Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Which team loses every time?

I went by the post hospital today to take pictures of the MEDDAC Thanksgiving ceremony and meal they held in the cafeteria. While I was obliviously snapping away, a gentleman sitting at a nearby table said, "Base newspaper?"

I ignored the fact that in the Army we have "posts," not "bases."

"Yes, sir..."

"You write for the sports section?"

"As a matter of fact, yes."

"I see your picture every week in the sports section..."

I get this comment every once in a while and have to suppress the urge to congratulate the speaker on his observational skills -- my picture, indeed, is on the first page of each week's sports section; it's not that I asked to have it put there, but S.O.P. for columns in our paper is to have a mugshot of the author run with them.

"Yeah, regrettably so," I shrugged, unsure of where this was going. The man seemed cheerful enough, though.

"You're biased!" he said, like it was the punchline of some weird joke that I didn't get.

I thought for a moment. Biased toward what? The Steelers? Well, yeah, but I try to be tongue-in-cheek about that. Against dance and cheerleading? Absolutely, I'll cop to that any day. I figured I'd best be straightforward and ask.

"Biased toward what?"

He tapped his finger on the table a couple times.

"Here," he said. "You know, 'Fort Knox dominated whoever.'"

This was strange. I'd never been chided for siding too much with Fort Knox. In fact, after one high school football road game this past season, a parent (who happened to also be a senior NCO) said that he'd had enough of the "negative headlines" in the paper, and that I wasn't doing anything to help the team out by printing that kind of language.

Again, I had to supress my initial reaction. It's not my job to help the team out, I thought. It's my job to let everyone know how they're doing when they go to places in BFE Kentucky where no one else wants to drive, and it's my job to write -- in at least an attempt to be interesting -- how it is they managed to have a record of, say, 0-9. Helping the team, I thought, is your job, oh protective parent. Maybe if Junior had more of a fire lit under his ass at home, he'd be more inspired to quit missing tackles.

But of course, I don't actually say those kinds of things. It might feel good in the heat of the moment, but in the long run it does no one any real benefit.

Back at the hospital cafeteria table, I was still stumped.

"Well, there was only the one game where they won," I said, referring to the high school's season-ender, which they won handily. "I had to be positive. Besides, the audience here doesn't tolerate anything less than a blatant bias toward 'our own.'"

The man said he was impressed that we came up with all our own material at the paper, said he worked at the hospital, and that his sister was a professional photographer, and I thanked him and left to take more photos of colonels distributing slices of turkey and roast beef to the long line of early Thanksgiving diners.