Von Pinnon: The real March Madness happens in a newspaper's sports department
March Madness is an overused term for winter tournament season.
But it’s appropriate for those who work in our sports and photo departments.
Consider an 11-day stretch this month for Forum Sports Editor Kevin Schnepf.
On Tuesday, March 10, he drove to Sioux Falls to help cover that night’s NDSU win over South Dakota State to advance the Bison to the NCAA Division I men’s basketball tournament. He drove home after writing a column, arriving back in Fargo just before 3 a.m.
The next day, he was in the office before noon, writing a column related to the Minnesota state boys basketball tournament, which started that day in Minneapolis.
On Thursday, March 12, he wrote a column from the North Dakota Class A boys and girls state basketball tournaments starting that day in Fargo.
The next day, he wrote a column about an area player in the NCAA Division II Central Region men’s basketball tournament in Sioux Falls, which featured the MSUM Dragons.
On Saturday, March 14, he wrote a column from the North Dakota Class A Girls Basketball Tournament at the Fargodome.
The next day, he wrote a couple stories and a column from the party for the Bison men’s basketball team’s entrance into the NCAA Tournament.
That Monday, he organized his sports staff for the week ahead while helping make arrangements to cover the Bison in Seattle and a possible Dragons Central Region championship game in Sioux Falls.
The Dragons won that Monday night, so Schnepf drove to Sioux Falls on that Tuesday to cover the game that sent MSUM to the Division II Elite Eight.
After filing his column just before midnight, Schnepf, photographer David Samson and MSUM beat reporter Eric Peterson drove from Sioux Falls back to Fargo. Peterson dropped off Schnepf at Fargo’s airport in the middle of the night so Schnepf and NDSU beat writer Jeff Kolpack could catch a 6 a.m. flight to Seattle to cover NDSU in the Big Dance.
Schnepf and Kolpack wrote a dozen stories over four days while in Seattle.
When NDSU lost just over a week ago, it ended a grueling 11-day stretch for Schnepf.
But he’s just one person in our nine-person Sports department and four-person photo department, and his experience is not unique by any means, especially during tournament times.
This March for our sports and photo teams was unprecedented. The NDSU men’s basketball team played in two post-season tournaments, both on the road. MSUM men’s basketball team played in three post-season tournaments, all three on the road.
Fargo hosted the NCAA West Region men’s hockey tournament. Fargo also hosted North Dakota high school winter tournaments for wrestling, boys and girls hockey and Class A boys and girls basketball.
You’d think having such tournaments close to home would be easier on us, but it also comes with greater pressure, as we always want our coverage to wow visiting teams and fans.
One of the big challenges for us is being on the border of two states. We cover both Minnesota and North Dakota high school sports, which means we have twice as many games and tournaments as most news agencies, as well as double the travel.
We are lucky to work for a company that wants the best for its readers, so they support all the travel costs we incur covering sports.
We also occasionally produce special sports sections, which allow businesses to show their support for area teams but also helps us better cover those teams.
Winning teams often achieve their goals through hard work, dedication and a strong support system.
The same can be said of a strong Sports department.