A sportswriting memory, or: The day a team’s fans told the world I stink. And David Letterman, readying for a ride into the sunset

I had the great pleasure on Friday of speaking to a bunch of Long Island 8th graders, at their middle school’s career day (a good friend asked me to do it; she’s a guidance counselor at the school).

I love doing this kind of stuff, because I know how boring most kids find school, I know it breaks up their day and also, because just maybe, once in a while it inspires a kid to become a lawyer or a doctor or, in my case, a journalist.

Anyway, I got to telling the kids about being a writer, and about some of the great and not-so-great experiences I had, and told them the following story which I love to think about every now and then but have never shared here, a story which always makes my Dad smile:

In 2004 I was the beat writer for the Adironack IceHawks minor league hockey team, for the Glens Falls (N.Y.) Post-Star. The IceHawks played in what was the equivalent of AA ball, and in many ways their roster was the typical minor-league team: There were a few on-the-rise legit prospects (one guy I covered, Pierre-Luc LeBlond, actually made the NHL for a while), a few on-the-way-down ex-NHL guys, and then a whole bunch of middle of the road, mediocre players who were just playing for the love of the game, and still had at least some skill left.

Anyway, one thing that made the IceHawks interesting was their fans. Specifically, the fans in Section H of the Glens Falls Civic Center. These two dozen or so guys were the hardcore hockey fans; they knew everything about the team, the opposing players, the referees, everyone. They’d make signs taunting the visiting team, mostly crude signs but nothing too X-rated. Sometimes they were clever, and I knew a few of the guys because the fan base wasn’t exactly huge.

Anyway, one day during a bad losing streak I wrote a column and ripped the IceHawks a new one. I don’t think anything I said was unfair, and really, it wasn’t all that harsh, but this was a small town and the fans weren’t used to hearing a local team get criticized too much.

I didn’t get too much feedback from it the next day, just the typical “you’re the hometown paper, you’re supposed to root for our teams” nonsense you always get a little bit of.

Anyway, I was excited the next day because my father had driven up to Glens Falls for a visit. He’d never seen an IceHawks game, and was excited to come into the press box to “see me work.”

And so before that night’s game we walk up to the press box and look around the arena, and what do I see in Section H?

MikeLewisStinks.IceHawks

I was shocked for a minute. Then started laughing, and laughing, and laughing. I was more flattered than insulted; hey, they took the time to spell my name right!

And during the second period, there was this one, which I may have enjoyed even more…

Michael Pucks

Again: My DAD was at the game! He asked if this was a regular thing. I sadly had to tell him, no, it wasn’t.

And come on, I’m worth more than a few pucks! At least throw in some gloves, a pair of skates, and a few sticks!

I thought the whole thing was hilarious, and a sign I was doing a good job. Why? Because those guys got angry at what I’d written, and if they were that mad that they had to tell 5,000 people in an arena about it (OK, probably only 2,500 there that night), that meant I’d stirred them up. They were mad at me, but it’s way better than if they didn’t read me or ignored me.

And for the record? I gave those Section H guys a big thumbs-up in the next column.

LETTERMAN-slide-KIIK-videoSixteenByNine1050

**Finally today, we’re just three weeks away from the end of the David Letterman era of late-night television; since the early 1980s Dave has entertained millions of us, and with his last show coming up on May 20, the usually press-shy Dave sat down for a fantastic and revealing interview with Dave Itzkoff of the New York Times.

Among the highlights, and I highly recommend checking out the whole story here:

— On retirement: “I’ll miss it desperately. One of two things: There will be reasonable, adult acceptance of transition. Or I will turn to a life of crime.”

— On his strange, different style he brought to late night: “I never knew if the stupider things we did or the more traditional things we did would work. I didn’t know if the stupid stuff would alienate people. And then, when I look back on it now, of course the answer is, you want to do the weird thing.”

— On his rivalry with Jay Leno: “I think people were curious to see what will happen? And we prevailed for a while, and I lost my way a little bit. Quite a little bit. “People just liked watching his show more than they liked watching my show.”

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One response to “A sportswriting memory, or: The day a team’s fans told the world I stink. And David Letterman, readying for a ride into the sunset

  1. That was a pretty cool thing he said about Leno. But I do wonder if he really holds any animosity towards Leno. Before Leno got the tonight show gig he was on Letterman a lot.

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