Sports Writing As More Than a Hobby: Get Real

Illya HarrellAnalyst IIJuly 19, 2009

VALENCIA, SPAIN - MARCH 07:  Sanya Richards takes part in an internet blog during the 12th IAAF World Indoor Championships at the Palau Lluis Puig on March 7, 2008 in Valencia, Spain.  (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

Does your Bleacher Report profile say anything similar to "Aspiring Sports Writer"?  How about "Journalism Major"?  "Future GM of the Red Sox"?

If so, dream on, my soon-to-be chagrined friend.  Especially the GM guy or gal.

I have no idea the number profiles I have viewed on this site.  Of those many, it seems like over half say something to the effect of, "I wanna go pro."

It's difficult for me to see so many fellow Bleacher Creatures with such lofty goals.  Sure goals are a good thing.  To bet your future on unrealistic ones is not.

How many "big league" sports writing jobs are out there?  Shoot, even toss in "minor league" employment opportunities.  Shucks, let's go so far as to count high school sports.  How many?

Answer: Very few.

Not nearly enough to keep the vast majority of you from standing in the free cheese line.

You see, most teams already have solidified writers.  You may be lucky to get a job as a stringer, reporting stats to the good old boys, while bringing home $1,400 a month.

That's hardly enough to keep a roof over your head in a major metropolitan area.  Additionally, it is seasonal work, akin to Wal-Mart's extra hiring around the holiday season. 

More glamorous though—trust me on that one.

Journalism Majors hoping to come out of school and score a job with the Marshall Thundering Herd, think about what you are doing.  Then run to the registrar's office and change your major. 

To those who have not yet entered college or university—do not major in journalism.

I know a young lady who works for the Washington Post.  From what I gather, she is well respected in their Thursday edition's travel section. 

She once told me that when the folks who do the hiring see "Journalism Major," they usually don't read much more before dumping it in the waste bin.

In about 10 years there, I have seen exactly two articles solely written by her.  Most of the time her name is at the bottom, "with contributions by...".  She has a Master's Degree in English. 

You cannot be taught creativity or imagination—either you've got it or you don't.  Plus you don't even need a journalism degree.  Or any degree for that matter.

You are probably saying to yourselves, "I know my stuff.  Why do I need imagination or creativity to write about sports?"  To keep readers your stuff cannot be drab. 

You will need a hook that keeps them coming back for more.  If you don't have it, you will be not only in be waiting in the free cheese line, but you will also be living in your mom's basement.

I came up with the idea for this article after seeing all of the Bleacher Report writers hopes of the big time dashed after the ballyhooed NFL stringer debacle. 

I knew nothing of the contest until I started reading the complaints.  I'm fairly new, and I'm a baseball guy.

Leroy Watson's article, Not Ready to Make Nice? Maybe We Should Be did a brilliant job applauding Bleacher Report for giving this opportunity to journalists with none or minimal professional experience.

When reading the sourpuss pieces—mostly whining that Bleacher Report or CBS had not made good on their promise to have one stringer per team—I couldn't help but to think, well, they got 14 people their dream job.  What's to complain about? 

Besides making $1,400 a month for about half of a year.

Anyone who strives to be a writer should first look at it as a hobby and nothing more—this should be a mantra for any aspiring wordsmith.

This goes for all types of writing, not just sports writing.  In fact, it should be the mantra of all artists.

If you go into writing with a Pulitzer-type mentality, I dig your confidence while at the same time shaking my head at your impending dismay.

Write for the fun of it.  Write because you are obsessed.  Write as a hobby.

With your new found mantra, who knows what the future lies in store?  You might just be one of the lucky few.