End of an era

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… or how I decided to write about a career change and went with the most pretentious title I could come up with.

Barring any one-off freelance assignments, this fall will be the first since 2001 when I’ve strictly been a sports fan, rather than a working member of everyone’s favorite profession, the sports media.

No crying about that here.

Sportswriting wasn’t my goal when I first got into the journalism field. Sure, I was a sports fan, and I knew enough about the games to be the guy assigned to write 250-word recaps of small college football and basketball games during my time at The Associated Press.

But when I got my first “real” newspaper job in August 2001 — real in the sense that A) it was a daily newspaper and B) we had more than a handful of people on staff — I was on the cops beat. I wrote a couple sports-related stories — the requisite “bad weather during basketball sectional week,” reaction to IU’s trip to the NCAA title game in 2002 — but for the most part, I was strictly a news guy.

But when a position opened up on the copy desk, I took it. Better pay, after all, and I wouldn’t have to skip dinner to go stand outside a trailer in the boonies while waiting for SWAT to pull some criminal out (yes, that happened. And yes, it still bugs me a bit).

And since I had the most sports knowledge of the copy editors, at least among the ones who would be working Friday and Saturday nights, I became the unofficial sports copy editor.

There were some growing pains that first autumn, including the sports editor and I “discussing” deadlines and how “helpful” it was for him to stand over my shoulder while I was trying to meet said deadlines. But after a few months, I was zipping along fast enough on editing copy and laying out pages that Kirk basically turned production over to me. “Here’s what we’re covering, make it look good.”

Fast-forward to the spring of ’06. Kirk has decided, as he prepares to start a family, that he’s done with working all those nights and weekends and is moving up the chain. I end up getting the sports editor job, which, until six months ago, was the best job I’d ever had.

That didn’t last, of course. Downsizing sucks.

But a few weeks after my departure, I got a job at The Shelbyville News as a part-time sportswriter/copy editor. I spent that fall editing high school football game stories on Friday nights, with the occasional assignment myself.

I decided to go back to school. Not long after I enrolled, a former co-worker, now the sports editor in Terre Haute, offered me a freelance correspondent job covering IU football and men’s basketball. The next day, another newspaper that I had stringed for a couple times asked me if I was interested in … covering IU football and men’s basketball.

Cover a game and get paid by two places? Hell, yeah! (And I cleared it with both sports editors first, because ethics).

So that’s how I spent my falls—and winters and early springs—up through last season, covering IU around other jobs, which included going back to Shelbyville as a full-time news reporter.

But in February, I got a job that got me out of the newspaper business. With the pay and the travel and the pay (did I mention the pay?), I began to question whether I should keep the IU gig or not.

The decision process was helped when the chain that owns Terre Haute created a full-time IU beat writer position and I didn’t even bother to apply. The beat is in capable hands, and I no longer have to figure out alternate routes to Bloomington to get around INDOT’s “let’s work on every road headed to southern Indiana” master plan.

Will I miss it? Maybe a little. I always loved the experience of cranking out an informative, well-written, engaging game story on deadline. It’s a rush that a lot of people don’t experience.

But feeling little to no remorse for missing a game? Freeing my Friday nights and weekends to do, well, anything else?

Yeah, I’ll be fine.

Share your words of wisdom.