Every kid has a dream growing up, and every kid has at least one hero they look up to.
Some kids who grew up in Utah around the same time I did wanted to emulate John Stockton or Karl Malone. For others, it was Steve Young.
Some kids want to be the next great rock musician.
For me, not being blessed with much — if any — athletic talent, and even less musical ability, my heroes were a little different.
I knew from a young age that I wanted to work in the media, covering sports. I didn’t know whether that meant being the next Chris Berman on ESPN, the next Dick Enberg calling NFL and NBA games on NBC or CBS, or following in the footsteps of Woody Paige at the Denver Post.
It wasn’t until college that I discovered I have a face for radio and a voice for newspapers. But I digress.
Little did I know that not everybody can have that cushy job under the bright television lights, hosting SportsCenter. Nor can they hit the big time right off the bat and spend their weeks following the Broncos to every road game.
For most sports writers, the job is a lot less glamorous. It’s every bit as rewarding — and maybe more so, given that most will never deal directly with athletes who view their games as a job.
There are no first-class, cross-country flights for most of us. Nor are there five-star hotels with lavish meals or cushy, climate-controlled press boxes.
More likely, it’s a lot of driving between remote rural outposts, putting tens of thousands of miles a year on your personal vehicle. It’s a lot of fast food — in my case, nearly 10 years of the stuff, to the point that the staff at my favorite burger joint in New Mexico knew exactly what I was going to order from the moment I walked in the door, and addressed me by name.
In the event that an overnight stay is required in order to get the story, lodging options usually consist of Motel 6, unless one wants to splurge for a Super 8. No complimentary bathrobes or Sleep Number beds for most of us. And, yes, we definitely take the free bottles of shampoo with us.
Honestly, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I’ve covered my fair share of big games — the Rose Bowl and all four major sports, as well as countless Division I sporting events. I’ve enjoyed those press boxes and all the perks that come with them — the churros at Anaheim Ducks games were always a treat.
But I’d much rather be right where I am, right now.
There’s something to be said about true community journalism. The athletes and coaches I get to talk to on a regular basis are far from multi-millionaires. They’re members of our community, and reporters and readers alike feel a connection to them.
As a writer, you begin to form bonds with these local athletes and coaches as you see them day after day, week after week, season after season. And the best part? They give you genuine emotion. Part of the frustration of interviewing professional athletes is that they give only a polished answer, largely void of any controversy. After all, they’re likely to get fined my entire annual salary if they rock the boat at all.
Call me crazy, but I’d much rather be in a stuffy high school gym in December, talking to kids who play for the love of the game rather than a professional who lacks perspective and is willing to hold out for an extra half-million dollars a year in annual salary when they’ve already made more than the gross domestic product of a small country.
I’d rather be standing on the edge of the softball infield in Grantsville in a snowstorm as I did Tuesday afternoon than be in the press box in the middle level of Dodger Stadium, seemingly miles from the field.
So, sure, it’s not as glamorous as ESPN. I don’t have my own catch phrase — or, if I do, hardly anybody notices.
But I’m just fine where I am.
Vaughan is the community news editor for the Transcript Bulletin. He thinks concession-stand nachos should be their own food group. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.