The welcome into my “Sports Writing” course last semester was a brief reading assignment at the end of the syllabus. It was an article written by Shelby Strother, of the Detroit News, about the true nature of being a sports writer.
Getting into games for free sounds fun, sure. And it is. Talking to players is interesting and exciting, and that’s not to say that some of us don’t get a little star struck at times just because it’s what we do for a living.
That’s not all it’s about though. Sometimes, from the comfort of the living room, it’s hard to see the people on the sidelines or in the pressbox and all that truly goes into a carefully constructed story.
It’s not all about watching games and hanging out with athletes, but in no way does that diminish the joy of being a sports writer.
All sports writers will have instances in their careers where they just have to shake their heads and smile, thinking, “this is the life of a sports writer.”
Sometimes that means sitting in the rain. Sometimes that means being out in the cold. And sometimes that means seeking interviews when armed fugitives are out on the loose.
Yeah, that’s a thing that really happened to me.
I was writing a men’s ultimate Frisbee story and was going to interview the team captain. It seemed simple enough. Their captain would be practicing with the women’s team at Pruitt Field and I could interview him after.
A cop stopped me as I approached the field and told me the practice was cancelled. He didn’t say anything about the armed fugitive on the loose, which had just happened at a bank near the field.
The captain explained and said we could set up an interview some other time. So I started heading back to my West Green dorm on the paths near the athletic fields. The poorly lit route and warnings about the man whose whereabouts were unknown should’ve been concerning, but it wasn’t.
The captain insisted on giving me a ride home, and once he did, my friends scolded me for being out in the dark when an armed fugitive was running around. The thing is though, it wasn’t a choice and though I didn’t know about it in advance, I was doing my job. That’s the life of a sports writer—getting the job done no matter what. Really, that just goes for any journalist.
The job doesn’t stop on holidays or on the weekends either. It was often a topic of concern in my “Sports Writing” course when talking with guest speakers. We question the challenge of balancing a family life. Though none of us have a family yet, it was something to think about, especially for the women in the class. I knew it was for me.
These past two springs I’ve been on the baseball beat and I’ve loved it. There’s nothing like sitting in the pressbox on a beautiful spring day and taking in a game of baseball. I’m lucky to get to do that.
Unfortunately, March typically isn’t kind and those “beautiful spring games” don’t exist. Sometimes 50 degrees feels warm, and then there are times you’re outside for over three hours in it and that ceases to feel warm. I’ve watched my hands turn purple and I’ve tried sitting on them for warmth while also trying to record the game action.
I can’t just leave early because I’m cold and I can’t just say I’ll catch the next soccer game when it starts pouring.
Once I even walked out to the driving range to cover the golf team during their practice. I was a freshman and without a car so I walked about a mile off of campus in the rain. And when I got there, no one else was there. So I waited and waited some more. No one ever showed up.
Things like that happen all the time. Not everything goes as planned. Weather gets in the way and sometimes you have to sit through rain delays. You have to cancel plans to cover a game. Sometimes you have to talk to grumpy coaches and players after a tough loss.
It’s not as glorious as it always seems from a distance and I’m not sure it’s entirely what I envisioned at 15 when the drive to interview Grady Sizemore and go to every Cleveland Indians game inspired my dream of becoming an MLB beat writer.
It might not be for everyone and it might not be as easy as it seems, but I can say that if in my life I have the opportunity to live out that dream that popped into my head shortly after my first Indians game, then I’d say I’ve been pretty lucky. And even if it falls short of that, to have been able to even cover games on a collegiate level, I’m still pretty lucky. It’s fun. Even through the cold and the rain and the shortcomings, it’s fun.
I wouldn’t change it for the world. While I’ll admit it’s not always convenient, it’s worth it. You have a job that so many would kill for. Just like with any job, there are drawbacks and less than desirable aspects of the job description, but you can’t ignore that it’s a dream come true.