Archive for Thursday, July 13, 2006

Opinion: The scoop on sportswriting

July 13, 2006

I had a Jerry Maguire moment the other night.

Maguire, of course, is the fictitious sports agent played by Tom Cruise in the Hollywood movie that bears the name, who one night had an epiphany about the industry he worked in and set out to do something about it.

He wrote a mission statement, a manifesto of sorts, about what he believed was the true purpose of the sports agent. He hated the man he had become and hoped that his new outlook, and subsequent how-to guide, would return a touch of morality to a dangerously cutthroat business.

My line of work differs greatly from that of a sports agent, but in a moment of reflection I came to some of the same realizations that he did.

Hopefully, my spilling them out doesn't lead me down the same road it led Jerry Maguire. Or perhaps, hopefully it does.

I believe that sportswriters matter. I believe what we do is important. Sure, it matters little in the grand scheme of global survival or the goings on of day-to-day life, but it matters all the same.

What we do matters because we make people smile. With a simple stroke of a few keys we can bring joy to people in numerous ways.

A flattering article about someone, or someone's child, can warm the heart and bring happiness where it is lacking. A hard-hitting, well-researched article can bring accountability to a world -- athletics -- that often needs it the most. And a light-hearted, comedy-driven piece can serve as the perfect distraction for that person who needs one so badly.

Our words can be powerful. They can be poetic, as well.

But, in my world, my words -- my stories -- only account for half of the equation. The other half comes from relationships.

During my five years as a professional sportswriter -- a relatively short time, I admit -- my most influential and memorable moments directly have involved me and the people I have covered. And that's how I believe it should be. Because that's what I believe sportswriters are -- a connection between the people we write for and the people we write about. Both are equally important, and without either, our craft would be meaningless.

When I think of my career thus far, I don't think about every well-constructed sentence or every biting analogy I've written. I don't recall the moment I came up with a great story idea. In fact, I rarely even remember the story itself. What I do remember is the people it affected.

From the coaches I've enjoyed interviewing in an empty gymnasium to the players I've rooted for, celebrated with and seen rise and fall to the person who read one of my articles and cracked a smile, shed a tear or felt compelled to call -- this is what I remember.

And it's what I will remember -- and what I will make my priority -- for as long as I am fortunate enough to be in this business.

I don't have the catchy name like a Rick Reilly or even a Tony Kornheiser, but I do have passion: passion for people, the written word and sports. And in this business, those three things count for a lot.

I hope they always will.

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