In 10 years working here at The Daily Record, I can truly say that parents of high school athletes never cease to amaze me.
As a young man walking out into the real world at 18, I was told that the retail industry was a tough world in which to make my way. Admittedly, now that I’ve had lots of experience as a retail manager, I can attest that it can be justifiable to push the worst-coined phrase ever, “The customer’s always right.”
But dealing with parents of athletes, well, that can be a little different. Mind you, I’m talking about a small, but very vocal, minority.
Common complaints are: misspelling an athlete’s name; not covering a certain game; or why their son/daughter isn’t getting their picture and/or name in the paper. Really, it never ends. The worst part is when parents, even if they do have a legitmate complaint and are paying customers, lose all reasoning and complain in a fashion you would never expect them to if they were talking to, say, the refrigerator repairman.
To clarify the readership on life inside the walls, here are just some of the reasons we make the occasional error.
1) Misspelling an athlete’s name — First and foremost, I do apologize to any parent that has had their child’s name misspelled in either the small game write-ups, the agate page (boxscores) or even a feature story. I have to ask those parents, however, to consider how many names I see in a span of three hours, while I’m taking down boxscore information, talking to coaches, and trying to keep up with the constantly ringing phone. It’s my job to know every one of the names — first and last — of what could be as many as 50o names. And then, I ask you to imagine the many ways to spell the same first name. The days of Tom and Dick, Jane and Ann — they’re mostly gone.
Try to keep these straight: The simple Jen, or Jenn, could also be Jeni, Jenny, Jenni, Jennifer, Jenifer, Jena, Jenna or Jeniver. Ashley, Ashli, Ashlee, AshLee; Derek, Derik, Derrick, Darik, Derreck; Conner, Connor, Konner, Konnor, Conor, Konor; Courtney, Cortney, Kourtney, Kortney, Courtnay, Kourtnay and, believe it or not, Qwartnee. There’s a half-dozen ways to spell Zach! (or is it Zack?)
2) Didn’t cover a certain game — Being a member of the press, I know how awesome it is to cover a thrilling event over a blowout. I just wish we had a crystal ball so we could show up to every major moment in local sports history. However, until technology makes that advancement, the best that we can do is just objectively try and take an educated guess on can’t-miss matchups, while at the same time ensuring that each school gets some coverage.
3) A bit of respect all around — When calling to make a complaint, I ask each parent or supporter of a school to remember to show yourself a little respect. Collect your thoughts first, and then when you call, be direct, but maintain the integrity of the conversation with respect for yourself and for the person on the other end.
Trust me, the writers inside these walls love their jobs, and probably feels worse than you do when they make a mistake. Because, after all, we’re paid to get it right.