(Monmouth College Fighting Scots softball diamond, courtesy of Monmouth College's Web site.)

I am not a hardcore sports fan — although I do like a good basketball game now and then — but I usually have about zero interest in watching Cornerstone sports. This is why I dreaded going to cover a CU women’s softball game last week for my column writing class.

During the first part of the April 16 matchup against Finlandia, my feelings of irritation only intensified. I critically scanned the stands and observed the atmosphere during the first inning. I was annoyed by what I found.

There were six or seven spectators on Finlandia’s side and about eight on CU’s. No one was really paying attention to the game. The PA system malfunctioned (twice) during warm-ups and blasted a high-pitched scratchy, squealing sound right into my ears, since I had, of course, unwittingly parked myself directly in front of it.

Everything from the spectators, to the announcing, to the music, to the lack of a concessions stand, to the game itself made me question, “Is this even really a collegiate sport?”

At one point a Finlandia mom even yelled out, “Let’s go Lions!” but then stopped. “Wait,” she said to her neighbor. “Is that what they are?” I mean, come on! You don’t even know your own team’s mascot? What is this?

I know, I know what you’re thinking. I’m harsh and judgmental. But hold the phone.

As the bright sunshine cast its smile on the stands, they began filling with more fans — staff and faculty members Chuck Swanson and Rob Keys meandered down between meetings and classes to take a breather and enjoy the weather. Lisa Heasley, a former Golden Eagles softball girl, asked me almost shyly, “Is this seat taken?” and settled down next to me to watch the game.

As things unfolded during the next few innings, it became clear that Cornerstone would not win, even though Finlandia is definitely no Aquinas. But I wasn’t focused on the game. I was watching Lisa, and the other fans.

Lisa misses softball. She isn’t filled with burning regrets; it’s just a gentle ache. She misses the camaraderie of being part of a team. Thursday she watched the action closely and interjected occasional critiques and props to CU. She shared a few memories from being on the roster as we watched. She seemed happy to be there in the sun, supporting her old team.

I stole occasional glances at a couple basketball girls who had come out to watch. They were rolling up their pant legs to get a little more sun, squinting at the diamond, laughing and joking with each other. I watched Rob Keys perched solidly on the hill above the bleachers, arms crossed, intently watching — probably unaware of how stoic and comical he looked.

I listened to Pete Rusticus, the announcer, cheerfully singing along to Johnny Cash between innings and chuckling to himself as the game resumed and the music faded.

All of a sudden memories of watching my dad play church league softball swept over me. Church league, at Alan G. Davis Ball Park in Greenville, Mich., was a big deal in those days. Hundreds of fans would come out on game days — mostly families — and watch their dads and husbands and brothers compete against other churches.

There were always concessions, and the ice cream truck always came and tantalized the little ones, sending them scurrying off to mommy for pocket change to buy a Klondike.

My favorite part was the deep and scary forest running alongside the ball fields. Tucked inconspicuously into its depths was a wooden playground complete with swings and monkey bars where my friends and I roamed, and back further still lurked a series of toxic swamps with ominous “KEEP OUT!” signs posted every hundred feet or so. I never really wanted to dive in, but I always wondered what would happen if I did.

The ball park always smelled good, too. For some reason, back behind the fields there were dozens of piles of steaming hot wood chips. The piles were gloriously high, and it was our delight to run up them and dig deep past the surface with hands or toes or whatever other instruments were available, and see how far we could burrow without being burned by the intense heat.

Sometimes I watched the games, too. But now, when I hear the word “softball,” the step-sibling of America’s favorite pastime, I’ll be forever transported to those fields — to the carefree days of childhood, when the diamond was the place to be.

So thank-you Golden Eagles, for taking me on a trip back to memory lane. Even though you didn’t win, I’ll come back to watch you sometime, just to relive those days.
This isn't a huge deal, but I had to write an article for one of my journalism classes about Twitter, so I thought I'd share on here.

The assignment was to interview 4-5 people about Twitter, and describe it to someone as if it was the first time they had ever heard about it. So I interviewed some CU students, conservative political bloggers Nick De Leeuw and Tabitha Hale, and GR Press online editor Meegan Holland.

The buzz about Twitter
By Rachel Watson

What is Twitter?

According to Wikipedia.org it is both social network, and a new phenomenon called micro-blogging, which means instead of full-length text entries, it allows brief, 140-character updates in response to the question, "What are you doing?"

In that respect, it is much like Facebook, a social network created in 2003. Facebook also allows for status updates and messaging between users.

Twitter is different than Facebook, though, because of the brevity of the messages, the layout of the site and the lack of emphasis on photo sharing.

Senior English writing and media studies major David Duhon said he first heard of Twitter during a Cornerstone chapel speaker’s presentation last semester.

"I was like, 'What is this guy talking about?'" Duhon said. He had no plans to join until a journalism professor required it in one of his classes in early April.

"I hate going on the computer besides working," Duhon said. "I'd rather be doing something outside rather than looking at my computer screen."

Another CU student, Leigh Helder, said she heard about Twitter through the band MercyMe, which uses the site to promote their music.

"I just didn't want to join," Helder said. None of her friends that she knows of are on Twitter, so Helder said she didn’t really see a point.

Duhon said his initial reaction to the site after signing up was "confusion mixed with the excitement of viewing it like a game," but then said after failing to understand its usefulness, he quickly lost interest.

