Yes It’s True: Elderly banker helped get the sports scoop

Perhaps one of my greatest fears throughout life is being caught flat-footed when significant changes have occurred in our lives. I really do lose sleep when I come to the realization that something that used to be so commonplace in days gone by no longer exists.

You know the drill. Many years ago I became painfully aware that I had to pump my own gas because the station attendant was being replaced by self serve. I learned that the milkman no longer would visit the home to drop off and take glass milk bottles.

I was sad more recently when the local Harding’s Market caved into the trend of self-service checkout lanes, which I very rarely use because, “sorry… I don’t work here.”

Closer to my life, I have been sad to watch helplessly as print newspapers slowly fade into the sunset, replaced by visual media that relies heavily and consistently on selling you something rather than giving you the news.

To be sure, you must heed the warnings from Charles Darwin, who suggested those who survive aren’t the smartest and strongest, but those able to adapt to changing conditions.

This somehow caused me to have a reverie about a practice from 40-some years ago in the business of sports writing. When I started as sports editor in 1976 at the six days a week small daily, the Albion Evening Recorder, I was introduced to a dinosaur of a man named Wayne Van Patten. He was a banker who lived in Jonesville who in his prep days was a track and football star. Somehow he came up with the notion of providing a valuable service for all newspapers that covered the Big Eight Conference.

The Big Eight included Class C and D schools Springport, Concord, Homer, Jonesville, Quincy, Athens, Union City and Reading. Van Patten every Friday night and occasionally on other weeknights would call appropriate nearby newspapers, the Albion Evening Recorder, the Marshall Evening Chronicle, the Battle Creek Enquirer and News and the Jackson Citizen Patriot with a comprehensive statistical roundup of the night’s action.

The Recorder covered Springport, Concord and Homer besides Albion High School and Albion College.

I personally found this to be a terrific service because chasing coaches right after ballgames for information was a more than daunting task that I have given up now for years. A lot of coaches will give you great cooperation on information when they win… but when they lose… not so much.

So Wayne Van Patten, this elderly gentleman with a distinctive and calm voice would greet the likes of me with his classic, “Got some scores for ya!”

Because of his efforts, these small schools were covered well in cross country, football, basketball, track and baseball. And over the years I became familiar with the players, Brian AcMoody, Tom Buettgenbach, Breck Bussing, Mike Jurasek, Tony Lusk, Lynwood Leightner and the list goes on…

“What foolishness now in the twilight of my autumn.”

I remember it fondly because of an elderly kind man who really didn’t need the extra money, but believed the people in the communities with eight small schools deserved to know what their local teams were doing, win or lose.

Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be important any more.

Consider this a fond remembrance and tip of the hat to Wayne Van Patten, whom I am almost certain has passed on since. Because of him, the world was a little better place.

1 Comment

  • We have indeed, moved from anticipating the arrival off the evening news paper, to grabbing information in 60 second sound “bites”! We nibble a little on this channel / web site, nibble little there. We have become a people for whom instant coffee is too slow! We ingest it right from the jar as heating up water takes too long. So it is with some sports news…don’t want the whole story, takes too long, just a “bite”. What was the final score????

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