deadline. You put it to bed at 11:59 p.m. and head to bed yourself.

But when you get up to go to the bathroom at 2 a.m. you glance at the late, late news on cable and learn that the conference commissioner you quoted in your story saying, “The Wild Wild West Conference will definitely be playing football this fall,” is now stating: “We’ve scrubbed football permanently and might never play the sport again.”

But it’s much too late to fall back on that old B-movie cliché, “Hold the presses.”

As I write this, I have no idea if what I’m saying now will be even remotely true tomorrow.

It used to be I could report that State College beat Case Tech, 30-29, by scoring 16 points in the final 20 seconds, and know that when I got up in the morning State College would still have beaten Case Tech, 30-29.

Not so anymore.

On Sunday, thousands of high school athletes up and down the state of California were diligently working out in anxious anticipation of their fall seasons beginning next month.

Early Monday morning the CIF — which governs high school sports — said the first games of the football season were being moved to early January of 2021.

Despite the immediate disappointment most high schools kids will feel, come January everyone will be focused on the task at hand and glad they have a football season after all. If, in fact, they do have a football season in the middle of winter.

But California is an enormous state with an incredible number of climate zones.

A January start might be fine in San Diego, but I’m not sure how it will work for the proud and talented students at Modoc High School in remote Alturas, where the average January low is 16 degrees and the all-time record is 34 below.

Try putting the seat of your pants on aluminum bleachers in those temperatures.

And who knows what’s going to happen with UC Davis football? As I write, the Aggies have a full slate of 11 games, beginning Aug. 29 at Nevada.

By the time I put a period after the last sentence on this work of art, they may be down to nine games or maybe even eight. Then again, they may be up to 12 after convincing Notre Dame to visit Aggie Stadium in September.

But wait, one day it’s Aggie Stadium and the next it’s UC Davis Health Stadium. Tomorrow it may be Bill and Melinda Gates Stadium or Bezos Ballpark if the folks in charge of naming rights finally hit the jackpot.

It’s time for bed. I’ll see you in the morning.

Reach Bob Dunning at [email protected].



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