Someone’s handle is particularly sacred in small towns. And, for Pete’s sake, spell it right. If you have never spelled “Mama’s baby’s” name wrong in print, you do not understand the term “wrath.”
A particularly significant segment of name usage and correct spelling has to do with high school sports. Not only are you in danger of Mama’s scorn but of Dad’s as well, especially if that child’s name has a “Junior” attached and he’s playing sports.
Of course, parents don’t want you to use the name at all if there’s trouble, a mistake or an error involved. When any of this comes home to roost for any reporter or writer, again especially in small towns, the odds of verbal potshots (hopefully that’s the only kind) increase exponentially.
Since, I decided early on — as a high school freshman — to be a journalist, I began to take notice of names and spellings.
NATURALLY, I overdid it in the beginning and practically named the entire roster of dear old Teague High alma mater’s football team. At first, I also clung to one short lecture about refraining from using your own name and tried never to use mine even if I’d made a pretty good play. Journalism-teacher-school-paper-sponsor-secret-puppy-love-idol Louise Forke even dispensed lessons on that.
My mom’s own course in behavior was one of being humble, especially since she didn’t want her eldest child to play, and had derogatory things to say about being braggadocious and pride goeth before, no not a fall, but a spanking with a belt (“With four boys, I had to,” was her reasoning). All four boys played football, as well as other sports. I think Mom was always a nervous wreck at home games. She didn’t drive out of town after dark, thus never earned the title of “Roadie Mom.”
With all of that background and setting to sail a course on the sea of newspapering, I learned about getting names right.
Anyone who has ever sat in a high school press box to cover a football game, knows that you have to have an eye and an ear for a number of things if you’re going to write an accurate and interesting account.
GETTING NAMES right heads the list.
So, listening in the press box is helpful and useful, but sometimes there are stories there as well. Some you can use in print right away and some have to wait years until there is distance enough to protect innocent me.
Sportswriters tend to be enamored of tough, talented, outstanding players. If you’re a visiting sports reporter, you want to cock your ear to the hometown writers so you can attach proper significance to a player or spotlight certain plays.
One particular name and game were brought to mind recently while I was watching a Sunday afternoon pro football game between the Cincinnati Bengals and the Baltimore Ravens (my Houston Texans weren’t on the tube).
A Ravens’ player named LaDarius Webb caught my eye and ear. Naturally, you think, “Webb” is the reason and you’re partly right. However, I’d heard the name “LaDarius Webb” before.
Years ago, I was in Orange covering a Jasper-West Orange Stark game and I sat next to the home team’s newspaper reporter, a tiny guy (maybe 5-5, 120 lbs.) who was pimply-faced and had a tenor voice filled with awe and admiration for his Mustangs. Of course, I was for the Bulldogs but I always maintained a calm demeanor and made no biased observations at games, certainly not in any emotional way. That’s a journalism taboo as far as I’m concerned.
I’d made my usual scanning of the rosters to discern who was who for the opponent and to see if they’d spelled all our players’ names right (they hadn’t). However, a name jumped out at me — LaDarius Webb. And, during the pre-game warm-ups, little pimple-face, said in a worshipful voice and to no one in particular: “That’s LaDarius out there!”
While watching the pro Bengals and Ravens, the name of LaDarius Webb certainly got my ear. Turns out though, he isn’t the same one. The Ravens’ player is from Alabama and attended Nicholls State.
Then, I thought about the little sportswriter and figured he was probably still writing somewhere and speaking in awe of his heroes. Some folks need such bolstering. I say it’s a good thing.