Dear CIAC: Help us to help you

Imagine if during an episode of Law & Order, Jack McCoy is rolling through a pithy cross examination when Carl the Custodian barges in and says, "wrap it up, Counselor. The courtroom closes in five minutes."

Or if a teacher gets an abrupt two-minute warning in the middle of a lesson about the Gettysburg Address. The poor kids would leave the classroom thinking it opens, "four years ago, the score was seven to four."

Now you know what it's like to cover high school sports in Connecticut at tournament time.

For the last 20 years, I've tried to be professional. I've tried to enlist the help of the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference, the state's governing body of high school athletics, begging its officials to include the media in their instructions to site directors.

Keep the press box open one hour after the game ends.

Let us do our jobs.

When we get to do our jobs in a professional setting, the quality and legitimacy of your product is enhanced to kids, parents, coaches and even potential sponsors.

And for 20 years, I have been ignored.

Take, for example, this spring. My friend Jim Fuller at the New Haven Register wasn't done with postgame interviews after a lacrosse match at Brien McMahon last week when he was summoned to the press box to remove his belongings and leave. Closing time. Don't let the doorknob leave a lasting impression.

Rich Elliott of the Connecticut Post didn't merely get tossed early from Sage Park in Berlin. They turned the lights out on him. Real class outfit there.

It's happened to most of us. If I had a crumb for every time I've been tossed from a facility early - and while on deadline - I'd have a dozen bran muffins by now. I've filed stories from my car, park benches, restaurants, gin mills and once in a parking lot stealing some poor slob's wireless.

I've had enough.

The revolution begins next fall. If and when I am assigned to a state tournament game in any sport, I will ask: Is the press box/gym/facility open for one hour after the game? If I get the hint of even a quizzical look, I am leaving.

Then I will tell the story in print.

And on the radio.

And on television.

And when all the aggrieved parents inquire why we are forsaking their children - and they will - my response will be as follows:

"Call Dr. Karissa Niehoff, the executive director of CAS-CIAC. Her office number is 203-250-1111. Ask her. Ask her why media members in our state get the lights turned out on them. I've been asking for 20 years myself."

If I thought anyone else in our state had the guts to do the same - actually leave the site - I'd invite them to do so. I doubt it would happen. They'd get in trouble. The problem with our business sometimes is that the people who assign stories have no idea what's required to actually write them and file them. So they wouldn't get it.

But I get it.

I understand that the media's job is counterintuitive: when the game ends and everyone else is leaving, our jobs are just beginning. And so I have asked repeatedly: Make assisting the media a part of the requirement for hosting a neutral site game.

This really only applies to the semifinals and finals, a handful of sites. Hire a liaison between the media and site directors to reinforce the day of the game what's required: One hour's time to work and functional electrical outlets. That's it.

I asked two site directors last week if the media was discussed at any point during preparations. Both said no.

Sort of makes you want to break into Chicago:

Does anybody really know what time is?

Does anybody really care?

And let me just repeat this to the population that doesn't care about the media's whims: When we get to do our jobs in the professional setting, the quality and legitimacy of your product is enhanced to kids, parents, coaches and even potential sponsors.

That bears some significance.

Or maybe not.

Not in this state.

This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro.


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