Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

April 21, 2013

HOPKINS: Putting aside a bitter rivalry

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Lockport Union-Sun & Journal

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — “Man, it doesn’t matter what sport it is, it’s always fun to beat Boston.”

I laughed good and hard when my brother-in-law made that comment about 10 years ago. Laughed, because I fully understood.

My two favorite sports teams are the New York Rangers and Yankees. The same goes for my brother-in-law. We HATE the Bruins and the Red Sox. He’s also a Giants fan. Neither one of us care much for basketball, but we’ll cheer for the Knicks any day over the Celtics. To put it bluntly, when it comes to sports, we hate Boston.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t have respect for Boston. When the Red Sox — ugh — became the first team in Major League Baseball history to come back from a 3-0 series deficit to beat the Yankees 4-3, I had to tip my cap to them. They went on to win their first World Series in 86 years and, again, I had to salute them. They broke their jinx by winning in the most improbable way.

My heart has been going out to Boston since Monday afternoon. The images of bombs going off at the end of the Boston Marathon remain fresh in everyone’s minds. At the same time, I knew, like New York City in 2001, the citizens of Boston would endure.

The images in the following days were very telling of what I’d expect from Boston and beyond.

Emergency personnel immediately rushing to the scene. Looks of shock, horror and concern from spectators and athletes.

Acts of unity from across the country. Even the Yankees put aside their differences, playing Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” — a staple at Red Sox games — between innings, the fans at Yankee Stadium singing along. A special logo featuring the Yankees and Red Sox within a ribbon was created.

And that’s how it should be.

When put to the test, humanity prevails.

There will be plenty of time to resume the fierce rivalry. In the mean time, God bless Boston.

•••

And now for something a little lighter.

Sometimes it pays to have a dirty mind. But sometimes it can backfire.

I have a dirty mind. A speaker at a newspaper convention I attended several years ago said it pays to have a dirty mind in this business. More on that in a minute.

As I said, I do indeed have a dirty mind. It comes from watching Benny Hill with my dad when I was in elementary school, and being introduced to Monty Python in sixth grade. Throw in Sunday nights from junior high through high school listening to Dr. Demento on the radio and you have a recipe for one twisted individual. Innuendos? I can go toe-to-toe with the best of them.

So, how does this help in the newspaper business? It helps you look for things that were innocently written, but could be construed as perverted.

For example, after Tiger Woods’ first round at a golf tournament after his personal affairs became public knowledge, the Associated Press story carried this headline: “Tiger starts year with a 69.”

Very innocent. Or it could have been tongue-in-cheek. One thing was for sure: Anyone with even the slightest dirty mind will recognize what’s wrong with that headline.

For those of you who don’t know, ask someone of whom you can ask anything. Be prepared to blush. Brightly. It was clear that I wasn’t going to let that headline run in the Tonawanda News, where I was working at the time.

That brings us to an item last week. When reporters enter their stories into the main computer, they give it a name that’s known in the newspaper industry as a “story slug.” For example, I slugged this column “hopkins column 042113.” Our main front page story in today’s paper is slugged “monkey business.” Short, easy to remember and to identify.

About 10 days ago, reporter Joe Olenick listened in on a conference call about the safety status of dams across the state. It was hosted by Senator Chuck Schumer. Joe slugged the story “dam schumer.” I announced, loudly, in the newsroom that I thoroughly enjoyed Joe’s story slug. “That’s what I say about every politician,” I said.

That became a joke in the newsroom for the rest of the day. Dam this. Dam that. “Hey, Joe, are you done with that dam story?” You get the idea.

Imagine my horror when I picked up the US&J the next day when, on the left side of the front page I saw a teaser (a photo and caption referring to a story inside) called “Needs Fixing,” alluding to the Schumer story. The caption read, “Sen. Chuck Schumer says New York damns are in need of repair.”

That’ll learn me. And I said something much stronger than “dam.”

I sincerely apologize to anyone who took offense to that front page mishap.