Why I Became a Writer at Bleacher Report

Rob TiongsonSenior Analyst IMay 13, 2009

Fate can work itself in unique and mysterious ways. Whether it's how we meet our lifelong friend, reach a career crossroad, or encounter a realization that greatly shifts and shakes our way of living, it is a curious wonder how some things all come together.

Like many of the writers who received an email this week from Zander Freund about the state and future of the Bleacher Report, I realized just how much importance this Web site has to me not only as a writer, but as a young man who happens to love sports.

Where else can we find amateur writers who are willing to spark some comments and controversy among some of the most knowledgeable fans of any sport, be it basketball, cricket, wrestling to stock car racing?

Show me another place where there's a strong contingency of diversity amongst writers and fans and even then, it cannot hold a candle to B/R.

I'm sure this isn't the first article that is a reflection of Zander Freund's email regarding B/R, but this and Kara Martin's piece got me thinking of not only how I came across this site, but why I decided to pursue my dreams of becoming a sportswriter.

Also, I felt it necessary for once to get a little personal. I was wondering about writing about myself and my experiences as a fan and aspiring journalist, so bear with me.

First of all, I'm an American who currently lives overseas in the developing but struggling nation called the Philippines, prominently known for its world-renowned billiards players in Efren "Bata" Reyes and Francisco Bustamante as well as boxing phenom Manny "Pacman" Pacquiao.

Outside of those sports icons as well as hosting the world's second oldest professional basketball league in the form of the Philippine Basketball Association, the Philippines is not exactly what you would call a sports-known nation back in my home country of the United States.

Keeping that in mind, the realizations for me becoming a writer did not all come together as easily as planned.

To be honest, I was not sure of what I aspired to be as I grew up.

Flashing back to Feb. 14, 2003, I recall a very significant moment in my life when my American History class from Bellingham (MA) High School took a field trip to a local National Guard base in the neighboring town of Milford.

No, we were not being recruited to join the armed forces, nor did we get a history lesson about wars of the past.

Rather, we were situated in this room where we took part in a broadband teleconference with some of the most courageous young men and women of the military who were stationed at some place unknown in Afghanistan.

I was 17 years old and the fact that I was in this room facing these young soldiers who were immune to danger at any given moment during our teleconference was absolutely terrifying and at the same time, incredible.

Terrifying in that I could not put myself in their shoes, as I wondered what kept them seemingly calm and restrained in enemy territory.

At the same time, I was in a state of amazement.

As I sat back in my chair listening to my classmates asking the soldiers about the battles in Afghanistan, a flurry of questions just suddenly entered my mind.

It was like shifting to fourth gear in a 3,400 pound stock car, passing my competitors one-by-one to ask them questions that may have seemed off limits.

Instead of asking the seemingly easy questions like what music they listened to or what food they ate, I asked them if the war was just and if homeland America was in peril when fear of chemical warfare was in the cards.

It may sound selfish, but personally, it was that Valentine's Day of 2003 that I had realized what my true calling in life was: to become a journalist.

Fast forward some five years later to the fall of 2008, I was in my second year here in the Philippines.

My family and I had moved to this country after living virtually all our years of life in the Boston, Massachusetts area.

Nowadays, as much as I tried denying it to myself and my parents at the time, the move from the States to here was truly a cultural shock to me.

To go from a country where some of us take for granted of the little aspects of life to a nation that struggles to get on its feet with potential standing right in front of it, you cannot help but either be inspired or dejected.

For me, I like to keep in tune with being optimistic, to see what is right and hopeful no matter the situation. I decided that my bouts of homesickness and loneliness should be combated by writing.

Eventually, my writings went from personal poetry and short stories to reaching a crossroad with what direction I wanted to go as an amateur journalist.

I was in my second term at De La Salle Canlubang University, one of the Philippines' newest colleges, and I wanted to find a way to reach back to the States without ever stepping foot from here.

It was late September of 2008 when I randomly came across this site thanks to Jayski.com.

I came across the works of Mary Jo Buchanan, a devout NASCAR and Jeff Gordon fan, and the combination of her sports following as well as mine somewhat convinced me to at least lurk around a bit with other writers.

Eventually, after reading the articles of Jen Preston, Kelly Crandall, and Kara Martin, I decided to join B/R and focus my attentions on the happenings of NASCAR, one of the top racing series in America.

Here and there, I took some time off from the site to focus on my studies, my family and myself as well in coping with my homesickness.

B/R became my virtual, Internet home of sorts. Mingling with the writers who are a part of this site, I realized just how a simple linking of one-time strangers can lead to magnificent results.

Friendships, acquaintance-ships, and collaborations can be formed, building a bit of this vast and large international community.

I'm pretty sure that I am not the only American who lives overseas at the moment but focuses on the world of sports back in their homeland.

Because of B/R, I feel like I have flown home and found myself walking around Causeway Street or Yawkey Way, chatting it up with the Boston sports fans who are so passionate and devoted to their teams, you almost wonder if it consumes them as an individual.

I also feel like I'm in the Southeast part of the States, at one of the most premier racing facilities in the world, sitting in the grandstands with racefans who either cheer for the same driver that I root for, or another competitor who rivals the team I support as a fan.

While most of us can agree that the future is definitely uncertain and full of unknown, the potential and growth of B/R is definitely in our hands.

Not only do I mean this with us writers, but with you, the fans sitting behind the keyboards, whether you're in school, work, or home in Bacolod, Negros Occidental, Philippines or Johannesburg, South Africa.

For those who lurk around the site like I once have, I encourage you to join and become a contributing member of this wonderful sports site.

Because of B/R, I have found not only those who inspire me to keep at it with my writings, but some of my most truest friends who I intend to keep with me as a part of my life in this exodus they call being human.

I thank all of you, from my fans to the readers who not only comment and check out my works, but the writings of all the talented men and women who put their all into their articles.

There are too many people I may leave out in this last segment of my piece, so if I did not mention you, I apologize in advance.

My biggest thanks go to the NASCAR B/R community, especially Mary Jo Buchanan and Kara Martin, who have been like the aunt and older sister from the racing family that has waited to adopt me as one of their own.

Even though I'm far from the racing action and that I'm a Yankee who cheers for the Red Sox (sorry New York fans!), I am truly appreciative of the support, advice, and friendships that have formed with them.

Ben Bomberger, Kelly Crandall, Jen Preston, Glenn Card, Yvette Aguilar, Mike Kent, Mitch and Dave of Sports Chat Place, and all my other fans and commenters who have been a part of my journey here in this site, I thank you very much and I look forward to my future contributions and writings here as well as yours!

To everyone else who I may have forgotten and to you, the reader coming across this work, thanks, or as they say here in the Philippines, maraming salamat sa yo!


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