In 2004, Buck Showalter won a second American League Manager of the Year award for his work with the Texas Rangers. I was a senior at Fauquier High School in Warrenton, Virginia.
Showalter took it for the third time Tuesday, true to his 10-year form (he earned his first in 1994 with New York). I sat a sportswriter in a newsroom in Vineland, New Jersey.
Everything just kind of sat there and weighed for a bit, then matriculated itself through my fingers into this keyboard. How many crossroads had Showalter faced in a decade? Where were mine? How did I forget how I got here in a decade that gave me all the knowledge I have about myself?
It puzzled me. A few months ago, I was riding my 2000 Honda Accord close to the 250,000-mile sunset. Had a new woman who sparked each and every last one of my fuses. In my hometown, I worked on feature stories as I sent out applications.
Life changed quickly.
Someone offered me a job. I took it. Moved. She drifted. A collision killed the car. The odometer read 349,666.
The crossroads seem like places we sit and try to figure out which direction to turn. Most times, they aren’t. They’re green lights, and you just speed through. Life affords you no other opportunity. A long, sad song will always play for the writer as he sees fit. It’s injustice that ends the tune with the abruptness of a broken string. Fully satisfied goodbyes are rare. There are only too many see-ya-around’s to make them all fit.
I believe there are sportswriters who are sports fans. They learn to write, but the love of the games is what keeps them coming back. It’s perfectly admissible. Sports are a great thing.
But, they are not the writers who love sports. The writers look for the meaning and wonder why the moon comes out as it’s prone to do. They wonder who is out there listening to the music the same way they do and at the same exact time.
The latter, ah yes, the latter. How we drift around and about, pushing our own buttons to see what comes out. What a curious bunch of people.
It’s different. It’s all the same. Still, the crossroads affect both groups of scribes in today’s media business. How can one separate himself from vocation based on its climate when love of the game is in the mix? Other than the consistently frequent layoffs, it’s tough to walk away.
In that way, there’s a piece of our great turf gods in each of us. Few want to hang up their cleats or steno pads.
Life changes quickly. That’s what happens. People get older and like the mornings more. They get married, and their wives and husbands like lonely nights even less. Kids want to see their parents, and spouses want the offspring to have a firm upbringing. Late check-ins and late sleep-ins don’t equate to much in the home life.
In order to stay in this business, you have to sacrifice for the game. The paychecks will rarely ever make everything worthwhile. Sometimes, the sports will renew your love. You can rarely count on them to restore it for long.
And so I think of Buck Showalter and his changes through the years. Persistence and steadiness certainly aided him. An incredible level of intellect has helped. Desire to be a great manager, well, that too. But sometimes just sticking with it is as good as all the other factors combined.
You have to hang around a long time to be a great one. It can be by choice or because you don’t believe in choice. There must be a passion that burns within, one hot enough to fuel your entire life. When the brunt of that decision finds your jaw, you still must persevere with resignation to the fates. They don't change for those who know what they were meant to do.
Plenty has changed in those 10 years since Showalter’s second award. Some things are the same. There’s nothing any better around the corner except the greatest things. Maybe he’ll win his ring one of these autumn days. Five years might bring a satisfaction about the speed I hit my intersections.
The car won’t be there. It will be scrap pieces in other people’s vehicle or sit alone a junkyard. Probably already is.
The woman will be off to a wedding. Her groom will wait with all his fuses sparked.
And writers, well, we don’t like to look into our futures. We’re desperately afraid of not being what we believed possible when we started. Even worse, we’re terrified to imagine what our success would look like.
Sports are all I know. Writing came naturally. Sports writer by night & sports writer by night. Philosophy major who thinks the unexamined sport is not worth watching. Always for hire, never for sale. I believe that silence is the virtue of fools and I can't hear you.