GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

July 13, 2013

Why Did My Newspaper Do That? When sports news transcends sports page coverage

Why Did My Newspaper Do That?
Ray Lamont

---- — We’ve seen a number of cases lately in which sports stories or stories about sports personalities have transcended their usual athletic worlds, and thus extended beyond the sports pages of air slots of various newspapers and other media outlets.

The most obvious of those, of course, is the chilling, ongoing story centering on the murder charges facing New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez, who is accused of killing a semipro football player near his North Attleboro home and, according to news reports, may be tied to two other slayings as well.

But you likely noticed we had a Page 1 story on a sports event last Monday as well, and it was a much more pleasant tale to tell.

Unlike other Page 1 sports stories in the past — which have usually spotlighted Gloucester or Cape Ann high school or youth teams winning sectional or state championships — this one didn’t showcase a player or coach from Cape Ann.

The story, accompanied by two Page 1 photos and backed up by a match story and other photos on our lead Sports page, told of the Manchester Athletic Club debut of the Boston Lobsters, who had won their World Team Tennis opener the night before over the New York Sportimes.

It also came a week after we had also showcased the Lobsters’ new season with Page 1 photos of the MAC’s new Norton Tennis Center stadium, which is serving as the team’s home. And I would not be surprised if we carry more occasional Page 1 coverage of the Lobsters as they continue their jam-packed schedule, having played last night in Sacramento, returning for home matches Sunday and Monday nights, and playing through July 24.

Are tennis matches worthy of Page 1 coverage? Why are we giving this team this level of attention. In other words, why did your community’s newspaper do that?

Because a lot of factors makes this team and its presence on Cape Ann this summer unique.

For starters, the Lobsters, are a major league team, the first to ever call Cape Ann home. Indeed, the Lobsters will feature their own captain, Mark Philippoussis, a 1998 U.S. Open finalist and 2003 runnerup, Sunday night and Monday, and the visiting Washington Kastles will be bringing multiple Grand Slam champion Martina Hingis when they visit the MAC and the Norton stadium Monday night.

But even beyond that, news-wise, is the residual attention and tourism dollars the Lobsters and the WTT can bring.

Granted, the WTT season runs for less than a month. And yes, the Manchester Athletic Club, as a U.S. Tennis Association regional training center, is already well known in New England tennis circles. But the presence of a professional team like the Lobsters — even though the team bears the name “Boston,” not Manchester of Cape Ann — should indeed bring added exposure to our region, and that will be well worth exploring as the season winds down.

Pro sports franchises — on any level, really — help bring exposure to host communities in all sorts of ways, through the listings of standings and results online and in newspapers around the country. And they can draw regional visitors as well through TV coverage and much more.

I can remember growing up in Pittsfield, where we regularly had minor league baseball teams that were farm teams, at various times, of the Red Sox, Texas Rangers, Chicago Cubs and New York Mets. I was amazed when I got to college and beyond how many people from around the country had heard of our relative small Western Massachusetts city for that very reason. And that type of publicity can bring other economic benefits to local restaurants and other services.

Will the Lobsters’ short season as Cape Ann’s latest full-fledged visitor attraction have that type of impact? It’s probably too early to tell. But the team’s very presence here — win or lose — is worth following, and not just from a traditional sports standpoint. It’s one that deserves occasional Page 1 attention.

As always, let me know what you think.

Questions? Comments? Is there a topic you’d like to see addressed in a future column? Contact Times Editor Ray Lamont at 978-283-7000, x3432, or at rlamont@gloucestertimes.com.