When my wife introduces me to new people and the conversation turns to what I do for a living, I'm often tempted to say that I'm an importer/exporter. That's right, I import chips... potato, some corn, certainly not long matches, and I export diapers. I'd hope that segment of the evening would end right there and we could move onto slow cooker recipes or elephant orphanages. Believe it or not, there are times that I just don't want to talk about sports, plus I never want anyone else to think that just because I spend my day analyzing the Flyers goaltending situation, Matt Kenseth's pit strategy and Mack Brown's future, that I actually want to continue giving fantasy football advice when the first round of beers arrive. But, I never go that route and almost with certainty I'm asked to help out a friend, a friend of a friend, or a cousin in his or her quest to get into the sports industry. My response? "Absolutely."
So what do I tell the friend's carpenter's nephew? Plenty that they may not want to hear and nearly everything I've been told since before my Bar Mitzvah.
Be willing to do anything at anytime. Sleep is overrated up to a certain age (I'm still not there yet) when it means accepting an assignment. There isn't such a thing as a little assignment. Own everything you do. The post-meet story of the high school boys 200m free relay may not be deemed worthy of the first six pages of the section by your editor, but that story should be better than your previous one, and the next should be better than this one. Each rep is an opportunity to improve and an opportunity should never be taken for granted.
As you dream about your career and start to build your life around it, do not look to the person next to you to judge how you're doing. No one in any business gets to one place the same way and if you think that just because someone else is in a position you want to be in and lose focus for a moment, you'll start taking steps back instead of forward. You'll get nowhere being jealous.
In order to present a wider view of what it takes to earn a living talking and/or writing about sports, I asked a few friends in the business close to my age, 31, or younger, to share theirs. I can't stress enough the importance of reading and writing, which makes me sound like my parents, but that's a good thing. What follows are clips that are worthwhile to print out, fold over and put in your wallet, or copy and paste into the notes section of your phone.
Matt Gelb, Phillies Beat Writer - The Philadelphia Inquirer
Read, read, read. The best writers are the ones who read the most. Read short stories. Read your favorite sports columnists. Read blogs. Read non-fiction. A throwaway nugget in another story could lead to a feature for you. Good writers employ devices you may have never considered. It's not plagiarism, rather, inspiration.
Josh Thomson, Columnist - The Journal News (West Chester, NY)
You're going to have a lot of fun at your job, but be ready to miss a lot of fun, too -- birthdays, holidays, weddings, weekends out with friends, etc. That's the nature of the sports business. Because TV drives sports so much, games are played and events are held when people are home -- at night, on weekends, during holidays. If you want to cover sports, you must be willing to sacrifice.
Get involved in the conversation. One of the best parts about covering sports in present times is the interactivity with fans. They want your opinions, but they want theirs to be heard, too. The more you interact with them, the stronger following you will build. Never forget to embrace that aspect of the job.
Justin Kutcher, Broadcaster - Fox Sports
You have to have the passion for this. If you don't, get out now because you're just going to get burned out/bitter really quickly.
Never say no to an opportunity. Whatever the job may be, you can always figure out a way to help you achieve your ultimate goal. Experience and reps are vital to your growth.
Justin Termine, Host - Off the Dribble, Sirius/XM
First thing I tell people interested in doing what I do is to pick another career. I'm not kidding. You've got to be prepared to give it all up - social life, relationships, vacations and weddings. Then if you still think it's worth it, READ EVERYTHING. You'll hear that everywhere, but it's true. If you're not reading two or three hours a day, you don't know as much as I do. Don't kid yourself; you're competing against me and a whole lot more in this cutthroat business.
Frank Seravalli, Flyers Beat Writer - Philadelphia Daily News
Get uncomfortable. You will never be successful as a journalist if you believe you already think you know everything about the subject you are covering. Get dirty and cover something you know nothing about: high school bowling, girls cross country, tennis or wrestling. Learn to ask questions and network at the most basic levels of sports. If you can carry a subject and interview a high school bowler, there's a good chance you will be less nervous interviewing a professional athlete.Be ready to move. It's more than likely your first job won't come in your hometown, covering the franchise you grew up watching. Getting into this industry, you better be willing to move to Topeka, Kan., or Glens Falls, N.Y., to start to work your way back to your dream. If you aren't willing to do that, there is someone else out there who will. Money will be tight and you may need to eat Ramen noodles four nights a week in the beginning. You will likely never be rich as a sports writer, but there is a chance to make an honest, decent living where you never feel like you're actually working because you love what you do.
Those words are from guys who are young pros in various positions of this business. Nothing you read is meant to scare anyone, but rather to try to provide a realistic view of what may be ahead and to help those who considering this path. There's so much to be enthused about along the way, milestones and events that will motivate you to get to the next step. Please make sure to stay in touch with everyone along the way, be respectful and make an impression.
A career in sports has given me the opportunity to travel the country to do play-by-play for games in Reading, PA to Olean, NY and report from Super Bowls, Final Fours, World Series, NBA Finals and Stanley Cups. In order to make the most of those experiences, I enjoy getting to taste the local flavors, so I'll end each post with a food recommendation and please pass yours along to me as well.
City: New Orleans
Event: 2012 Final Four (and a bachelor party)
Restaurant: Cochon (930 Tchoupitoulas St. - Warehouse District)
Plate: Wood-Fired Oyster Roast
There are lots of ways to prepare oysters and in New Orleans, there are kitchens that are masters at doing so. Here's how simply Cochon appears to prepare this plate of five treasure chests. Fresh, plump Gulf oysters (without a hint of BP oil), butter and chili oil - pop in a wood-burning oven and serve piping hot. So hot that it's almost dangerous since the smell demands a quick taste. Gulf oysters are sweeter than what you'd find in the Northeast and fortunately in this dish the sauce doesn't mask the taste. Don't use a cocktail fork to eat these. Pick up the shell and down the hatch making sure to sip it clean. These five bites are perfect as a starter for dinner or an afternoon snack at the bar with an Abita to your right.