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Sports comment: Markiewicz did more than win games

If Chuck Markiewicz had decided to retire as head football coach of the Arundel football team 10 years ago, he could have walked away quietly. No doubt, he would have received well-deserved words of support as he ran into members of the community and those who he coached and worked with over his more than three decades as a head coach.

But this is 2018. As news of Markiewicz stepping down last week became public, social media was flooded with expressions of thanks and best wishes for a man who impacted so many lives, including those who he never even coached.

Web click stats and social media engagement have become more important than circulation numbers for newspapers across the country. As such, we monitor those numbers on a daily, if not hourly, basis. It’s no longer enough to just file a story at any time during the day and wait for reaction once it’s read in next day’s newspaper. Once a story is broken and confirmed, something needs to go online. As more details and reaction become available, that story is updated throughout the day, with hopes that as many eyes as possible see it.

As is customary in our line of work, once a reporter learns of a big story such as the retirement of the winningest football coach in the county, that news is confirmed and a tweet is sent out alerting all of that reporter’s followers. That’s not just our way of taking credit for breaking the story and getting the word out, but also a way to let our followers know we’re working on a story and we hope they’ll check our website soon for a story.

Once Markiewicz stepping down was confirmed last week, a tweet was sent out with the announcement. While that tweet was by far at the top of the list for engagements on my Twitter feed in the last month, it was retweeted more than 100 times. While the engagement on Twitter was far more than most tweets regarding a game, it’s what was said by those who chose to respond that speaks volumes about Markiewicz.

More than one of the comments came from a competing coach who remembered how Markiewicz made it a point to go over and congratulate their team after defeating Arundel in a playoff game, and in at least one case a state final. That was something I saw firsthand when Markiewicz stepped in on an interview with Annapolis coach Nick Good-Malloy and congratulated the Panthers’ leader after they had just beaten Arundel for the first time since 2001.

From, “One of Maryland’s best! Good luck to Coach,” to a simple, “Wow. Congrats to a legend on a great career,” it was hard to find anyone who had anything negative to say about Markiewicz.

What was even more impressive was the outpouring of support on Markiewicz’s personal Facebook page. These weren’t just the customary ‘Congrats, good luck’ posts, but more personal notes to Markiewicz about how he touched their lives in some way.

More than one person wrote about how Markiewicz taught them the rule, ‘To be early is to be on time, to be on time is to be late and to be late is to be forgotten,’ while another thanked the coach for showing concern for his son who was injured in a game against Arundel. Another came from a former manager who told Markiewicz he is the reason she is working in sports today, saying he always pushed her to be the best, took a chance on her and allowed her to be a football manager.

Perhaps the best message came from Arundel principal Gina Davenport via a press release and a message on her personal Facebook page. While Ms. Davenport claimed, “The newspapers will give you the exceptional stats of Chuck’s amazing career, the sports reporters leave out the most important contributions,” she was able to eloquently express her gratitude for what Markiewicz accomplished outside of wins and losses.

“He coached young men. Character was as important to Chuck and his staff as first downs. As an administrator I always appreciated his approach to his athletes,” Ms. Davenport wrote. “He taught his players that wearing Wildcat Kelly Green was a privilege, one he held until he graduated from Arundel in 1973. He held his kids to the highest of standards. Parents knew that he always had the boys' best interested at heart.”

She went on to mention how Markiewicz helped raise money for the Special Olympics of Maryland by challenging his students to raise a certain amount of money. The challenge was met by his students and Markiewicz kept his word and ran into the Chesapeake Bay 24 times in 24 hours as part of the Polar Bear Plunge.

Chesapeake, Meade, North County and Arundel were all fortunate to have Markiewicz as a part of their football programs. We have all been fortunate to have interacted with him in any way over the years and look forward to following him at his next endeavor at Archbishop Spalding.

The story on Markiewicz retiring was also one of our most-read stories on our website, so we thank him for that as well.

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