Column: Reflecting on my year covering Eastern sports

Adam Tumino, Sports Desk

The 2019-2020 academic year may have ended abruptly, before many spring sports even got off the ground, but in the first seven months of that time I had some of the best experiences of my time in student media. 

Covering sports for The Daily Eastern News provides me with one of the best seats in the house, beginning in August with the start of the volleyball season. 

I was able to spend three months sitting courtside and watching what is one of the most exciting sports in the world for 12 home games and two on the road. It was my first real exposure to volleyball, mercifully excluding the two seasons I played in seventh and eighth grade, and I may never cover another sport that is as consistently entertaining. 

It was a tough season for the Panthers, but it provided the most enjoyable game I ever covered either at Eastern or back in my community college days. It was on Oct. 18, 2019, when Eastern earned its first conference win of the season against Tennessee Tech.

It was a thrilling, five-set affair that began with an opening set that went well beyond regulation. It was seemingly endless, but the Panthers held on to take the set 39-37. Calling it a roller coaster would be an understatement. The set victory was not in vain, and the Panthers won sets three and five as well. 

Not all of my experience came inside gymnasiums, however, as I also had to brave the elements while photographing six of the Eastern football team’s games in 2019. 

Perhaps “braving the elements” is a bit exaggerative, although my camera did not survive the torrential rain during the homecoming game on Oct. 26. It did not die well, unfortunately, as water ruined it even before kickoff.

I also experienced the warmest temperatures of my life covering football, nearly causing me to melt into the artificial turf of Indiana State’s Memorial Field on Sept. 21. 

The Terre Haute heat index hovered around triple digits, compounded even more by the artificial surface. It must have felt around 115-120 degrees on that field. How the players managed it I will never understand. 

Being on the sidelines of a football game is an experience I hope everyone can have, if they are interested. Hearing the coaches, players and officials talk to each other provides a truly unique viewpoint into the game. 

It also gives you a chance to test your reflexes as you jump to avoid players flying out of bounds. 

Trust me when I say that the game looks a lot faster when it is heading straight toward you than it does on television. 

My spring semester was mostly consumed by the Eastern women’s basketball team. It is nice to be indoors in January and February, especially when the team you cover is fun to watch. 

It is hard not to have fun at a basketball game, and the Panthers boosted the fun by playing some of their most exciting games of the season inside Lantz Arena, giving me the opportunity to have a front-row seat. 

I was able to watch Eastern defeat Tennessee-Martin, which posted the best record in the OVC this season, by a score of 74-70 on Jan. 23. This may be the game that showed Eastern’s arrival on the scene in the conference after several years of struggles and losing records. 

The Panthers also won their final five home games of the season, helping them clinch the four seed in the OVC Tournament. Watching a program grow before your eyes adds another level to the game, and makes it that much more fun to cover.

Although the year was cut short, I am lucky enough to have one year left on Eastern’s campus. I look forward to another year of excitement and the memories that I am sure will come.

Adam Tumino can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].