It's a sad day for many at the Washington Times who are losing their jobs as part of that paper's massive restructuring. While I wish the paper's ownership would, as my dad likes to say, "take a long walk on a short pier," we should all lament the loss of its sports section.
In particular, we're losing soccer coverage from the classy John Haydon.
I got my start covering soccer back in 2001 when I started the OnTheSidelines blog. When I started it, I meant for it to aggregate the soccer coverage in the D.C. and Richmond areas from the likes of the Post, Times, Times-Dispatch and others as a way to keep track of the professional, minor league and college teams in the Mid-Atlantic.
Shortly after starting the blog, I got an e-mail from Mark Bushman, who had his own soccer TV show and was writing about soccer too, asking if I would want a credential to cover the Richmond Kickers, and shortly thereafter, the then-WUSA's Washington Freedom and DC United.
Having fancied myself a sportswriter my entire life, I jumped at the opportunity. In all my dealings with everyone, from front office personnel and team staff, to the many journalists I crossed paths with, I was treated with nothing but respect, kindness and professionalism. And one of the first to welcome me was Ken Wright, who at the time was covering both the Freedom and United for the Times.
Mostly I sat back and listened to him – and other reporters – as they shared stories about soccer, and journalism.
Ken made sure I got a front row seat in many press boxes – at Freedom matches everyone did.
I met up with him in Philadelphia for the Freedom's playoff game, and then, after making the trek from the D.C. suburbs to Atlanta for the WUSA final, Ken squeezed me in with the other mainstream reporters and even got me an interview with the league commissioner.
We shared a few rides after that to Freedom and United games. Later, after he left the beat, I got to know John more, and while with differing personalities, found him to be a knowledgeable person about soccer, and an all-around classy person.
Through others, I've known other Times' sportswriters to be similar, and reading their sports section on a regular basis alongside that of the Post – several of its writers I've met and appreciate greatly also – it was a lively read and I learned a lot (I should note, too, that there have been many journalists I've met in many press boxes who have been nothing but gracious with their time and feedback.).
I think it's a good thing to have a diversity in coverage and a diversity of opinions. I think that's what made for that lively Times sports section. I thought their soccer coverage was fair and knowledgeable, even as I wished they could have gotten more space for their work.
Even though more voices have cropped up over the years from team sites, blogs and other news outlets, the loss of the Times will leave a sizable void in the D.C. sports landscape, not just for soccer, but for the other teams the paper covered.
The writers there did it with verve, and I hope they land on their feet. In particular, I hope John stays involved in covering soccer in one way or another. His is a valuable voice in the D.C.-area soccer community.