According to the NCAA, there were more than 8 million kids registered to participate in high school athletics throughout the 2019/20 school year. However after high school, only 460,000 will continue their careers at the collegiate level, a whopping 5%. That statistic was jarring to me as a skinny freshman who struggled to compete at the middle school level. I loved playing sports and I loved being part of a team, but the reality began to set in that, barring a miracle of some kind, my playing days would end when I graduate high school. As a high school player I could hold my own in both soccer and baseball, but my extreme height and lack of speed made me an outcast in soccer, and consistent control issues and arm injuries put my baseball career on life support. It’s a shame that my senior baseball campaign was taken away because I really did want one more chance to prove I could contribute, but it wasn’t to be.
One thing I did recognize as a result of this realization was that I was not ready to leave the world of professional sports behind and still wanted to be involved in other capacities, which is why I began writing as a sophomore in high school. Through watching and studying certain teams and players, I began to realize that the people behind the scenes have as much impact on the history of the game as the people playing the game do. Would Billy Beane be a household name as one of the best executives in baseball if “Moneyball” was never published? How would baseball be different if the media never called the sluggers out on their alleged P.E.D. use? Would there be as many Dodgers fans nationwide if Vin Scully was not on the call for over 60 years?
This is the reason I fell in love with the media, especially in the sports field — the idea that my take on a game, player or team can directly impact how that specific topic will be remembered. That may be a bold statement, but there are several examples where this is true. Any soccer fan will remember Sergio Aguero’s game-winning goal to win the Premier League in 2012, but equally memorable is the declaration by Martin Tyler that “You will never see anything like this ever again!” I’m sure every Chicagoan remembers exactly where they were when they first heard Joe Buck say that the Cubs were World Champions, and I still get chills whenever I hear Pat Hughes’ call on WGN.
In my eyes, the task attributed to journalists and media personnel is as challenging as the one players and coaches face. It is the job of the media to make these larger-than-life personalities accessible to every sports fan in the world. In the age of social media and instant news, that job is becoming more complex than ever. When Mookie Betts was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers, the story broke out of nowhere and fans were given multiple contradicting reports until both teams confirmed the deal almost a week after the story originally broke. During this quarantine simple Instagram or Twitter posts by an athlete could become breaking news, and it is becoming increasingly difficult to stay in the loop on all the latest when the news can come from so many different outlets.
That challenge is another reason being a writer and a sports follower has been so rewarding. As a result of the experience I’ve had trying to stay on top of all the latest in the wide world of sports, I’ve grown the ability to find new angles and stories that few casual fans would consider. Whenever I go to a sporting event with my dad I always find an obscure stat or fact about that event, which is always fun to me (my dad thinks I’m nuts sometimes). The joy I get while diving into a story I’m working on is the reason I’ve stuck with being a writer through the years — the process of creating a narrative and a feasible story is a process I doubt I will grow tired of.
I’ve heard the old adage that “there’s no money in journalism” because of the death of the newspaper; however, I see a different side to that story. We have watched the rise of digital news over the last decade, especially in the sporting world. Big trades are announced on Twitter, teams announce their news on their social media before going to the press, and players now voice their frustration to their online following before any journalist has a chance to get their hands on the story. These are the challenges that our generation of writers will face as we move into the professional field. Adam Schefter and Adrian Wojnarowski are just two of many columnists who have become wildly successful because of their social media activity, as a “Woj Bomb” is now a part of NBA vernacular. I personally cannot wait to see what new challenges I will face when my time comes to enter the professional world, as one of the most rewarding elements of writing is overcoming the challenges that come with it. I cannot fathom a guess on what the sports landscape will look like when I will enter the scene, but all I can say is “Bring it on.”