By Tim Chambers
I’ve been a sportswriter in some capacity for almost 20 years and I’ve seen the good side of it and the bad. I have a ton of respect for many of my colleagues who write sports, but a few often miss the boat.
The recent 2016 football All-State selections left me puzzled to say the least.
You sometimes have a few deserving players omitted from the elite teams but that usually doesn’t happen when they put up record breaking numbers that stack up statewide among the elite.
Happy Valley’s senior linebacker Austin Hicks and Hampton’s Adam McClain were snubbed by the TSWA after being left off the 2016 2-A squad.
Hicks amassed 170 tackles, six sacks, and four fumble recoveries as a linebacker. He also scored 14 touchdowns and ran for 840 yards, leading his team to a 10-2 overall record and a second round playoff berth.
McClain rushed for 2149 and averaged a whopping 10.1 yards per carry. He scored 29 touchdowns, 22 two-point conversions for a total of 220 points. That was tops for this area.
Can somebody tell me why these two kids that not only excel on the football field but in the classroom as well were left off this year’s squad? What were the criteria for getting selected? Have the writers in Middle and West Tennessee ever seen these two kids play or heard their names mentioned?
The answer is no to all the above for many of the writers who selected these teams. But they didn’t leave out Northeast Tennessee. We had six players representing Carter County selected.
But here is my beef about the whole process.
The number of writers in Middle and West Tennessee far outnumber the ones in East and Northeast Tennessee. Trust me, it does make a difference during the voting. It’s been like that for years. The writers from the middle and west areas never see the East players perform unless it is in a playoff game or at the state tournament level.
Here is a perfect example.
I saw a kid make All State in basketball that averaged six points per game for the season because he played lights out during the state tournament and his team won the championship. In return, a four-year starter that averaged 15 points, five assists and four steals during the season got left off that same team who was very deserving.
Now comes the part where we ruffle a few feathers.
Many writers have never played sports and some wouldn’t know a chop block from a chop steak, but a few have prevailed in the profession.
It’s hard to write about something or understand it if you’ve never played the game. That doesn’t mean that you had to be a great player to write about the sport but you must be a follower. And post season honors can’t be just about numbers. You have to take into consideration who these numbers were put up against and what type of competition it came against.
Finally the TSWA is a small fraternity that hands out its yearly awards and state honors to those who support it. I got out of it years ago when I learned of a local writer that cost three deserving kids from up here All State honors in one sport so that he could get one on from the area that he was covering. It‘s been going on for years and it still is.
Congratulations to all the players who were selected. You deserved it. But the system has to improve.
I suggest forming a committee of eight writers to represent each area (Northeast Tennessee included) to sit down and evaluate each nominee. Look at stats but also look at the whole picture.
Somebody will always be omitted when the numbers are pretty well even.
But it shouldn’t have happened to Hicks and McClain.
Tim Chambers is the sports editor at the Tomahawk. He can be emailed at [email protected]