On Oct. 20, during the Sharks vs. Nashville game, the team hosted its third annual High School Writers Day for aspiring journalists in the Bay Area.
Established to provide insight to students interested in a career in sports journalism, High School Writers Day gives participants the opportunity to experience a day in the life of a sports reporter. In the end, Ivy Nguyen from Milpitas High School was selected as the winner. Below is her essay:
Alright, I admit it: the October 20th game versus Nashville was my very first game at the Shark Tank. This was not my first time watching the Sharks play, mind you— the opportunity (which, to this penniless teen, means affordable tickets) just never presented itself. Imagine, then, how excited I was to participate in High School Writers Day, hosted by the San Jose Sharks. The best place to wet my journalistic feet, after all, is in Shark infested waters.
At the start of that evening, the ten of us were ushered into the pressroom by Fan Development Coordinator Jeff Cafuir. Not wanting to be exposed as a fraud, I nervously tried to hide my inexperience, but soon settled down to enjoy the good life of sports journalism, starting with a heaping plate of fried chicken, the first of many awesome meals that night.
Following dinner, we met San Jose Mercury News Sharks beat writer David Pollak, who shared the ups and downs of his journalistic experience. This is his first year as the Sharks beat writer, and though he enjoys working with the team, he said the constant travel was grueling.
Limited to covering school sports, I could hardly believe Pollak when he admitted that his job was hard; it was only later in the press box, where I saw for myself the manic speed at which those writers worked to meet their deadlines, that I could digest how truly trying this career might be. It quickly became no mystery why caffeine flowed so freely and hotdogs disappeared so quickly up there.
Though we paled at the grim reality behind the glamour of sports writing, Pollak understood that his honesty would be no use in providing him with job security. When asked what keeps him in the business, he told us that it was his love of the game, its fans, and writing.
“You still have to retain a passion for telling stories,” Pollak said. That passion, Dave, is something all of us present had plenty of.
Cafuir then led us on a tour of the lower HP Pavilion, past the locker rooms and through the Sharks office, ending behind the goal to watch the players warm up. I gazed up at the cathedral-like view, the scoreboard and shark head soaring gloriously above—that is, until the sudden thud of a puck striking the plexiglass sent me ducking. My fellow writers agreed: the speed of these collisions always lends renewed appreciation for the injuries that a hockey player receives. Yikes.
It was nearing game time, so we headed up to the press box. Walking through the lobby, I felt the energy spike as thousands of fans pressed forward, as eager to reach their seats as I was to get to mine.
Upon reaching the press box, Cafuir gave us a quick tour of the area. I grabbed a soda, ready to get comfortable, but I had acted too soon. Grinning, Cafuir announced that our own press box was waiting for us—on the other side of the catwalk!
Gulping, we inched our way across the three-foot-wide walkway suspended high above the rink. Halfway across the catwalk I tripped, having made the deadly misjudgment that I could handle two-inch heels. Latching onto the railing just in time, I stared down at the black and teal sea below, wondering if Sharkie would come to my funeral. A Sharks fan—not to mention a journalist— is tough, however, so I continued on, determined that my career would not end yet.
Somehow we made it to the other side, just in time for the lights to dim and the pre-game show to start. Then the puck was dropped, and we settled in to watch the game.
Pollak had reminded us that, as journalists, we should always maintain the distinction between objectivity and supporting our team. That turned out to be much harder than it sounded. Tempted to join in on the cheering, we had to force ourselves to stay calm in order to remain professional and because we were unsure of how stable the platform we stood on was. The Sharks didn’t need our help, however: after a nail biter of a game, they emerged victorious.
Throughout the game, I noticed that biggest difference between watching from home and watching at HP Pavilion is the fans. I confess that I enjoyed watching them as much as I enjoyed watching the game itself—they groaned in pain with each shot missed and shook the rafters with their cheers. Following a game on TV or on the radio could never compare to seeing the action up close: the Sharks supply one half of the action and the fans the other. And one day, I told myself, I’ll be the writer who, like Pollak, maintains that connection.
To end the night, we conducted a post-game interview with center Joe Pavelski. He commented on the success of this game and shared our hopes for a Stanley Cup win in the near future.
Now that it’s over, I’m glad to have waited this long. Though I did not grow up attending these games, at least I’ll never forget my very first time at HP Pavilion. And years from now, though my memory will be blurred by more players, more fans, more games, and more Stanley Cup wins than we’ll all know what to do with, this night is one that I’ll always remember.
If you would like more information about High School Writers Day, please contact Jeff Cafuir at email@example.com
To read about past High School Writers Day events, click here