I took journalism my freshman year in high school. I had big dreams of being a reporter - notebook and pencil in hand, I would go to the scene of breaking news, collect information, and craft a well-written hard hitting piece. With my name on it of course.
One of my classmates was writing articles for our local give-away newspaper. The paper needed someone to cover high-school football games. My friend recommended me for the job.
There was a hitch. I didn't really know anything about football.
I knew that one side tried to move the ball by either running it or throwing it. The other side tried to stop them. A touchdown was worth 6 points and a field goal was 3 points. The finer points of the game were lost on me. I didn't know what the positions were other than the quarterback. I couldn't tell a linebacker from defensive back. I wasn't off to a good start.
I told my dad I was going to be writing about a football game. He replied, "You don't know anything about football." This time, he was right.
I looked up "football" in my handy encyclopedia. I might as well have been reading Latin.
My first game as a sportswriter was away for a non-league showdown. I rode to the game on the bus with the players. Our coach was an old-school son of New Mexico coal miners. The players wore their helmets in the bus.
Anyway, during the game I tried to take as many notes as possible. I just wrote down player numbers in the hope I would be able to match them to a name later. After the game (a loss for our team) I went home and wrote up the game. When I called the editor at the paper and read the article to him, he was underwhelmed.
Not surprisingly, he found someone else to cover the next game.
I still don't know much about football.