Thoughts from another lifetime

I read on the Sacramento Bee Web site that their former Kings beat writer, Sam Amick, recently left the paper to take a job with AOL Fanhouse and that another Bee reporter assumed his duties. In what seems like a different lifetime, I clerked for the Bee sports section and occasionally talked to Amick, who never had a mean thing to say to me. If things had played out differently in my tenure, which was brief and ended poorly, I wonder if I would be the new Kings writer.

I grew up in Sacramento and started reading the Bee sports section when I was seven or eight. Around sixth grade, I started phoning in responses to reader polls and getting my name in the paper, which would typically be printed beside the name of my elementary school. I have a clipping with a 19-year-old Tiger Woods answering a question I phoned in for a Q&A for kids. At the time, Tiger had just played in his first Masters, and I asked how he felt being the only amateur to finish. He responded he had the time of his life but didn’t accomplish one of his goals, to win the tournament (he’s since won it four times.) Reading his response reminds me how different we are. When I was 19, one of my goals was to get off academic probation.

I began writing term papers on baseball in eighth grade, served as sports editor of my high school newspaper, and studied journalism at Cal Poly, where I wrote prolifically for the campus newspaper. After graduating in June 2005, I worked part-time at an elementary school in Sacramento and freelanced for the sports section of the Davis Enterprise. I backpacked through Europe with my two best friends at the end of summer, and a month after I returned home, I landed the gig at The Bee. One of our family friends is an editor there, and I left her a message one day to check in. She called back to tell me of the open position, which wasn’t being advertised. I submitted a resume and clips, interviewed and was hired.

Problems started soon after. I was hired as a part-time administrative assistant, to answer phones and take down statistics from local games. I wanted to write, though, and while I received a few assignments initially to cover prep sports, this was halted after I stumbled in my admin duties. Looking back on it, the mature thing to do at the first sign of trouble would have been to knuckle down and do the job I was hired for 100 percent. Instead, I think I blamed other staff for my struggles, didn’t apply myself, and was generally defiant. I could say part of the problem was that I was also still working at the elementary school and spreading myself thin, but really, I think I was just immature.

All this being said, I remained blissfully unaware there were dire problems until our family friend called one afternoon near the end of December in 2005 to say the editors were not happy and were preparing to let me go. The family friend and I met for coffee shortly after she called, and I hastily drafted an apology letter before my shift that evening. My printer was running low on toner and it was pouring rain that day, so I showed up wet, with a faintly legible letter and had a terse meeting with my editors. A week later, I was let go.

In the four years since, my life has undergone a series of transformations, and I now live in the Bay Area and work as a copy writer for an Internet marketing company. I actually have a great life today, one I didn’t envision when I left The Bee. I’m in a more secure profession than newspaper reporting, and I get more opportunities to write sports with this site than I ever did at The Bee. More important, I’m in a better place personally now. I’ve had to grow up a lot, and while these past few years haven’t always been easy, the ride has absolutely been worth it. My life is better now than what it was four years ago.

I wonder sometimes what might have been. Long before he covered the Kings, Amick had the same job I failed at, and from reading his stories, I believe I write comparably well. I emailed my old editor last month, before I got my new job, to see if he’d be interested in using me as a baseball writer. I haven’t heard back. I know better than to regret the past or let my ego get the best of me. Every experience I’ve had, good or bad, has helped me reach the point I’m at now, and it’s a good point. Still, sometimes I can’t help but wonder.

2 Replies to “Thoughts from another lifetime”

  1. There is still plenty of time to be a writer for a reputable paper but in the next couple of years I am not sure what that is going to mean. I don’t really think there are going to be many salaried employees in sports writing as the years go on. I think there will be more freelance opportunities which will you will be in a great position to do.

    1. Yeah, I agree. Getting fired from The Bee might have been the best thing that ever happened to me as a writer, as it’s put me in a better position to write books and take on freelance for newspapers, magazines and the Web.

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