This job isn’t all fun and games

There’s an adage that gets tossed around press row every once in a while — everybody wants to be a sportswriter until the game ends and it’s time to go write the story.

You won’t find me complaining much, if ever, about my job. But it does involve more than just “watching games all the time.”

And I’m not talking about covering games, writing about the games and then designing pages for the sports section. That’s all part of the deal and comes with the territory, as do the complaints you hear every now and then.

But there are times when the job of covering sports just isn’t fun. Not at all.

And on Monday, this job wasn’t fun.

It was on Monday evening that I learned that Bill Wyrick had been fired from his position as Western Harnett head football coach.

For some people, such news came as little surprise, given that the Eagles have lost 23 straight games and had a winless season in 2007 for the second consecutive year.

But most of the people who read the story in Tuesday’s edition of The Sanford Herald didn’t deal with Wyrick on a weekly basis.

I did, and I had to call him on his cell phone on Monday night to confirm the rumor. It’s my job.

When I reached Wyrick the first time, I interrupted him while he was out having dinner. How’s that? People hate to hear their cell phone ring at dinner all the time. Just imagine it coming while you’re having dinner after losing your job, only to glance down at the caller ID and recognize the local newspaper’s number, the same number you have answered every week during the fall sports season for the last seven years.

Wyrick, classy as always, let me know that he would call me back. Less than an hour later, he held true to his word and was as candid as ever.

Though Wyrick was perfectly cordial (as always) and willing to talk as long as I needed him (as always), this still wasn’t the easiest phone call to make. Knowing that he and his wife had purchased a new home seven months ago made it even more difficult. Sure, Wyrick can keep his teaching position at Western, so it’s not a total loss, just one that he’ll be reminded of every day he goes to work should he choose to stay.

Wyrick will likely catch on somewhere and could find a head coaching job soon. Of course, he’ll want to find something within driving distance with the new home and all, and that will limit his options. It’s quite a spot to find yourself in.

But he is the second-winningest coach at a program that doesn’t even have 100 victories in its 30-year history. And while that may not say much on the surface, only two men have ever won with any sort of consistency in the history of Western Harnett football. Wyrick’s teams won at least seven games three times and went to the playoffs in each of those seasons, sharing a league title once.

But after the school was split following the opening of nearby Overhills in 2004, Eagles’ sports have struggled across the board. With a huge chunk of its enrollment gone, the football program, the one sport that needs the most numbers, suffered the most.

It’s hard to argue a case that’s strongest point deals with a lengthy losing streak. But in the end, this is still — brace yourself — just high school football we’re talking about. This isn’t Division-1 college football or the NFL. Here, winning shouldn’t mean everything.

Helping mold young men to become quality representatives in society is the main goal — or at least it should be — and any player willing to follow Wyrick’s lead in how to handle himself would be way ahead in that game.

Often, though, that’s not enough. And it’s why this job isn’t always the most fun thing in the world to do.

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6 Comments

Filed under Sports columns

6 responses to “This job isn’t all fun and games

  1. Your comment:

    “Helping mold young men to become quality representatives in society is the main goal ”

    is right to the point, and so often forgotten as one of the cornerstones of sports.

    Winning teaches quite a lot. Preparing to win, striving to win, regardless of the outcome, teach so much more.

    Well written.

  2. jonbowens

    I worked with Alex and Wyrick for two years before moving to news at the Herald last year, and I can attest to everything he said about the coach.
    In a somewhat economically depressed region, Wyrick made those kids feel like someone believed in them, at least from what I saw.
    And his job has been almost impossible since Overhills opened. Imagine taking a 3-A school (more than 1,200 students) out of a high school, then expecting them to win in anything. It’s simple economics. It’s just not going to happen. Look at what has happened at Lee County High School with the opening of Southern.
    Wyrick knew the game better than any coach I ever talked to during those two years. On game preview interviews, he would tell me not only what his team would try to do, but why they planned to do it in intricate detail. And his historical knowledge of the game, coming from the high school football hotbed of Ohio, was second-to-none.
    I wish him all the best and am confident that he will land on his feet, probably in a more promising situation than he had at Western. And nobody will ever be more of an Eagle than he was and still is.

  3. Tommy Gunn

    High school sports are better off with people like Bill Wyrick involved.

  4. jonbowens

    God don’t make no junk

  5. Jon Hockaday

    Great article. I also have had the pleasure to work with Bill Wyrick through my capacity as sports broadcaster for WFJA radio in Sanford and have covered quite a few games when the Eagles have played Lee County. Even though Bill always knew my loyalties were for the Yellow Jackets, no coach treated me with more respect and has been more accomodating than Bill Wyrick in my 16 years of broadcasting. These things (firings) unfortunately happen and there’s no doubt Bill will be back in coaching soon and will be successful.

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