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An illustrative story on the importance of free food at athletic events [Column]

BY DEWEY FOX, dfox@theaegis.com

12:23 PM EST, November 14, 2013

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For a sports reporter, I've written an awful lot about food in this column over the years.

I'm pretty sure I wrote an entire piece about how well the LPGA fed us journalists at the McDonald's Championship Tournament back when it was held at Bulle Rock Golf Course in Havre de Grace. I probably also spent too much writing about the spread laid out in the press/tournament official's room at UMBC during the MPSSAA girls basketball state championship games. These things are important to me because, though this might be shocking to some of you, news writers don't make a whole lot of money, and I like to eat for free when I can. If I were in some other industry, one where writers on the move are handed expense accounts and petty cash, I'd stop and treat myself to a sub at Wawa, or something equally extravagant. As it is, I depend on the generosity and logistical expertise of tournament organizers to maybe get a turkey sandwich and a can of diet cola (Seriously, if anyone looking at this page right now is a bigwig at a beverage or vending company, know this: Dozens and dozens of people in Harford County read my column every week, so an endorsement deal in which I get a few free cases of diet soda every month could be mutually beneficial. Think about it).

Besides the LPGA Championship, which now, sadly, is played at Locust Hill Country Club in upstate New York, and the girls basketball state finals, another place I'm always sure to find some gratis grub is at Washington College in the press box at Kibler Field during the MPSSAA field hockey finals. Since the championship games moved from Broadneck High across the Chesapeake Bay to Chestertown five years ago, the organizers have seen fit to feed everyone with a press badge, and for that I'm thankful. When it became clear that two local teams were going to be playing in separate field hockey finals last Saturday, I was ecstatic. In my mind, it was going to be a nice drive up the Eastern Shore, a steady Internet connection, all the diet soda and single-serving bags of potato chips I could eat and, most importantly, the two teams I was going there to cover, Patterson Mill and C. Milton Wright, were going to win Maryland championship trophies. I was sure of it.

What made me so confident that I'd be writing a pair of state championship articles was just how dominant the two teams looked in the semifinals. CMW, playing in the 3A semifinal against Huntingtown, probably had possession of the ball for 85 percent of the contest, and thought they didn't score in the first half, a three-goal blitz in the second half secured them a spot in the title game. I didn't think for one second that Huntingtown was going to win that game, even in the first half. In the 1A semifinals, Patterson Mill got a goal in the first 20 seconds from Linnea Gonzales, and went on to drop Southern Anne Arundel, 6-2. Much as CMW owned the 3A game, I didn't think Southern had a prayer against Patterson Mill. I thought I was looking at two future champs, but it turns out I was only half right, or something, it gets a little confusing if you keep reading.

Twenty four hours before I was to pack up and drive to Washington College for the state finals, I was informed that, because of the gaggle of soccer state semifinals going on the same day, someone from a sister newspaper was going to cover the 3A field hockey title game for us, while I would take off after the 1A final and head over to Bel Air for Fallston's 2A boys soccer matchup with South Carroll.

So, I'd only get to cover one local team winning a state championship, which was a little disappointing, but still, as I've pointed out before, I haven't seen any team other than Fallston win a Maryland field hockey crown, so one would be okay. It turns out Patterson Mill's opponent in the 1A final, North Carroll, had other plans. In one of the saddest finishes to any game I've ever covered, North Carroll scored the game-winning goal, five minutes into sudden death overtime, to send Patterson Mill home with a 3-2 loss. I interviewed Gonzales for about 15 seconds after the game, but didn't have the heart to try and talk with anyone else because they all looked so crestfallen.

Later Saturday evening, CMW defeated Mt. Hebron, 3-2, in the 3A final, but, as I explained, I was on the other side of the bay at Bel Air covering the 2A boys soccer semifinal (Fallston won that game in dramatic fashion, by the way, beating Southern, 2-1, in double overtime). I'd gone from covering two state champs in one day, to none. I think this is just a good illustration of how quickly our plans can become unraveled.

Well done, Huskies. I really thought you were going to win that game, and I hope you come back next year with fire in your bellies. Well done, Mustangs. I hope you come back next year and I can hang around to watch you win another title, and get more free food.