There's drama on and off the field
Rita Papazian
Norwalk-Citizen News
Published: Dec 9, 2010

I mentioned the other day to someone that I have gotten in the habit of turning first to the sports pages when I pick up the New York Times from my driveway.

"Yeah, it's like a soap opera," came the reply.

I never thought about it that way, but that is exactly true. It's not that I ever got into the habit of watching soap operas as a good journalist friend of mine does; she even writes a blog for her newspaper about the soaps. For me, it's the human drama that attracts me to the sports pages. You'd be surprised how many articles in the sports pages deal with the human drama.

What could be more dramatic than the news that literally has been jumping off the sports pages the past week?

Who exactly was that guy sporting a hobo bandana with a blond-spiked wig attached "rappelling" down the side of the Landmark Building in Stamford? For those fans so engrossed in Derek Jeter's contract negotiations, that folks was Darien resident and Yankee General Manager Brian Cashman who days later donned an elf outfit to do his part in helping Stamford celebrate the holidays as he rappelled 21 stories (350 feet) down the city's second tallest building.

While Cashman did practice "runs," so to speak, scaling down the building this past week, leading up to the big show last Sunday, he and Yankee ownership were anteing up their contract offer to Jeter.

Human drama continued in the courtroom this week with Mets' closer Francisco Rodriguez pleading guilty to attempted assault on his girlfriend's father. It continues as women seem to be focused on the length of New England Patriot quarterback Tom Brady's hair; whether Cliff Lee will sign with the Yankees, despite his wife's comments about New York fans; Joe Girardi's Good Samaritan act when he stopped to help out at a car accident on a New York parkway some months ago or his family's challenge with his father, who has Alzheimer's. Then there's the San Francisco Giants' pitcher Tim Lincecum and how his father trained him to be the star pitcher he is today.

Of course, the most significant sports story for us here in Connecticut is our favorite soap opera starring UConn Coach Geno Auriemma and the women's basketball team who are heading toward shattering the 88-game winning streak set by UCLA's men's basketball team. This week Time magazine put a spotlight on Auriemma, who it describes as an "exploding volcano...cocksure Italian immigrant from blue collar Philadelphia...the country's highest profile defender of women's sports." The UConn women's basketball team has won seven national championships and can reach the sports milestone if it beats Florida State Dec. 21. Days ago, the team won its 86th game, with the team's Maya Moore breaking the team's scoring record of 2,346 set by Tina Charles. Moore's tally stands at 2,355 with a great part of the season still ahead.

These are not just stories about winning and losing, but the human drama behind the scores. For example, I recommend reading "Geno: In Pursuit of Perfection," written by Auriemma with sports writer Jackie MacMullan. That book presents the human side of sports in the way Auriemma offers his philosophy not only about the game but also about the recruiting process. He finds it very important to visit the homes of the prospective players to see how they interact with their families. This, he believes, is an indication of how they will interact with their teammates.

One of my most memorable experiences as a journalist was the time I went up to UConn campus and interviewed Auriemma after the Lady Huskies had won a national championship. Auriemma sat with me for over an hour fielding my questions as he signed basketballs. He then walked onto the basketball court where my photographer took photos to accompany my Q & A article. I will never forget the time he spent with me so I could write this article for a monthly women's newspaper for which I was its editor.

As the soap operas continue to disappear from our TV screens we can still indulge in a favorite pastime of watching other people's triumphs and tragedies.

Rita Papazian is a freelance writer who has covered Norwalk extensively. She can be reached at .

Copyright 2010 Rita Papazian All rights reserved.