Why I Stopped Being a Professional Sportswriter

I have a problem. A big problem. You see, my entire life, I've been obsessed with sports. From the moment I began playing catch with my father, I was hooked. Every day of my youth was spent playing and watching sports.

It started out with tee ball and soccer, progressed to live pitching, football, basketball and moving up the ladder a bit in soccer, and once my official playing days were over in high school, it continued with pickup games after school, watching games all night long. Girls, booze, drugs — they never even really entered the equation on any sort of serious basis until college, if only because I found myself with a whole hell of a lot more free time.

So naturally, as I was mapping out life plans and settling on a major in college, I had to figure out some way to get involved with sports at the professional level. Since I had always managed good grades in English and never had a problem writing essays or reports, journalism was the logical choice. And wouldn't you know it, my sophomore year, Penn State introduced a new program called the Center for Sports Journalism.

I joined the student newspaper's sports staff, enrolled in the Center for Sports Journalism and was well on my way. I covered everything from women's rugby to soccer to wrestling for the Daily Collegian, learned the trade and found my voice. And while professors and guest speakers would routinely tell me and my classmates, "Don't get into sports writing because you love sports; get into it because you love writing," I ignored their warnings.

I shouldn't have. Not because once I entered the real world and became a sportswriter for a local community newspaper group I didn't enjoy covering games and profiling young athletes — sometimes I didn't, but most of the time I did. No, I should have taken their advice because, as Trible pointed out yesterday, being a sportswriter interferes with your own personal enjoyment of the game.

Trible is right: As a sportswriter, a free Friday night during any season is rare, and on the few instances that something like that arises, the last thing you typically want to do is take in more sports. I spent many a Thursday-Monday traveling around, covering schools and missing the action I grew up watching. Phillies-Mets three-game weekend series? I'm in the middle of Pennsylvania covering the state track meet. Flyers-Rangers Tuesday night game? I'm on deadline trying to lay out a newspaper, write a feature and a sidebar, and get all the scores in. Penn State-Ohio State at 3:30? I'm at a high school football game where one school barely has enough players to field a team.

It killed me. I loved being a fan too much. I loved watching the ups and downs the teams I've followed my entire life went through during a season. I missed sitting in front of the TV and yelling at refs, heading down to Broad and Pattison and taking in a game, making road trips to my alma mater, and staying up until 1 or 2 in the morning watching a Portland-Phoenix 10:30 tipoff. I missed being a fan too much.

So as much as the lousy pay and terrible hours played a role in my leaving the profession, it was my detachment from sports that really put the final nail in the coffin for me. I could deal with limited time with friends and family. I could even deal with getting paid chump change and living on a tight budget. What I couldn't deal with was being away from the games and teams that had been a huge part of my life from the moment my dad taught me how to throw a ball.

I got into sportswriting because I loved sports; not because I loved writing. Thankfully, along the way, I discovered how much I actually do love writing, which is why it is still a profession and something I do for pleasure. Just not as a professional sportswriter. Because I love sports too much to do that to myself anymore.

So I guess the moral of the story is to listen to people with experience in whatever it is you may consider pursuing. Most of the time, you'll find out they know what they're talking about.

12 Replies to “Why I Stopped Being a Professional Sportswriter”

  1. Good perspective mang- I think thats the same reason that stopped my brother from writing- and he was covering national sports as a 22 year old when that was rare to do at that age. Love of the game doesn't always translate to love of the work required to cover the game, particularly as a beat reporter.

  2. I've always said to work in a field you hate b/c in the end its work and work sucks. All those people who say they love their jobs are lying. Maybe not Hugh Hefner, but everyone else.

  3. Whoa.

    A powerful piece.

    Many of us working stiffs who love sports daydream about being journalists or commentators. Of course, we see ourselves cutting up with Sir Charles and Shaq, hosting Around the Horn or PTI or covering the Finals and Super Bowl for the Times with a generous expense account. No one fantasizes about giving away Cowboys vs Eagles tickets because you've been assigned to cover a high school lacrosse match.

    Like being an actor or musician, it's a pyramid. Very few get to the top while most struggle along. Even if you have talent the odds are against you because there's no room at the top of the pyramid. Collinsworth and Wilbon look quite comfortable and don't appear to be retiring anytime soon.

    Good luck to you in your new endeavors. I hope to continue to see your provocative articles here and on your blog.

    1. I'm not going anywhere. Been out of the sportswriting profession for four years now, and haven't really considered going back unless it's on a freelance basis on my own time. Which I guess is why I do what I do here and on my site.

  4. Good piece Rev. I currently do both and I try to write from a fans perspective when I do. Yeah I get criticism but the newspaper loves it. I try to write about the not so obvious when I write for the newspaper and it does well for the most part. Then again I don't do it daily because then it would be less unique. Being a freelance writer gives me more flexibility and I don't think I could do it on a nightly basis.

    powerful piece man .. Thanks for sharing

  5. In my town, local sports is barely covered. It's a shame. I was a sports reporter for a local newspaper. Sometimes they wouldn't publish my articles because they forgot or were too lazy to to put it in the layout. The kids were super disappointed and I looked like a schmo who couldn't get her work done on time. Broadcasting isn't any better. I worked that too. Most local stations have eliminated their sports departments or it's 1:30 of highlights of the pros. It sounds like you made a solid decision.

  6. I agree. If the writing aspect takes away from the love you have for sports, it's probably a good idea to walk away. As someone else mentioned, I do some freelance writing and all of my content is from a fan's perspective. While I have considered getting deeper into this venue, your article has definitely given me something to think about.

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