Living in the Digital Age has doubtless made most of our lives a little easier, or at least it's made my job less complicated. As a police and fire reporter in the early 2000s, before text messaging had taken hold, before social media had shown up on the scene and before a lot of people were comfortable communicating on anything but a land-line telephone, I spent several hundred hours with a phone receiver jammed between my shoulder and head, scribbling notes as the details of accidents and crimes were relayed to me. I had to listen very closely, because, at least in my experience, cops don't like repeating themselves, and getting names mixed up when writing a crime story is a good way to get sued.
Now, as a sports reporter a decade later, most of the information I need from coaches is either texted or e-mailed to me. When I get back to my computer on a game nights, my inbox is usually heavier by eight or 10 messages. When I need to put together pre-season team previews, I don't have to spend hours on the phone, spelling out names phonetically (A as in Adam, D as in David), because the coaches relay all that information to through the magic of the Internet. It is nice, but recently technology has failed me and some of the Harford County athletes I deal with.
In case number one, the Fallston softball team's coaching staff sent its preview information to me via e-mail two weeks ago. Last Wednesday night, about 16 hours before the softball preview was due, I started plugging in all the data that I had received, including Fallston's, and the preview was completed. I went to bed happy that I'd turned something in earlier than five minutes before deadline. Easy enough, except that on Friday afternoon I got an e-mail from a parent asking why Jessica Moore, a senior who has been on the Fallston varsity team since her freshman year, was not included in the preview. I scrambled back through my inbox and found the e-mail, saying to myself, "her name wasn't in there, right? You'd have seen it if it was." Wrong. The e-mail's text, though it looked normal on first inspection, included Moore's name, but it had been pushed all the way to the side of the page. As a reporter, I should have been more careful, but I'm going to blame the oversight on technology. Jessica, I'm sorry your name was left out.
Case two involves the athletes selected for The Aegis All-Harford winter sports teams, who were having their photographs taken at our office this week and last. Now, The Aegis' office building is easy to drive past. Where our old building over on South Hays Street had a giant sign on its front wall, our new digs on North Main Street has a small placard that's partially obscured by a tree. When All-Harford team members enter the lobby of our building looking frazzled, I just assume that they drove by the building and had to loop back around. But, as was explained to me by some of the athletes and their parents, some people seeking our office were guided to the our old building because of . . . the Internet. It seems Google Maps, at least on some computers and phones, identifies the now vacant Hays Street building as The Aegis, so people wind up there, wondering why the parking lot is empty. Lest it seem like I'm calling people dumb for getting lost or using the Internet for directions, let me say that I have the worst sense of direction in the world, and if it weren't for Google Maps I'd still be circling Howard County looking for the 2007 3A North boys basketball regional title game.
In tying this to sports on a more than tangential level, I'd say this: Use the Internet as a tool, but do not let it replace the real experience. Just as people have been tricked into driving to The Aegis' old office building, a lot of us have been tricked into thinking we can live our entire lives on a computer or phone. Watching the highlight reel from a state championship game on youtube.com is fine, but it's not the same as being there. Get out of the house, folks, and stop texting while driving.