(My one hundredth column of Bleachers' Brew appears today in the sports section of the Monday, March 24, 2008 edition of the Business Mirror.)
During my college days, I got a summer job as a sportswriter for a tabloid edition of a major daily. Although I never wrote about sports for my school newspaper as I preferred the more mundane things associated with my school life, I leaped at the opportunity.
Iwas one of three newbies tasked to cover the amateur basketball league. It was fun to watch the games for free, to be granted access to the team dugouts for interviews, and to be invited to luncheons and dinners. I even got the odd professional game as well. Writing about players and teams made me feel like I was a part of the game because I had to communicate what I saw and gleaned from the game.
It was far different from today where almost every writer has their own laptop and they email their game accounts. I had to file mine shorthand or on a rickety typewriter then dictate them over the phone. I felt like Clark Kent except that it was sports. Seeing my byline on a nationally distributed paper was priceless --- someone somewhere actually read something I wrote.
After that conference championship, the winning team hosted a lunch for the press corps but instead of attending it, my editor had me cover another event. I looked forward to the lunch but since I was given something else to cover, it was no big deal. That is until someone butted in. One of the paper’s senior writers overheard my reassignment and she sidled up to me and wondered how on earth would I learn to follow a lead unto its very end if I was shunted off elsewhere. She said I had as much right to be at the lunch since the league was “my baby.” As I mentioned, it was no biggie since it meant an opportunity to get another story besides who was I to contradict the boss? Unperturbed she said that after I attended to my new assignment I should still follow to the lunch as her “apprentice.” I still remember her words very well, “Akong bahala sa ‘yo. Kausapin ko si bossing.”
Ah, naivety thy name is youth. I did my job then followed. I sat beside the senior writer when my editor arrived. The surprise and restrained anger in his face said it all. I made a boo boo. He placed a firm hand on my shoulder and told me to see him the following day. He ignored me for the rest of the function. I lost my appetite.
The following day, I was called into the publisher’s office and my editor asked me for an explanation for my “not following orders.” I recounted to him exactly what happened so he called over the senior writer. To my everlasting dismay and shock, she denied everything. She even had the gall to say that she chided me during the press con for going there when I was explicitly told not to. It was her word against mine and I lost. My editor told me that my summer job was over. Before I left, I asked the senior writer why she didn’t tell the truth. She said that she never recalled talking to me about going.
The ride from the port area all the way home seemed like an eternity as I failed to hold back the tears. Truthfully, I’ve never forgotten that incident. It taught me to be mindful of orders. In a moment of regret, I wished I continued with my art school and rued trying to think I could write.
Who would have thought that I could? A few years earlier during my senior year in high school, my English teacher returned an essay of mine disgraced with a huge “F” in red ink along with a note to go see the principal. When I asked my teacher what I did wrong, she said that I plagiarized my work. A smile broke out on my lips as I explained to her that what I submitted “was a lot of B.S.” I wrote it some 30 minutes before class and completely made up everything. And if she cared to check the information, none of them were factual. After a little investigation here and there, she changed my grade with much profuse apologies. It was the first time I could recall that I could actually write. Previously, I paid more attention to illustration during weekends and summer breaks or to music as I learned how to play a guitar and a piano (I formed my first high school band in third year high).
But even at an early age, I loved sports. I lived for it. I guess even as far back as in high school, I knew that I didn’t want to be a doctor or lawyer much to my parents’ chagrin. My interests were always in the arts and sports.
I have always been a voracious reader and was once a champion reader but I’d say that a lot of credit has to go to a certain sports magazine’s swimsuit models for forever cementing my interest in sports.
While working as a copywriter for an advertising agency, one of my first accounts was the pro basketball association and I felt that I had come almost full circle. I got to do some ads and its first-ever television trivia contest with some nifty stats and numbers that up to that point weren’t done yet. I wrote a jingle that its board liked and got a huge compliment from its then commissioner that I knew my stuff and should try writing. Perhaps it was also working with its production outfit not only since many of their employees were later officemates of mine in the country’s top sports cable channel but also because it further spurred an interest in broadcasting and production work.
It was during these years in advertising that I felt that the industry and discipline refined my writing. The biggest clients I ever handled were the country’s top telecoms company and its national airline carrier. As was our custom at that time, we devoted a whole month on the preparation for the following year’s campaign. Four teams were assigned for the presentation and internally everyone at the agency thought that the one my team conceptualized was the best of the lot. But during our presentation, the telecoms then vice president shot it down but approved everything else.
The big bosses tried to fight for it but the client didn’t think it held up. I was crestfallen throughout the rest of the day and for the next few. But the following year, I rebounded with my best year in advertising. Three of the projects I worked on were nominated for an award and my concept for the telecoms company’s next campaign was produced.
It was also during this time that I was writing for the country’s top-selling newspaper writing about young entrepreneurs, jazz artists and alternative music acts, and comic books. But that style would dramatically change over the next decade after having lived abroad and used up four of my nine lives.
In the weeks leading up to my one hundredth column for BUSINESS MIRROR, I wondered what to write about. It’s probably no big deal for most columnists who’ve penned thousands but cut a newbie some slack. I’ve always put in a lot of effort, passion, and an alternative voice into what I write. I thought of writing about a hundred sports-related things to do before I die and totally non-hundred related regular topics. I thought and thought some more. Wrote even a few before I hit the delete button on them. In the end I went back to the beginning. When I endured a false start to something I’ve grown to love and cherish. And in doing so, I’ve been able to exorcise the demons of that rough beginning of long ago.
My dad calls it, “the school of hard knocks” and in some ways he’s right. But it’s all about a literal love for the game.