Teaching an old writer new tricks

So, I have a confession to make. I was not the model student in high school. In fact, I was pretty average.

Studying Manny Ramirez’s swing and reading books about Jim Brown, Bob Feller and other Cleveland sports legends who I never got to see superseded textbooks, homework and all that nonsense (kids, DO NOT take this route).

One subject I really didn’t focus on too much was geography. I basically ignored the study of the outdoors, like the names of different bodies of water, mountains, canyons and all that good stuff. Nowadays, it’s a little embarrassing not to know basic facts about the earth, which is why I’m glad there’s such a diverse sports staff here at the Tribune Chronicle.

One of our newest additions at the Trib is correspondent Ryan Dentscheff, whose specialty is the outdoors. Thank God. I’ve learned more about fish, forests and guns in one month than I did in four years of high school (mainly because I wasn’t paying attention).

Two weeks ago, for instance, I found out that a tributary is a stream or river that flows into a larger stream or body of water. My mind was blown. I seriously would’ve guessed it was a sister paper of the Tribune Chronicle or some type of concert for a tribute band.

Another wrinkle was added to my brain just a week later when I read in his weekly outdoors column (it runs every Saturday, today on page 6D) that evidence of the Mahoning River becoming cleaner came from the fact that smallmouth bass were swimming in it. Apparently, this upper-class fish doesn’t waste its time in murky, possibly contaminated water, so because people were catching them regularly, things were looking up for this river (it’s a tributary – for your information).

Also, if you were wondering, a non-upscale fish is a catfish. The reason I say this is because a catfish can survive in less-than perfect conditions, unlike the precious bass. My kinda fish.

The biggest revelation came this Wednesday in a similar field. The Tribune has posted results for the Mahoning Valley Trap League for as long as I can remember, and I’ve always wondered what exactly they were trapping (yeah, seriously). Well, Ryan cleared things up when he explained that a trap league is a competition involving people shooting clay pigeons or discs. No trapping is involved. My bad, trap league. I’m just really that uninformed about the outdoors. If the apocalypse ever occurs, I’m in big trouble.

Ryan isn’t the only one expanding my small and inferior mind these days. Fellow Tribune sports writer Matthew Peaslee is apparently on the cusp of becoming a Putt-Putt professional. No, not really, but word on the street is he’s an ace when it comes to Putt-Putt, which isn’t the same as miniature golf, by the way. Miniature golf, also known as “adventure” or “crazy” golf, involves artificial objects such as windmills, mountains and fake animals that spit your ball back at you. Putt-Putt doesn’t include as many obstacles and is more about well-placed bank shots and using the correct speed to go up and down small hills. I was unaware. Thanks for the knowledge, Matt. (P.S. The Tribune – mainly Matthew Peaslee – will be covering the Professional Putters Association Northern Open at Warren’s Putt-Putt course today and Sunday. So be sure to read the paper. Yes, I’m serious – and so are the people playing).

The other Matt in the office, Matt Wagner, is a soccer enthusiast. I have nothing against soccer (except for those annoying vuvuzelas), but I never followed the sport. Mr. Wagner has been kind enough to help me grasp the vast world of European soccer. I’ve learned it’s a lot like baseball, in that the rich get richer and dominate for long periods of time and the “small-market” teams stay in the cellar. I’m blaming the Yankees for that lack of parity, too.

The point of embarrassing myself in a column is to let you know that you can always try something new. I’ve wanted to fish for bass since the moment I read Ryan’s column, and I plan on casting a reel sometime soon, maybe in the Mahoning River. Remember, you can still teach an old dog a new trick. … Or, in my case, teach an aging, bad-example-to-follow journalist about the basic facts of the world. Good looking out, guys.