If you looked outside Monday morning after Sunday’s winter-style snow storm dumped a few inches of snow on us, the next sentence may make even more sense …
Anaconda may as well be Siberia for its athletes.
Anaconda is often forgotten about by people not living here; unless you are taking advantage of the Old Works, throwing back an after-shifter at Club Moderne or any number of popular watering holes around town or coming to town for one of the big athletic events such as Goosetown or the Wayne Estes basketball tournament, that is.
The people who should be paying attention to the Smelter City and aren’t are the media outlets, primarily The Montana Standard. And I’m fed up.
If the faith I had in that paper wasn’t totally destroyed when they let go of former sports editor Bruce Sayler a year ago, it is now.
For example last week, AHS senior Mia Estes not only broke her school-record javelin throw of 137-0 by a remarkable distance of 6-feet, 10-inches for 143-10 (a story I did in a matter of minutes here), she also climbed into the top four nationally for her feat in the event. NATIONALLY! And not one word was uttered about her achievement.
I was humbled by Estes to know I was one of the first people she called after her accomplishment, because she knew how much I relish this sort of achievement on any playing field for Copperhead athletes. And why did she know this? Because I’ve showed my care year-in and year-out.
For example, what I’ve always done is make such an accomplishment a big deal in print. From my days at The Anaconda Leader and now at KANA 580 AM, I won’t let them fall through the cracks of anonymity. As media members, it’s important we applaud all local athletes. But in certain circumstances, such as a school record, unique accomplishment, feature story for a standout athlete or even signing a letter of intent to continue playing at the collegiate level, I’ve always made it a special occasion. Usually a lunch followed by some casual questions was my way of showing them how much I – and the city of Anaconda for that matter – care about them as Copperheads.
But from that Thursday afternoon until now, not one word had been written in our areas most prevalent daily newspaper based in Butte about Estes’ accomplishments (here’s that BS story with quotes from Dillon’s head track and field coach Tammy Meyers, who by the way isn’t responsible for speaking about other athletes, especially since she was worried about running the meet). However, Slim Kimmel of the Billings Gazette sure seemed to think it was newsworthy (post here). And even when The Standard and Gazette are managed by the same company, Lee Enterprises, Butte still can’t pick up and run with the small story published in Friday’s online edition (when, actually, that’s what they do with every other publication in order to fill the empty space continuously popping up in that paper). Then on Saturday, when Estes trumped her Thursday throw with an unbelievable toss of 146-3 at the Belgrade Invitational, the Standard ran a BS recap that didn’t even mention Estes as a winner from their local readership (that story here). That she beat one of her closest competitors in Class A from Sidney by some 18 feet should have been one indication, however the writer chose to disregard her achievement as non-newsworthy even as a basic recap?
In the days of social media, it’s so simple to get in touch with a prep athlete. A private message on Facebook or Twitter usually gets returned in a matter of minutes – so even when deadlines are looming, it’s relatively simple to get in touch with a certain individual with little to no effort. Plus, in the case of Estes who is still looking for attention in terms of recruiting for a possible collegiate career, it’s rare these athletes won’t give you a minute of their time even if it’s by text message. In fact, they are seeking it out in order to help get the word out.
This all goes back to football season as well. A couple deserving Copperheads were lost to most of the area readership, and the state for that matter, because their accomplishments weren’t important enough to follow (I made mention of that on my blog here). I will say I can sort of understand that instance because of the great success of Butte High, but still, if you’re looking at filling a local paper, I think you can cut the regional sports stories in lieu of covering more of the prep beat.
When guys like Bill Foley, Pat Ryan and even Carl Hennell – all under the leadership of Sayler, by the way – were at the Standard, the local prep athletes were the focus. You never saw one be sacrificed to the news of some obscure first-round 68 shot by Buster Cherry at the Turn ‘Em and Burn ‘Em Crematories Invitational in Hell, Alabama. However, it’s all you read now. Well that and whatever the Missoulian, Gazette or Helena IR send over. If I’m a guy like Bill Speltz or Fritz Neighbor of the Missoulian or Greg Rachac, Mike Scherting and Kimmel of the Gazette, I’m calling for a raise, especially since not only are they writing for their own newspapers, evidently they are producing great content, albeit regurgitated and often published several days after the original release, for The Standard as well.
Now, there’s no reason to even pick up that paper if you are looking for prep stories about Butte area teams and individuals. Why? Because you can get more content and more in depth looks at all of your Butte sports at buttesports.com - and you can get unlimited page views unlike at The Standard Web site. Foley is making sure his kids are being taken care of.
It’s why I’m doing my best to get the word out about the Mia Esteses of the world here on my blog, then posting it on Twitter and throughout Facebook on my page along with others dedicated to Anacondans.
I may not reach as many people as the Montana Standard (yet), but give me time. You may not like my stance on certain issues, but there’s no way you can question my love of Copperhead athletics. And if it’s the likes of Alan Dale that I’m competing with, there’s no way I can fail.
With all do respect to Dale, he hasn’t been on the beat long. And who knows what the higher-ups are telling him. Even though I doubt management is telling him, “don’t go out and find interesting human-interest pieces, especially if they are from Anaconda,” but you never know. We Anacondans aren’t near the athletes that are running rampant in the Midwest like Mr. Dale is used to coaching or covering, thus probably pretty uninteresting – insert sarcastic duh-duh-chhhh drum roll right about …. NOW.
As for Estes, she’s doing just fine. Her recruiting is being ramped up and I’m pleased to say that, after sharing my blog post with the likes of Kimmel, Fritz Neighbor at the Missoulian and both Montana and Montana State, she’s getting the recognition a quality young woman and overachieving student-athlete should.
And it’s even more gratifying seeing her exposure rise without the help of an organization that dared to “fire” a man like Sayler - a guy who never in a million years would have let such a great story fall through the cracks.