The best thing about having a team-issued credential to cover the Lightning is that I'm a Lightning fan, and I like to believe that being a credentialed member of the media allows me to be an ambassador on behalf of fellow fans who will never get to experience the game of hockey that way. Through this weekly column, I'll be sharing peeks behind the magical media curtain with you. Today, we're going to talk about playing to your strengths.
A good thing to figure out early on if you want to pursue a position in sports journalism (or to be any kind of writer at all, for that matter) is what you really want to write about. It doesn’t automatically translate to instant acumen and success and riches and glory, but writing about something for which you have a passion is the best way to set out on the right path. I’m only guessing about the riches and glory as I am not personally familiar with those things, but I’ve heard stories from writers who say they are. Actually, that mostly applies to the acumen and success parts too, if I’m being honest. They could be lying, though. Most writers are huge liars. That’s also an important part of being a successful one. You might want to take that into consideration when I mention being honest.
I’m extremely fortunate in that regard to be writing for Raw Charge, dedicated as we are to coverage of the Tampa Bay Lightning organization. I’m immersed, invested and involved in that organization to a much higher degree than I am with anything else, so writing about it is far more fun (and therefor easier) for me than writing about, say, the Montreal Expos.
There are people out there who are capable of writing with authority about a myriad of sports topics. Those people are rare and mysterious creatures and I’m not one of them. Frankly, they frighten me. I have worked for other organizations where I was expected to be one of those people and it did not go well...
EDITOR (at another media outlet, not Raw Charge): Clark, I need you to write a preview for the NASCAR race this weekend.
ME: But I write about Lightning hockey. And that... is not Lightning hockey related.
EDITOR: I know. But we’re short-handed this week and I need you to fill in. So be a team guy, all right?
ME: Sure, okay. But I don’t know anything about NASCAR. I’m not a fan.
EDITOR: Oh, are you one of these guys who hates NASCAR because you hold the opinion that it’s not a real sport and NASCAR fans are all dumb rednecks because you’re a snob?
ME: No, not at all! I totally respect NASCAR fans and their devotion to their sport. I completely understand why they love it. I just don’t follow it! And I’m not a snob!
EDITOR: Look, it’s fairly straightforward; the race is happening this weekend. Mention that and then just write about who you think has a chance to win.
ME: Well, okay.
Here’s how that came out:
Hey NASCAR fans! We have a big race this weekend, in North Carolina presumably. Darrell Waltrip is someone I’ve heard of, and if I’ve heard of him, he must be pretty famous. If he’s in it, he will probably do good. But my pick is Matt Kenseth. He was great as a guest on NPR’s “Wait Wait... Don’t Tell Me”. Really funny! Although, I would have to say he was not quite as funny as Mo Rocca, but Matt Kenseth was just a guest and Mo Rocca is a regular panelist on that show. Mo Rocca SHOULD be funnier than Matt Kenseth. Also, Mo Rocca isn’t a NASCAR driver so Mo Rocca has virtually zero chance to win this race. I think if Matt Kenseth can avoid getting in any wrecks, he has a good chance to be the winner. At least as good as anybody else. Actually, that applies to all the drivers, I guess. That still doesn’t help Mo Rocca, though. Wrecks or no wrecks and as funny as he is, he still has virtually zero chance to win this race. This concludes my preview of this weekend’s big NASCAR race.
Immediately after that, I was told I wouldn’t need to worry about filling in for other writers on other sports. And shortly after that, I found a home at Raw Charge and have been fine ever since.
And that’s another part (aside from lying) of how to become a successful writer of sports.