Tales from the Beat: A rushing addition after an inadvertent subtraction

By Sara Welch | Staff Writer Published:

By Sara Welch | Staff Writer

Many things can be uncertain in sports coverage, making any given night more of a challenge and causing the margin of error to be greater.

Oddly enough, the night I made my biggest miscalculation, everything went according to plan.

I covered the Garfield vs. Champion non-conference football game midway through last September.

The field was soggy and I remember that it rained on and off, but I wore my Chuck Taylors to tackle the muddy conditions and brought an umbrella to shield my stat sheets.

The game wasn’t running behind, it didn’t go into overtime, there were no delays, and both coaches were available for interviews directly after the game.

Most Friday nights — at the end of summer and through fall — result in a battle with the weather or a race to beat deadline. Delays in games and rushing to complete a story can easily cause a mistake. The funny thing is, neither factor played a role in the oversight I submitted in both the boxscore and my game story that night.

The game had a clear winner the entire night. The G-Men were unable to defend the Golden Flashes’ run game. Incidentally, Champion defeated Garfield 49-19. Right away, I knew my story would focus on this point.

I reported that the Golden Flashes held the G-Men to just 15 yards of rushing offense on 23 carries, sacking their quarterback five times for a total loss of 39 yards.

This information was correct.

I then got to the bulk of my game story and reported Champion’s rushing yards totaled 305 on 54 carries, averaging 5.6 yards per carry. The statistic makes sense, but it was off by 100 yards of rushing offense. I’m not sure if anyone other than me noticed the mistake. 

After the game, Garfield’s head coach commented that Champion “came off the ball and punched us in the mouth every time.”

Looking back at the truth of that statement, I think that’s what covered up the inaccuracy in the total I had. The actual total was such an excessive number that 100 yards less still seemed like a lot of yards gained on the ground for a high school football game.

I didn’t even realize I made the mistake until the following afternoon when I was compiling individual rushing statistics for the R-C’s special Sunday edition high school football coverage Extra Points.

I totaled the numbers for Champion’s quarterback at 21 carries for 166 yards, a running back at 99 yards on eight carries, and another RB at 95 yards on 17 carries.

It’s easy to see how I discovered I calculated something wrong somewhere.

I went back to my stat sheets from the night before to review my addition. I found the mistake at the top of the second column. I dropped exactly 100 yards from my total at the bottom of the first column and tacked on the remaining numbers to get a total of 305.

It wasn’t inaccurate numbers or even an inability to add, just a simple oversight moving from one column to the next that caused the error. I’m happy to correctly report that last football season Champion managed 405 yards on the ground in 54 carries, averaging 7.5 yards a carry.

Or as the Garfield coach said, a punch in the mouth every time.

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