How I Made it as a Sports Writer

A current sports writer shares his tale on how he got noticed, started freelance writing, and now is an Editorial Producer for a big network.

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The fact that I’m even writing this is surreal to me. Sitting here after over a decade of trying to make it happen, I finally made writing my career.

How’d it happen? Well…

I was always terrible at math, because I didn’t take naturally to it and really had no interest in it. While there was a disdain for math, my love of writing — and what seemed to my grammar school teachers like a natural ability — was always there.

Writing not only came naturally, it was fun. I didn’t dread doing book reports or taking part in spelling bees. I didn’t find myself having to artificially elongate assignments in order to reach the word count. It flowed. And it didn’t seem like work.

When I was in high school, my love for sports — specifically baseball and the Mets — led me to begin my quest to become a sportswriter.

I did well in all of my English-related courses in high school, and entered college as an English major, which was my first mistake. My second mistake was spending more time partying than I did going to class. My third mistake was not becoming a staff writer for the school newspaper. No matter how talented you are or how good your grades are, the “did you write for your school paper” question is one that trumps all when it comes to getting internships and other opportunities while in college.

I was getting shut down. Because of this, I decided it would be a good idea to try my hand at nonprofit life in a non-writing specific capacity in 2006. In my infinite wisdom, I did that when I was 12 credits shy of my degree. Brilliant.

In 2008, while working the nonprofit job and still short of my degree, I started my own Mets blog called Rational (Sometimes) Mets Musings. That led to me getting noticed by the founder of MetsBlog, and often having my stories linked on his site — giving me needed exposure.

However, soon after,  I started having debilitating panic attacks. While dealing with that — and having it lead to me taking a leave of absence from work — I tried to keep writing, but doing that (and pretty much anything else) was close to impossible. If you check out Rational (Sometimes) Mets Musings, you’ll see that I didn’t write a single blog entry between July of 2008 and February of 2009.  The panic attacks were the reason. But I didn’t give up.

When I finally shook the worst of the anxiety issue, I completed my degree and continued writing while also working the same nonprofit job. I emailed some of the Mets’ beat writers and other sportswriters for advice. Some responded, some didn’t. Those who responded helped pave the way for me.

Some of the advice? Find your own voice, shorten your paragraphs, don’t be too wordy, be relentless, be meticulous. I took it all to heart.

Fast forward to August of 2012. I’ve left my nonprofit job for a job doing credit analysis, which I’m not qualified for. I’m still yearning to write, but this time I’m trying to get my foot in the door in a communications capacity at government agencies. I interviewed for a bunch and got none. I then got laid off from my credit analysis job, with them giving the always lovely “last in, first out” reason. Fun!

By this time, though, my baseball writing had gotten me noticed by the then editor of Rising Apple (a Mets site under the auspices of Sports Illustrated), and I became an unpaid contributor.

While being an unpaid contributor, I acted like I was the site editor — not in a bad way, but in a way that would get me noticed. And when the editor left, I took his place — a job that paid in page views. So, it basically paid for one meal a month. I did it for the love of writing and the hope of it becoming something more.

About a year later, my work for Rising Apple got me noticed by the Editorial Producer for SNY.tv, which had absorbed MetsBlog — the site that had first started linking my articles four years prior.

I became a part-time news desk editor for SNY.tv and continued writing for Rising Apple. Soon after, I took on another job so I could actually pay my bills — doing social media and communications for The Fest For Beatles Fans. And thus began three years of craziness.

For SNY.tv, I did the same thing I had done for Rising Apple — worked my butt off with the hope of it becoming something more. That led to me proving myself and being given 34 hours per week, sometimes from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., other days from 6 p.m. to midnight and beyond. And I did this while working 40 hours per week for the Fest. And running Rising Apple. You do the math.

While I did all of the above, I kept applying for full-time jobs (writing and others) and coming up empty. It was depressing. It was exhausting. At times, it seemed fruitless.

I’m about to violate my own rule of writing short, so let’s wrap this up…

In the summer of 2016, the job of Editorial Producer at SNY.tv became available. It was my dream job. Not only working for the network the Mets are on, but running every other site on their blog network. And because of all the work I had done over the last nine years — building myself from the ground up — the job felt like the natural next step.

The interview process was intense and long. It took months for it to be complete. And when it was, I was the last person standing.

What had started out as an idea over 15 years prior and became a quest in the last nine or so years, was finally complete.

If you want to be a writer and have it become your career, you need to be tenacious. You need to be dedicated. And you need to not be a fan of sleep. But if you truly love writing like I do, you’ll savor every second once you get the job you’ve always dreamed of.

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