Sports are on vacation, but I’m not.
My name is Lew Freedman, and I am the new sports editor for The Tribune.
This is not my first time in the neighborhood. I have maintained a home in the area for a decade, and in a long journalism career, I have written about Indiana high school sports, Indiana University, Butler basketball, the Pacers, the Colts, the Cincinnati Reds, the Kentucky Derby, the Indianapolis 500, the Brickyard in NASCAR, the NCAA Final Four, even Funny Car championships.
Don’t forget the outdoors, fishing, hunting, mountain climbing, the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race and I can offer tips for avoiding grizzly bear confrontations. I love rodeo.
My mental sports menu is a very broad and encompassing one. I have worked for the Chicago Tribune, Philadelphia Inquirer, Anchorage Daily News in Alaska, the Cody Enterprise in Wyoming and The Republic down the street in Columbus.
At times, I have been referred to as the king of offbeat sports. But I also enjoy writing about the offbeat period. I am the only journalist I know who covered the Jamaican bobsled team and the only Jamaican long-distance dog musher. I was present for a UFO Convention and the Miracle On Ice. I have covered politics and local government, events at minus-40 degrees and events at 130 degrees above.
I have attempted to watch basketball on television for 24 hours straight, raced bicycles, fell off a dogsled within five minutes of steering it, thrown darts and been skunked repeatedly for big fish (and caught some, too), but at this point, my best working muscle is my brain. Certainly not my knees.
My favorite stories are the ones no one else knows about or no one else does — your stories, the ones that go beyond the games themselves. Numbers matter, but people matter more. I want to understand the adversity they overcome that reveals character, what makes them tick.
The coronavirus has wiped the sports slate clean, and none of us can do anything about that, so we are in the midst of strange times if you love and follow sports, make a living from them or are just passionate about participating.
I have had some emails from friends lately telling me they watched classic games of the past. One talked about watching North Carolina State upset Houston for the 1983 NCAA men’s basketball championship. That’s not for me. I remember what happened.
The excitement in watching a sporting event is the lack of a script, waiting to see what unfolds. That’s one reason we love upsets, the reality of what plays out so different from what the majority expects. It is always fun when the underdog beats the favorite and the winners say they knew all along they could do it. Forget us dispassionate observers who were grounded in reality and refused to let our imaginations run wild.
A once-common phrase in American lexicon, applied mostly to boxing, surfaced when a contender or pretender to the title was said to have a puncher’s chance. If one thinks about it metaphorically, doesn’t that fit every underdog in every sport?
Sports has the power to uplift. If that seems so corny in 2020, then why do you watch Olympic handball? Most viewers only pay attention to selected sporting events once every four years, but their patriotism gets stirred by the red, white and blue because the athlete is one of us. Wait till next year.
There are major sporting events that draw mass in-person audiences and more massive on-television audiences. But I look forward to hearing stories from athletes with local ties who are special, who have had uncommon experiences competing or attending games.
I would like to hear your sports stories, from the games played long ago and why you remember them to family excursions that stick with you for good reason.
We may not be able to watch much sports these days, but we can still think about them.
Lew Freedman is the sports editor of The Tribune. He can be reached at [email protected] or 812-523-7076.