You ever have one of those projects that turns into another thing that ends up in a deep dive of something beyond what you initially started?
That happened to me when it came to putting together something special for the Battle of the Ax. The year was 2008 and the rivalry between Sherman and Denison was about to celebrate the 100th meeting. Big deal for everyone involved — Bearcats, Yellow Jackets and the sports department here at the paper. Anniversaries tend be celebrated and this was a centennial!
So I had a bright idea. Why not put together the top 10 games out of the first 99 as part of the coverage for No. 100? There were a couple of obvious ones just by looking at the scores. But there were others that needed to be pulled up on the ol’ microfilm archives.
I didn’t know which 10 games would make the cut. But I did know one which would be somewhere on the list: the first one.
So I went back and pulled up the edition from 1906 and looked at the first game ever played between Sherman and Denison. Or, as I was about to find, was believed to be the first meeting, because there was one in 1905.
And once I found that there was another game, the reporter gene kicked in. I had to go back and look at 1904 and found three more. And then a game in 1903. And then two more in 1902 and three more in 1901.
They played at different times of the year — once it could be in August. The next time in December. One of the 1902 games was on Thanksgiving. They played on different days. One year was a Tuesday. The next could be a Wednesday. There was no University Interscholastic League then to regulate these types of things.
The other problem was there wasn’t a story with a big headline and picture like you saw in this year’s season opener. It might be two paragraphs somewhere among the pages. There was no true sports section; the information was scattered somewhere.
So in order to make sure I didn’t miss one. I had to look at everything, on every page, in every edition, from August 1 to the first week of January. I went back all the way to 1897. It was a painstaking process. If you added up the hours, it was easily a couple week’s worth of them. And in the end, the Battle of the Ax got bigger, jumping from No. 100 to 110 with the writing of the article.
Some people weren’t happy because it ruined the notion of celebrating the 100th anniversary. Sometimes, as the line from “The Man Who Shot Liberty Vance” goes — “When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.” Of course no one truly knows the exact number of Ax games. Fires destroyed records from a couple of years back then. These could be all of them, a list that now sits at 121. Or, there could be another, or two, or three.
That brings me to the changes we have recently undergone here at the paper. Though we have switched to mail delivery and an earlier press time, when it comes to the Herald Democrat, you can always find something out there if you look for it.
It might take time and effort beyond getting something in the next day’s edition. (The most up-to-date information is available to all our subscribers at http://www.HeraldDemocrat.com.)
In my case with the Battle of the Ax, finding accurate information information took a while. But, boy was it worth it.
Happy birthday to Jeffie New of Sherman; Parker Taraba of Bells; and Julie Selby of Kingston, Oklahoma.
Happy anniversary to Randy and Janann Hefner of Denison, 4 years.