Opinion, Sports

An objective lens

likemike_bigIt’s an age-old adage in the world of sports journalism: There’s no cheering in the press box. But although it may be embarrassing to admit, I—and other sportswriters—often fall short in that regard.

Sometimes, when you’re a beat writer for a particular team, you can develop personal connections with players and coaches, often making it tough to abide by journalism’s golden rule of remaining objective. It’s only natural.

Sometimes, however, our intentions are a bit more selfish.

On Monday night, two of our local teams, New Rochelle and Mamaroneck, squared off in the Class AA boys soccer quarterfinals for what might have been the best game—regardless of the sport—of the fall season.

No matter what the final score read, it would mean that one of the Review’s teams would be moving on to the semifinals and another would be going home, but that didn’t mean that I was exactly neutral.

Alex Alma celebrates a goal in the 69th minute of a Oct. 24 Class AA quarterfinal game against New Rochelle. Sports Editor Mike Smith was hoping to make the shot a front page tease, but New Rochelle had other ideas. Photo/Mike Smith
Alex Alma celebrates a goal in the 69th minute of a Oct. 24 Class AA quarterfinal game against New Rochelle. Sports Editor Mike Smith was hoping to make the shot a front page tease, but New Rochelle had other ideas. Photo/Mike Smith

I was rooting for the Tigers; not because of any particular allegiance to the top-ranked team in New York state, but because of a photograph. Yes, a photograph.

With 11 minutes to play, Mamaroneck was trailing 1-0 when Alex Alma tied the game on a flawlessly executed header. The crowd went nuts and Alma, flanked by two of his teammates, roared up the sidelines with his arms outstretched to egg on the Tiger faithful.

I’m not going to lie, I just happened to be in the right place at the right time, but as Alma ran towards me, I snapped a few quick shots, then looked at the results; this was going to be one heck of a front page photo, for sure.

All I needed was Mamaroneck to hang on for the win.

In that moment, I stopped being an objective viewer and started imagining clever headlines for the Mamaroneck paper; I had something about “Tigers roaring” lined up and ready to go—admittedly, the front page tease is not a strength of mine.

In 2014, I won a New York Press Association award for a similar photograph, a full-page image of Rye Neck shortstop Chris Cascione raising his hands in victory following the final out of the section championship game. I’m not going to say that my shot of Alma was a shoe-in to get me some more hardware from the NYPA, but it’s only human nature to wonder “what if?”

As it turned out, however, it wasn’t meant to be.

Regulation and two overtime periods ended with the teams locked at 1-1, moving the game into penalty kicks. The Huguenots scored the huge upset on the strength of a Felipe Tobon goal, and while I was disappointed to see my hopes of a huge front page photo vanish, I couldn’t help but think that from a narrative standpoint, a New Rochelle victory made for a better story; namely, the plucky underdogs shocking the overwhelming Class AA favorites for a thrilling, emotional win.

Now, with the Huguenots set to take on Scarsdale in the semis, I can root, without trepidation, for the purple and white to continue to win and make a bid for a sectional title.

I just hope that when the Huguenots score a big goal, they don’t forget to run right to the cameras.

I’m still trying to get that front page spot.

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