Scott Novak: My ‘bucket’ list

Published 7:41 am Friday, December 27, 2013

One of the best times I have had covering sports was making the trip to Indianapolis to watch Notre Dame try and win the 2011 women’s basketball national title. (Leader photo/File)

One of the best times I have had covering sports was making the trip to Indianapolis to watch Notre Dame try and win the 2011 women’s basketball national title. (Leader photo/File)

It may seem like an odd thing to be thinking about during the holidays, but that’s how my mind works some days.

NovakheadI was thinking the other night about my “bucket” list. You know, the things you would like to do before you die.

Looking back at the 30-plus years I have been covering sports for Leader Publications, I have checked off a number of things that would be on the list if I actually sat down and wrote one out.

As the end of 2013 approaches, I thought I would reflect on some of the highlights of those 30 years of sports coverage and check those items off the list.

Early in my career someone asked me what I would like to do as the sports editor.

My response was always the same — cover a state championship team.

Those types of stories don’t come along that often in small towns like Cassopolis, Dowagiac, Edwardsburg and Niles.

I have been fortunate enough to cover two of them.

In 1990, I followed the Dowagiac Chieftains on their state championship drive, which culminated with a 35-14 victory over Oxford in the Pontiac Silverdome.

Dowagiac used a punishing defense and a record-setting offense to go 13-1 and win the first Class BB state title.

I was fortunate enough to get another chance 19 years later when the Niles softball team captured the school’s only state championship in 2009.

The Vikings rolled through that season and Livonia Ladywood 4-0 in the title game at Bailey Park in Battle Creek.

Once the state championship was checked off the list, I started thinking about other things I would like to go see.

Things like the Indianapolis 500 and covering a NASCAR race at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn.

I was very fortunate to be able to go to both the 75th running of the Indianapolis 500 and the 100th running.

While I have covered multiple races at MIS, perhaps the best experience I had was watching Dale Earnhardt Jr., the sport’s most popular driver, break a lengthy winning streak with a victory.

I do regret never getting to see in person or meet Dale Earnhardt Sr. before his untimely death. That box will never get a check in it.

Indianapolis seems to be at the center of a lot of the items on my imaginary list.

I went to the Women’s Final Four and watched Notre Dame attempt to win its second national championship in 2011 and earlier this month I returned to Indy to watch Michigan State knock off Ohio State for the Big Ten title at Lucas Oil Stadium.

I have also covered major and minor league baseball, been to the American and National League championship series and was in Detroit for the 1984 World Series.

I have covered the Detroit Lions, but missed out on covering the Super Bowl when it was at Ford Field.

I have been to a bowl game, albeit the Cherry Bowl, in 1984 when Army defeated Michigan State 10-6.

Speaking of college football, I have had the opportunity to cover some of the great rivalries. I have been to Michigan and Ohio State, Michigan State and Ohio State as well as Notre Dame-USC.

I was in Ann Arbor when Desmond Howard made the spectacular diving catch to beat the Fighting Irish and I was in Notre Dame Stadium for the “Bush push.”

I was even in attendance in 1993 when the No. 2 Irish beat the No. 1 Seminoles.

And I will never forget the snow game against Penn State in 1992. As you may or may not know, that was the last time Notre Dame played a game in the snow prior to this past BYU contest.

I was also there when many of the game scenes in the movie “Rudy” were filmed.

I have met a future president, covered a sitting vice president visiting Southwestern Michigan College and sat next to Dennis DeYoung of Styx at a Notre Dame game.

I have met Archie and Peyton Manning, Archie Griffin, who remains the only two-time Heisman Trophy winner, and had my picture taken with supermodel Kathy Ireland.

I am sure there are some things I am forgetting.

And there are still several things on the list I still would like to accomplish.

Things like covering the Daytona 500, going to the Rose Bowl and going to Wimbledon. Of course, there is still time and maybe I can check off a couple of those.

The biggest thing on my list has nothing to do with sports.

I have always wanted to photograph a tornado. If I could be a stormchaser I certainly would. I have covered the aftermath of several tornados and even had one knock a tree on my house, but I have yet to get a shot of one.

So as I wrap up 2013 and begin looking ahead to 2014, I will hopefully be able to check a few more items off my “bucket” list over the next few years and add some items to it as I work my way into a second year of covering news for the Cassopolis Vigilant and Edwardsburg Argus.

There are still plenty of challenges out there for me to get to. So let’s get started.


Scott Novak is sports editor for Leader Publications. He can be reached at