I’ve been busy working so far this fall, if you call getting out once a week busy. So if you’re interested in what I’ve been doing, plunge in for some navel-gazing.

I’ve covered four football games, a county championship tennis match, and am set to cover both tennis and football again this week.

Three of the four weeks I’ve covered football, I’ve followed the same team, WHS. They were expected to be quite good this year, but the first two games I saw they lost. One was a beat-down that was over early. The other was a heart-breaker in which they made some big plays late to take a lead, then lost in the final minute. Fortunately the coach is a bit of a talker so I had lots of his words to build my stories around.

I covered the same team again this past weekend, this time against a big county rival in a game played at Lucas Oil Stadium. It was my second game in Lucas, but it was still super-cool to be sitting in the same pressbox that, a week earlier, the New York media had assembled in to watch the Colts blast the Giants.

This time, WHS won easily. I was responsible for covering both teams, though, so after talking to the happy WHS coach, I had to go interview the losing coach, who lost his best player for the game on the opening kickoff.

Generally when we cover Saturday games, the stories are more about the state of the team(s) than the game itself. On Fridays I try to crank out 450-500 words that give the readers a feel of what happened, what the key plays were, and which players had big nights. On Saturdays, I condense what happened in the game to a paragraph or two, then try to put the game in context.

In this case, there are three weeks left in the regular season, and WHS has now won three-in-a-row. So I wrote about how they were still in position to win their conference, how they were becoming a team that could be a tough match-up in sectionals, etc. I’ve done that before, but it was much easier this time, having seen them play twice before and the coach knowing me. It’s egotistical and dumb, but I do get a kick out of a coach I’ve interviewed before giving other reporters a few courtesy comments, then greeting me warmly and going into a longer interview.

Another bonus for covering a game played at Lucas is there are official stats handed out each quarter. So rather than do my usual frantic collecting of play-by-play details, I could sit back and watch the game. I spent the first half in the pressbox, and went down on the field for the second half. The roof and the north end wall was open, so a nice breeze was blwoing through. Despite being (mostly) inside, it was a great day for football.

So that was fun. It was a four-game event, and after I completed my interviews I stuck around to watch the night-cap, a big Catholic game between my wife’s high school, CHS, and their traditional rival. The rival has fallen off a lot over the past few years, and S’s alma mater is very good, so it was a pounding. CHS scored 21 quick points and I called it a night. In the 10-15 minutes it took me to walk to my car, CHS scored another 14 points. It ended up being 41-0 at the half, and 41-10 at the end. We cover the team that lost, and I was very glad I didn’t have to stick around to interview their coach.

The one week I didn’t cover WHS, I covered a 3A school, IHS, that is also quite good. They pounded their opponent behind a number of big plays. That was an easy story to write, as well. I will be covering them again this week as they travel to face a conference opponent. This foe isn’t very good, but it’s always tough to win on the road. IHS is 5-1 and they face two more teams that are currently 5-1 before sectionals. This is an important week for them.

I’ve not been to the smallest school we cover, the team that’s won one game in the past seven years, but IHS’ field and press box we the smallest I’ve been to so far. The press box literally swayed as fans filed to their seats before the game and at halftime. It doesn’t inspire a great deal of confidence.

The most interesting thing about that game was how the opposing team had a broadcast team in the press box. There aren’t a whole lot of small schools that broadcast road games, but technology has made it much easier to do so. The broadcast team was a man and his wife. The man handled all the on-air responsibilities, with his wife serving as his producer. He had a simple USB microphone jacked into a 10″ netbook that was, in turn, tethered to his wife’s Blackberry. That obviously piped their signal back to a radio station somewhere which relayed the signal out to the county. But I couldn’t help but sit there and think about the pirate radio possibilities for simply shooting a radio station’s signal out of a laptop.

This is the first year I’ve covered football weekly. In the past I only did a game or two as the paper needed me. But this year I’ve jumped up to the regular rotation. I think that shows in my stories. As I did last year with basketball, I think I finally have my in-game stats system down so I can do it without thinking. That gives me more time to get a feel for what’s going on on the field, think about how to build my story, etc. Thus, when the game is over, I just sit down and write. The first two weeks, I had my stories in 45 and 30 minutes before deadline. Week three took a bit longer, because it was homecoming and featured two passing teams that stopped the clock a lot, but my story was still in at 10:20. To put that in perspective, the first two times I did Friday night games, I got my stories filed in the last five minutes before deadline. I think I’m both a better and more efficient writer this season.

So that’s football. The other fall sports are beginning to wrap up their seasons. Tennis sectionals start this week. I’m slated to cover a first-round match on Wednesday. Soccer will hit their playoffs in two weeks. Since I’m working most Fridays, I don’t know that I’ll cover as much soccer as I did the last two seasons. But I imagine I’ll get out and see a game or two, depending on how deep the county teams make it in the playoffs.