I was covering the high school baseball game between North Davidson and Davie County for The Dispatch the other day when I ran into my friend and photographer Donnie Roberts.
We got to talking about this and that for a few minutes before the game and then we both stood silently for the National Anthem. When the pregame ritual was through, Donnie turned to me and asked, "I wonder how many times you've listened to the National Anthem in your career, Bruce."
Hmm. That's something I've never considered before. But it got me to thinking — no doubt I've shuffled my feet to quite a few. After all, I enjoyed (mostly) a 30-year career with the newspaper, and since I retired five years ago, I've been doing some stringing for The Dispatch as well.
Donnie's question stuck with me. After the game, I went home, found my calculator, and started crunching the numbers.
It goes something like this:
• The high school football season is usually 11 games long, but you have to tack on the postseason as well. Teams like Lexington and Thomasville are almost always getting into the playoffs, thus extending the season. So, on average, I figured I covered 14 football games per year for 35 years, which comes out to something like 490 games. Then, there's the ACC. I'm going to figure that I covered about five ACC games per year for about 25 years, which is an additional 125 games.
That comes to an approximate grand total of 615 football games in my career.
• The prep basketball season, which starts in late November and runs into mid-March by the time the playoffs are through, is on average 17 weeks long. I also covered ACC basketball in that span, so, on average, I'm going to say I covered three games per week for 17 weeks per year for 30 years. That comes out to 1,530 ACC and prep basketball games. And National Anthems.
Now, as a stringer, I cover perhaps one game per week. I've done that for five years, so that's an additional 85 games, for a grand total of 1,615 basketball games. Actually, the grand total of games is considerably more because of all the girls' games I've covered, but we're counting National Anthems here, and usually there's just one National Anthem played in a basketball doubleheader.
• I'm going to combine the high school baseball and softball seasons into one entity because, in actuality, I'm counting events covered in a week. Those seasons, including the playoffs, usually run 13 weeks on average and I would say I covered three events per week, 39 games per season, 1,170 games over 30 years. Tack on five years of stringing and the total is now 1,235 games.
• The American Legion baseball season is an animal — a bear actually — in its own right because you're covering a game almost every night from late May until July, and perhaps even longer depending on how well the team does in the playoffs. Plus, we usually covered Post 8's away games, too. So, on average, I'm going to say I covered 20 Legion games per season for 30 years, or 600 games. Tack on about 10 more games as a stringer for the past five years and the grand total is 610 games.
• Then there are the minor sports. I'm going to add 100 events over my 30-year career to cover National Anthems that might have been played at wrestling matches, tennis tournaments, track meets, swim meets, stock car races and anything else that might have required a show of patriotism.
That comes to an approximate grand total of 4,175 National Anthems I've listened to. Most were recordings. Some were done live. Some were very good. And others, well, if you can't say anything nice...
But, geez, 4,175 National Anthems. That just might make me the most patriotic man in America, or close to it.
Now here's a little more food for thought. I traveled on average 20 miles per game. Most of the high schools were within 10 miles, one way, of The Dispatch. But then there were trips to Winston-Salem, Raleigh, Chapel Hill and what not, and during the playoffs, we'd practically drive to the ends of the earth. So, with an average mileage of 20 miles per trip, I drove approximately 83,500 business miles in my career.
And how many athletes did I cover? Football teams usually carry about 40 players, while baseball and softball teams have about 15 each and basketball teams have about 12 each. Add the minor sports, and take into account athletes who play multiple sports, let's say that's an average of 100 athletes per school. There are eight public schools in Davidson County, meaning there are 800 athletes per season. That's 24,000 athletes over 30 years. I know some athletes play two or three seasons in their careers, skewing the total a bit, but I have not taken into account the private schools, like Sheets Memorial, Union Grove or Westchester Academy, which also demanded our attention. But I'll downgrade that to about 20,000 athletes, which is probably a fair representation.
Holy smokes. No wonder I can't remember their names.