Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Work, work, work

I may not have much in common with Michael Corleone -- or Al Pacino for that matter -- but I certainly can relate to his most memorable line in an otherwise forgettable Godfather, Part III.

It seems I'm not completely done with being a sports writer. When I walked away from the Sun in April, I did so with the belief I was turning a page in my career. Sports writing was going to be in my past.

Then I spent some time away from it. I went to a few events—even a high school girls soccer match or two—just to remember what it was like to be a fan again. Not to cheer for a particular team. Just to be a fan of sports again.

It happens to a lot of us in this profession. We’re so immersed in sports on a daily basis we start despising the games. They become boring. Kristin still laughs when she remembers seeing me covering a minor league baseball game when we were living in Texas.

We were at the Dell Diamond, home to the Round Rock Express. She had come with me, but was sitting in the stands while I was in the press box working. At some point she looked up to see what I was doing. She hadn’t expected to see what she saw.

I was leaning my left elbow on the press table with my chin in my hand. It looked like I might have been asleep. At the time I think I told her I was deep in concentration, trying to come up with my lead. She wasn't buying it.

“You looked like a bored third grader in his desk,” she just told me when I asked if she remembered that night.

Sure, many people find baseball boring. But I was never in that camp. I love baseball. Covering it on a regular basis was a wonderful experience. I envisioned becoming a baseball writer.

This was only a year or two into my full-time sports writing career, yet there I was already bored with the games. I might not have realized it that night, but soon after I came to the conclusion I didn’t want to be a beat writer anymore. I wanted to write about sports, but not about the games.

For the most part, I was able to do that at The Sun. But there were always games needing to be covered. It eventually got to the point I’d rather be unemployed than drag my butt to another field, stadium or gym.

And for four months I didn’t cover a single game. I still haven’t. But I am writing about sports again. Thanks to my friend, Todd, who was the assistant sports editor at the Sun before moving on to bigger and better things, I got connected to the new high school sports editor at the Chicago Tribune.

I just completed my first assignment and have another one to finish this week. I’m excited to have the work and to have it appearing in the Tribune, a paper I once dreamed of working. I doubt I’ll ever be a full-time writer there, so this will have to do.

It’s actually been a very busy month for me as my freelance assignments are starting to pile up. The good thing is several of them are steady gigs. Having reliable, consistent sources of income is comforting and an important cog in the move to being a full-time freelancer.

I’ve had so much work lately that today I was able to put my unemployment on hold. I’m making too much money to claim my weekly benefits. If my earnings should dip below that benefit level again, I can reopen my claim. So I still have a safety net.

I’m a long ways from having stable income. And I’m still not making enough for retirement savings. But I’m taking positive steps toward my new career, one that doesn’t involve time cards or cubicles or commuting.

I admit I'm surprised it involves sports writing again so soon. Consider me the Michael Corleone of sports journalism. Just when I thought I was out …


  1. I for one am glad you're back in, if that means anything. I like being in the story now, at least on the periphery, but sometimes I miss that old thrill of banging out a story on deadline, or those semmingly rare times when inspiration and opportunity conspire for a great story.

  2. Thanks, Juan. I think all along I figured I'd still do sports writing. And doing it this way instead of full-time means I can still branch out into other areas, too. I doubt anything will ever replace that deadline rush on game nights, though.