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So You Want to Be a Sportswriter …

So You Want to Be a Sportswriter …

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As anyone who reads this website regularly knows, I write free-lance articles for AP Sports and have for the past 20-plus years. It’s easier to list what I haven’t covered – Arizona State football and the Arizona Cardinals – than to list the events I have worked, ranging from the Phoenix Suns, Phoenix Coyotes and Arizona Diamondbacks to a rodeo where I discovered annoyed bulls about to be ridden pass gas when they leave the chute.

All of my wife’s male co-workers, and some of the females as well, envy me because I have the opportunity to meet and talk to the players. It’s hard to convince them that standing around for anywhere from five minutes to an hour to hear “you’ve got to tip your cap to them” or “I was just trying to make contact” or “good things happen when you put the puck on the net and I just got lucky” isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

This past week I was supposed to work the Diamondbacks games on Monday and Tuesday but, fortunately, was sidelined by an irregular heartbeat which since has cleared up. I say fortunately because the Diamondbacks are the first team in 24 years to play three games of at least 18 innings in a season. And even when not going that deep into extra innings, the games most fans see as exciting are somewhat excruciating for a sportswriter.

So you want to be a sportswriter? Let’s see how you would do with Monday’s game between the Diamondbacks and Padres.

Rule number one – no cheering in the press box.

Rule number two – you have to file your story to the sportsdesk within two minutes of the game ending, though 30 to 60 seconds is ideal. No, really. That’s how fast my stories are filed to New York – at the final horn, or within a minute or two thereof.

How can you possibly have a story ready to go that quickly? By writing the story ahead of the game’s conclusion, of course. It’s the only way. And when the home team has a 7-3 lead heading into the eighth inning, what could possibly go wrong …

Top of the eighth

Chaz Roe on the mound for Arizona. He walks Yonder Alonso. And then he walks Jesus Guzman. Not ideal, but not time to worry. Nick Hundley pops out and there’s one down. Ronny Cedeno doubles and it’s now a 7-5 game. You glance down at your computer screen while Arizona changes pitchers and start planning for where you’ll add a paragraph about the two runs the Padres just scored.

Joe Thatcher comes in, which means trouble for the press box because he seems to specialize in coming in to give up base hits. Sure enough, Mark Kotsay singles and what was once a four-run lead is 7-6. Time for a bit of writing during another pitching change, all in the optimistic hope the inning ends soon.

Will Harris comes in and strikes out Chris Denorfia. You confidently tap the last period of your “they put a scare in them” paragraph with only one out needed.

Will Venable singles to load the bases. Cold sweat starts to form on your forehead. Jedd Gyorko singles to score Kotsay.

The game’s tied. Everything you had written in preparation for an Arizona win and San Diego loss? Useless. Hit the delete key.

Bottom of the eighth

Tony Campana walks and is sacrificed to second. Paul Goldschmidt is intentionally walked. Martin Prado, your new hero, hits a two-run double and the Diamondbacks have a 9-7 lead.

Hopefully you deleted your Arizona-wins-San Diego-loses paragraphs with Control-X and can now paste them back in, else you have to scurry to rewrite them because suddenly there only are six outs left in the game. The Padres get the last two outs but you’re too busy writing to really care.

Top of the ninth

You’re just about done with your re-write when Yonder Alonso singles. Your heart is enveloped with dread as you realize there’s a chance the story you’ve already had to rewrite twice could change again. But with a two-run lead, you forge ahead to make sure you’re ready to file.

Jesus Guzman walks. Having been down this road a half-dozen times at least this season, you stop typing mid-sentence. This isn’t going to end well and you can’t do a damn thing to stop it.

Nick Hundley singles and Alonso scores. It’s now a one-run game, there is a runner on third base and there isn’t anybody out. That story you rewrote? Totally screwed.

Ronny Cedeno lays down a bunt and is safe at first as Guzman scores to tie the game. Immediately your mind switches gears – there are runners on first and second, and a simple base hit will give the Padres the lead – anything decisive at this point works with extra innings looming.

By the way – the game’s been going on for more than 3 1/2 hours at this point. Many fans have left. Others have changed channels. You can’t. You have to stay … and you’ll be there for an hour after the game by the time you’re done getting quotes and writing your final two of three stories.

I could drag this out as long as it actually takes to happen but I’ll spare you. The Padres don’t manage to score another run, not even with runners on second and third and only one out.

Middle of the ninth, tied 9-9. And a story due within a minute or two of the game ending, which could happen in an instant if Arizona scores in the bottom of the inning, which still is preferable to extra innings.

Bottom of the ninth

Arizona doesn’t score. The baseball gods hate you.

Bottom of the tenth

A couple of defensive changes, blah blah blah, a hit here a walk there, blah blah blah … the Diamondbacks score a run, they win 10-9.

Here’s what you need to know … you’ve got two minutes to send your story. Don’t use adjectives – you’re writing this for a neutral audience, so you can’t say exciting, dramatic, bullshit, lengthy, legendary … Oh, and you have to hurry down the press elevator to the field level to get quotes from one of the two clubhouses, so not only will the desk in New York get on your tuchas if you dally longer but your second story, the one with quotes, will be screwed.

Enjoying this yet? Did I mention that it’s now 11:05 p.m. and the game started at 6:40 and you’re not leaving the park until after midnight?

* * *

Here’s the thing. It’s not a bad gig. If it were only for the money, I’d have stopped doing it long ago because the money, while nice as a supplement, isn’t going to get me to a house on the beach any quicker. I’ve seen some incredible things and met some incredible people but, for the most part, it’s not quite as glamorous as it looks.

I thought of all of this yesterday after looking through craigslist and Zillow for people selling their homes on their own. What a real estate agent does isn’t glamorous – if anything, I think it’s a particular fault of mine to make things seem much smoother than they are to the point where clients don’t realize just how much work goes into completing a purchase or sale of a home. But it’s not the most enjoyable thing to dabble in.

Moving is stressful enough without taking on a role which carries with it another level of responsibilities and work.

So my advice? Don’t do it. Hire an agent.

And on the sports front? Keep your ticket and/or your remote control. Because when a game’s hitting the four-hour mark, it’s damn nice to either climb into your car or hit the DVR and head to bed.

* * *

Speaking of the ballpark, here are photos of some condos for sale right across the street in the heart of the Legends District (nee Copper Square) …

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