Talking and writing about sports is a bizarre way to earn a living, but they provide a strange set of wonderful validations – not necessarily from listeners and readers – but from the feeling of accomplishment in finishing a day where fun was had and unique information was shared.
I host a daily three-hour radio show on CBS Sports 1430 in Indianapolis and write daily on this website. Until a couple of years ago, I managed very talented men and women who did the same. Both have their thrilling moments, but hosting and writing is more challenging on a minute to minute basis.
Before telling you what this vocation of preparing and delivering unique content in media is about, let me share what it isn’t – at least not for me. Because we like to keep score as a society, ratings and page views in media can be a focus of some who work in digital content, radio/TV, and social media. Over the years, I have come to completely ignore them. Clicks, ratings, followers? I don’t care. It’s not what gets me up in the morning. I grade myself by how well I find the truth and then tell it.
Of course, I would love to have millions of people consume what I produce, but I can’t control that. All I can do is the best I can every day, and work as hard as I can to make what I do valuable.
People think that I talk and write occasionally about Kentucky Basketball and often about Tom Crean and Indiana because I am trying to amass ratings and page views. Nope. I learned a long time ago that popularity is a focus best left to high schoolers.
Some days it works, and others, well, I could have done much better. Sometimes, I get a little snarky, and entertain myself in that way. Moments like that I regret. Sometimes, especially when I haven’t yet developed a clear vision of what is happening with a team, coach, or player I circle the truth until I find it. I need to improve there.
Here are the 7 things I love best about writing and talking about sports:
1 – Sports are all about why. It’s fun to watch games to try to find the reasons one team is successful while the other fails. Is it the coach’s strategy, cultural initiatives, execution of the team, weakness or strength of a player, or some other arcane and hard to notice factor?
2 – Using my show and site to tell the stories of great people. Everyone has a great story to tell, and I like being able to share what makes every athlete, coach, and administrator interesting. Putting people in a position to tell the truth about themselves is great fun. I’m curious about people, and asking questions about why they do what they do is joyful.
3 – Sports are a microcosm of life and the result is black and white. In so many endeavors, life is all about gray areas. Winning becomes a matter of advancing a narrative that management or stockholders accept rather than actual success. Meetings to discuss ways in which we might claim victory despite metrics that tell an entirely different story corrode the soul. Teams and athletes win or lose – period. Life is simpler on the gridiron, court, rink, diamond, ring, octagon, pitch, court, and course.
4 – Talking for three hours without getting bored is a tremendous challenge. To walk into a room without a script, open a microphone, and start talking is daunting despite the amount of planning or the quality of the guests. Challenges are good for the soul, and the goal of making sense during every segment is borderline heroic because it’s close to unattainable. Haven’t been bored for a single second.
5 – Moments of total clarity. Every once in awhile, words spill out of my mouth in exactly the right sequence. These are blissful interludes when nothing matters but the passion that must escape by unusually large noggin. i lose total sense of time and place. My mind goes completely blank, and I can barely remember what I said. That’s when hosting is the most fun.
6 – Truth is the only pursuit that matters in life. Yes, there are three versions of the truth – yours, mine, and the real truth – but sifting through all of the chatter to find what is right and just in life should be the goal of every talk radio show, online column, or video piece. That pursuit is sacred, and there is nothing better than finding it. People might disagree, as many do with my thoughts on the direction of the Indiana Basketball program, but if I work hard enough to figure it out, maybe my beliefs can illuminate.
7 – Words are magical. If you put words together perfectly, your thoughts will be conveyed perfectly to whomever is reading or listening to them. That’s the ultimate puzzle. To be able to say or write an idea and have people understand exactly – precisely – that thought, well, that’s a pretty good day.
Some days I get it pretty close to right, and others I feel like I could have been much better, but hopefully you understand that the effort is there and that you can trust me.