Perhaps CU students Duhon and Helder are not excited about Twitter. However, many in the professional world have jumped on board enthusiastically.

According to tweeternet.com, a site devoted to explaining Twitter to the uninformed, it "can be used to broadcast your company's latest news and blog posts, interact with your customers, or to enable easy internal collaboration and group communication."

Conservative Grand Rapids political consultant and blogger Nick De Leeuw said Twitter has been greatly helpful to him on a professional level.

"It's a great way to connect with folks all over the country on an idea basis," he said.

De Leeuw said the most useful aspect is the networking opportunities it provides.

"I've gotten work off Twitter, I've made friends on Twitter and I've gotten more traffic to go to my blog because of it," he said.

Tabitha Hale, another blogger from Raleigh, N.C., can also attest to its usefulness as a Web traffic-driving tool.

"I just started [Twitter] around Thanksgiving when I started blogging and it just seemed like a natural thing to do," she said. "Since then I've met a lot of great people and it went crazy from there. The instant feedback is good, it's pretty interactive, and the news cycle goes really fast."

Hale said she doesn't use Twitter in a professional sense in the office, but has noticed the hits on her political blog, pinkelephantpundit.com, have quadrupled since she began Tweeting her blog headlines.

Meegan Holland, online editor at The Grand Rapids Press, said she believes Twitter is a tool every journalist should use.

"If you're not Twittering, on Facebook, taking digital photos, writing decent stories and on YouTube, you won't be as useful," she said. "You should be at least connected to the Web."

I miss them.

P.S. I'm the third girl from the left, middle row.

(Image by wikimedia.org)

As I stepped out of the Herald student newspaper office at nearly 9 p.m. tonight, after eight long hours of work, a beautiful sight greeted my tired eyes. A narrow band of the sky glowed mellow orange and pink entwined with stormy black -- only on its western edge -- while the surrounding horizon swathed itself in utter darkness.

That colorful, yet slim band of light and beauty was being crowded from above by darker forces trying to push it down and squelch its cheer.

The effect of the scene on my spirit was instantaneous. I immediately remembered why my mind has been so clouded and restless today. I remembered it all in a flash, and sighed, knowing I would need to write it all out in order to deal with the thoughts and feelings I'd been pushing back all day.

The problem stemmed from a heavy ethical discussion this morning in my Mass Media Law class. Honestly, I think I've learned more from that class this semester than in all the others combined. But along with its good and positive lessons, it brings an equal amount of the dark, troubling aspects that tend to burden my soul.

Today was such a day. We sat discussing a chapter about Media and the Justice System, and the role members of the news media should or should not play as we exercise our First Amendment privileges to cover trials and interview criminals.

The sub point we stopped on longest posed the question of whether a journalist should a) grant anonymity to sources and b) if so, when that anonymity should be compromised in favor of a greater good.

The hypothetical our professor posed was this... (Disclaimer: This is not supposed to be a real-life scenario)...

You are a respected journalist with a reputation for accurate reporting. You are approached by (or you approach) a gang member or serial killer who has agreed to let you interview him about his recent crimes, only on condition that his name, identity and likeness will be kept completely confidential. You agree, in light of the fact that the murders are unsolved (police are still investigating) and you believe the story needs to be publicized. BUT, then when you begin to interview the killer you learn he is planning two, if not three more murders. He gives you vivid detail about locations, people, planned weapons, the whole deal. You write your story without using his name; only you and your editor know the source's identity. The police eventually indict several suspects for the murders, and they read your story, and subpoena you as a witness to the trial, presumably because you know the prime suspect's identity.

Do you go, and give up your source in the name of preventing him from killing more people, or do you resist the subpoena with an explanation of your qualified constitutional right to resist disclosing your sources?

I could not answer this question in class.

Now if you've ever taken a class with me you'll know there are very few instances in which I remain silent when a question is posed. I almost always have a response of some sort, whether it is my final conclusion or just a brash initial reaction.

This time I was torn.

I believe justice is one of the most important virtues humans can pursue. It is a desire planted innately within our hearts by a God who is a God of justice. Furthermore, human life is granted by Him and protected by Him.

But I also know the function of the media. I know we are supposed to be third-party agents, not controlled or connected to the government and its justice system, and certainly not agents of law enforcement. We report the news; we don't make it, and we don't provide its antidote.

To maintain credibility, the word of a journalist is everything. Once given, it should be binding.

So the question left in my mind, is how do I, as a Christian, balance those two objectives?
A few months ago I wrote a post on my other blog about discovering my learning style. At that point I said I'd rather be deaf than blind, because I'm a visual learner.

Well, I'm still a visual learner, but in the past several months I've also discovered there's no way I could live without my hearing.

Music has been the single most influential and important factor of my existence the past few months. It's like a gateway to the soul, an outlet for expressing the feelings I couldn't possibly frame without the chords and riffs and strings, and the gentle, angry, happy or desperate strains.

Most of the songs that move me have been jazzy and soulful, or have touched some deep nerve within.

Some of them make me smile
and some have moved me to tears.

But the one thing the songs all have in common is their unfailing ability to bring me back to my Savior in awe, reminding me of the ultimate and original creative Master-- the one who gave us the ability and gifts to express ourselves musically.

Or, as in my case, if we can't sing it, we feel it terribly and wonderfully all at once. That vast and bottomless well, that spring coming from within, that cavernous space the music fills-- it is put there by our Maker. When we hear the music, it's meant to point us back to him.

There's no hyperlink for that.