I cut my teeth as a sports reporter working at a weekly newspaper on a small Hawaiian island called Molokai.
It is the birthplace of the hula and home to the highest sea-cliffs in the world.
During my time there, I met all sorts of people while covering many different sports. But there is one person who stands out for me, the high school girls’ assistant basketball coach, an obsessive in-your-face maniac.
The word competitive comes up monumentally short when describing this man.
He yells things like, “Only cheat if you won’t get caught!” at his players from the sideline.
He once screamed a lecture at them until 2 a.m. after a loss, prompting go-nowhere discussions from parents … He’s quite intimidating.
I should know, I was loudly ostracized by him in front of a bleacher full of people. Afterwards he refused to talk to me, convinced the head coach to follow suit, and banned his players from interviews.
The situation was rectified by a subhead in my next article that read: Coaches refuse to speak to press, ban players from talking with media. (I was the only sports media on the island.)
Let’s just say, the coaches received an earful from the community over that.
A couple days later, I was leaving the community gymnasium alone late at night when I heard him call my name. I turned to see him walking towards me with a baseball bat.
“I want you to take down that game footage,” he said.
“It was my editor’s idea — he wrote it!” I protested, missing what he said. “…Sorry, what?”
Turns out he was just playing softball and was in good spirits.
He never mentioned my article but told me to take footage of his team’s last basketball game off my newspaper’s website, saying that other teams could gain an unfair advantage by watching it.
The lousy dink eventually took it up with my publisher after I said whatever I needed to get away from the bat-wielding psycho. My publisher calmly told him that the people on the island like the footage, the players like the footage, and the exposure might help a player get a scholarship someday.
I didn’t really buy the last part at the time, but that is the way things are going in the wide world of sports.
Not only is YouTube good for watching music videos and people putting Mentos in bottles of diet cola (hilarious!) — it’s turning out to be a great source for sports action.
Among YouTube’s 83.4 million videos are a massive amount of sports related clips ranging from little league footage to highlight reels of professional sports.
With its easy access, YouTube’s vast spectrum of sports clips is not only changing how people watch sports, but how people know sports.
Now, if an athlete catches your interest and you want to know more about him/her, you’re potentially just a few clicks away from a collection of highlights and interviews.
However, considering that many of the most watched sports clips are blooper reels, some say this is bad for the world of sports.
Those people are dumb.
One of the positive things YouTube has done is evened the playing field for scouts. Now, teams and schools can scout athletes, for example, while lying naked in bed eating Cheeze Whiz.
The schools and teams without the big bucks, who can’t afford to send out dozens of scouts to track talent, can now view almost any hot prospect from anywhere.
If you search the name Noel Devine at YouTube, you’ll get to watch a highlight reel of this young man playing high school football that helped him get noticed by West Virginia University, where he now studies.
The man who made the compilation, Derek Williams, offers this well crafted description with the video.
“This guy is too insane, either he’s playing against retards or he is the next LaDanian Tomlinson or Reggie Bush.”
YouTube has even left its mark in Beijing.
After Canada’s Dylan Armstrong finished fourth in men’s shot put at the Games, Athletics Canada was compelled to review footage of the event when a flurry of YouTube viewers complained that Armstrong’s final throw was measured incorrectly and he deserved the bronze.
Turns out they hadn’t a clue what they were talking about, but the fact that they were spurred into action by YouTube — and listened to — says a lot.
Yet, what may be most interesting about YouTube’s affect on sports is how they are covered, or should I say, who covers them.
Kige Ramsey is a 21-year-old student from Russellville, Kentucky, who has developed a cult following as a sports commentator on YouTube.
With 113,131 viewers (including 1,294 subscribers), Ramsey has already been given radio spots and hopes to someday have a nationally syndicated sports show on the radio.
Going further down this path, YouTube will be launching a channel dedicated to fantasy football this fall — coinciding with the real life season — in which amateurs can submit commentaries to be judged by viewers.
Those with the best viewership will earn regular spots on the channel, potentially launching them into stardom like that fat kid with less co-ordination than a one-eyed wino, pretending to be a Jedi Knight with a light sabre.
As for the blooper watching argument, the critics do have a point since the number one sports clip on YouTube is a collection of soccer bloopers that has had 16.8 million hits.
But bloopers are as much a part of sports as great performances; they’re just at the other end of the spectrum.
Besides, any attention paid to a sport that is not outright negative can’t be all bad.