It’s only somewhat true, the saying “if you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.”
No matter how much you love something, over the years a changing work environment, shrinking resources and the realities of capitalism — particularly in an industry like mine — can fatigue even the most enthusiastic sports writers.
Yet it’s pretty funny what can end up reinvigorating you right when you need it.
When former Troy Daily News Sports Editor Henry Conte first gave me a full-time sports writing job at the Fairborn Daily Herald in 2004, it was the best thing that had ever happened. A dream come true. Not only was journalism what I went to college for and envisioned myself doing with my life, sports was my one true love at the time, and I never realized that making a living by watching them and writing about them was even a possibility. So for the past 11-plus years, I really have been living a dream.
And when I started more than a decade ago, I met a lot of the old guard, guys that had been doing this for a decade and more before me. Some were nice and still are — my current boss David Fong among them — but many more were grizzled. Jaded. Even a little bitter. I’d interview a coach after a game alongside them, then as we walked away after, they’d mutter a snide remark about something inspiring the coach had just said and laugh. They’d act like covering a high school sporting event of any kind, no matter how exciting the action, was somehow beneath them, like they’d seen everything there was to see and nothing could excite them anymore.
I swore then and there that I’d never be like them.
And while I’ve never gotten anywhere close to that level of cynicism — and, for various reasons, every single one of the people that come to my mind has disappeared from the local sports scene over the years — the last couple years have been pretty tough. I’ve always taken a lot of pride in the quality of my work, but with deadline restrictions constantly shrinking, I couldn’t help but feel like the work itself was suffering. And since, as with all writers, I’m my own worst critic, not being able to do the absolute best meant I felt terrible about it.
Then, in fall of 2014, I made a Twitter account with the handle @TroyDailySports.
At first, it was just kind of there. I’d tweet out scores from the football or basketball games I was at, but nothing major. Got maybe 150 followers, but only followed back news outlets and other journalists, thinking to keep my feed clean for the things I needed to see most. And in spring and summer, I practically forgot it existed.
But after a conversation with my old boss Henry and before this fall season began, I resolved to put it to better use. I made sure to tweet out scores from the games I covered every night instead of just when I felt like it. I went hunting for the scores from all the games each night I couldn’t be at and shared them or retweeted them from their sources. I shared links to our stories as soon as I was done writing them, deadline or no. I even put some of my natural nerdiness into use by playing around in nationwide hashtag games with a Miami County flavor — like insinuating that #WhenTheZombieApocalypseHappens people would still flock to attend the annual Troy-Piqua football game.
But most importantly, I followed back a lot of the high school athletes and communities that I was covering when they’d follow the account. I saw them interacting with the things I was putting on there, enjoying seeing their names and pictures on the Internet in an official capacity before they appeared in the paper. And at times, I’d even interact back with them, congratulating them on spectacular performances in a way that writing an objective article doesn’t allow for.
It truly did make everything more fun, almost making the job brand new again.
Even better was when kids would share the articles about them. In years past, the only way you knew whether or not the kids were reading what you were saying about them was when a parent told you they liked the article. But seeing one of those athletes quote your link, saying “this is my favorite article yet,” well, let’s just say nothing makes a sports writer feel better than knowing without a doubt that the people that you’re writing about actually care about what you have to say about them.
Well, a not-super-jaded-yet sports writer at least.
I know that a lot of my journalist brethren still look at Twitter and social media in general the way cavemen must have reacted the first time they saw fire, and I understand, too. But we’re journalists, and we are capable of adapting to change, whether we like it or not. It’s just how we’re wired. We go where our audience is.
And sometimes, the greeting we get once we meet them there makes us feel at home.
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter. Especially that last part.