this story on high school football in this month's issue of Charlotte Magazine, as if I had worked some sort of black magic to do it. There are, by my account, at least 22 people mentioned in it, not including the players on the field. Many are not named, because they came within earshot in a flash, then left just as quickly. Most play a supporting role. But they all have something to add.
For weeks, I looked for a school with a good story. I heard about superfans and great players and good programs, but none combined all three. Ira Cronin, my co-worker at NewsChannel 36, recommended the South Point Red Raiders. I'm glad he did.
I did the story by showing up early, staying late, hustling and listening, mostly. My girlfriend (who didn't realized what she was in for) came with me, and she helped fill in the gaps. She saw and heard two kids making out in the concession line. And yes, officer, she was the one who saw the little girls staring awestruck at the cheerleaders in the women's restroom. At other times, I just turned to her and asked "What did I miss?" She took it from there.
We got there at 3:30 in the afternoon, four hours before kickoff. Scott Van Pelt drove us around on a cart and gave us a complete tour and complete history of South Point football. Then, we walked. We walked around the stadium. Around the parking lot. Up the road. We stumbled upon the tailgate party at the tennis courts. We happened upon conversations. We talked to fans who were there hours early.
Coach John Devine graciously let me into the locker room. I recorded the speech and wrote notes for 20 straight minutes. In the stands, I listened for the two loudest fans, Denise Cope and Brandon Guffie, then talked to them at halftime. And I wandered up to the press box in the second half to listen in on the banter there.
I wrote down everything I saw and heard. I took pictures (for my own recollection, not the ones in the magazine. Those ones are from the talented Peter Taylor). I followed the action on the field the entire way. I filled up nearly half of my reporter's notebook in seven hours. In short, I tried to be everywhere at once, listening for people who were telling the story. Then I wrote it down.
In short, I emulated Michael Kruse, who did this for a great story on NASCAR which also appeared in Charlotte Magazine. It ran for 5,000 words. He, however, conducted no interviews. He read a lot. Then he listened to everything. Looked at everything. Then he wrote.
Me, I just tried my best. It had been at least nine years since I went to a high school football game, so I probably saw more than I would have if I had been going every week. I wrote a lot. Then a few days later, I read my notes. I listened to interviews I recorded. Then I listened again. Then I re-read the notes. I waited until my head was back at that game. Then I started typing.
Hope you like the result.