Extra Points: Touching base on the local sports scene

A little more than 30 years ago, I walked through the doors at the Bangor Daily News on 491 Main Street relishing the opportunity to be part of the newspaper’s sports staff.

“It’s a great job,” BDN Executive Sports Editor Bud Leavitt said to me during a brief job interview via phone a month earlier.

He was right.

Covering the highlights and lowlights of the state’s local sports scene has been challenging, invigorating and enjoyable.

Throughout many changes in local sports and the newspaper business, one thing has remained the same: I’ve been fortunate to work with an outstanding group of writers and editors.

Assistant sports editor Pete Warner stands out in that group and I’m looking forward to embarking on a new journey with him with the launch of our blog, “Extra Points.”

We want to offer readers our observations, analysis and commentary on the evolving local sports scene.

As an example, one thing that has improved over the years in high school sports has been sportsmanship.

The receptions we received in some towns when I played high school basketball at Stearns High School in Millinocket in the mid-1970s could be a bit intimidating.

After a game in Presque Isle during the 1975-76 season, our bus pulled alongside the local McDonald’s and our coach instructed us to get our food to go. While most of us were back on the bus, a few cars passed by and their occupants threw snowballs and beer cans at the bus while yelling some not-so-nice words.

Wow, I thought, I wonder what they would have done if we had won the game.

The next season we did win and stopped to eat at the McDonald’s in Houlton.

To be fair to other towns, much of the treatment Stearns’ teams received on the road was reciprocal as Millinocket was one of the toughest towns to play a game. A student section at “The Pit,” the gym at the old Stearns High School, was appropriately named “The Zoo” and the old adage of a homecourt being a 10-point advantage for the home team was true in Millinocket.

Education is often the cure for our society’s shortcomings and this has proven to be the case for improving sportsmanship in high school athletics over the years. Coaches, teachers, and administrators have worked hard to make players and spectators understand the importance of ethical conduct and respect for opponents.

The Maine Principals’ Association, the governing body for the state’s high school sports, now has several pamphlets available for schools to use to promote sportsmanship. The MPA has also undertaken a highly successful sportsmanship awards program and has compiled an Interscholastic Code of Ethics for its member schools to follow.

In the weeks ahead, Pete and I will be walking out the doors of 491 Main Street to the BDN’s new offices in downtown Bangor where we will endeavor to offer our readers more anecdotes, observations and analysis of the local sports scene.

Joe McLaughlin

About Joe McLaughlin

McLaughlin (right) is a Stearns High School and University of Maine graduate who worked for three years at the Aroostook Republican and News in Caribou as a reporter and editor. He has worked on the BDN sports desk for 30 years, the last 18 as sports editor. McLaughlin and his wife, Kathy Schwigan, live in Brewer and have three adult children: Ryan, Matthew and Tess.