These past couple months I've gotten into some extensive collections of Rick Reilly’s work. And I must say, the more I read, the more attached I become to Reilly’s sentimental approach to sport writing: the endearing subject matters, the story of the average citizen being profoundly changed in a positive way due to a fierce bond with a particular sport, the little team that could, and the athlete who ignores all setbacks and handicaps and achieves success and glory.
Reading Reilly's work is like drinking hot chocolate on a frosty, autumn day; it warms the insides and makes the reader content with simple happiness—and he does this purely by covering inspirational stories about sport.
The more I read articles like his, and Bill Simmons’, and other well known sports journalists', the more I wondered, "What can I really add of worth to the mix?" and thus started my dismal writer's block.
I bounced ideas back and forth, but nothing seemed to stick. It was as if my idea, in the symbolic form of a football, couldn't be passed from the quarterback to any wide receiver or running back.
Heck, even if an idea could get in the hands of another hypothetical player, it wouldn't get past the intimidating defensive line, and thus my writer's block took the form of a formidable linebacker.
Last night, after a long evening of various meetings involving student government and student sections (I'm on the crew where these two ideas intersect), I threw my overbooked agenda on my bed and flopped into my uncomfortable chair in my shabby Tucson apartment. I had been sitting a total of seven minutes, mindlessly browsing espn.com when I realized I needed to get out and feed my subtle—but apparent—internal nagging for an adventure.
Ten minutes later, I pulled up in front of Barnes & Noble and happily hopped out of my car. I had no chosen destination in mind, but lo! and behold (and to no one's surprise), I found my way to the sports section of the bookstore, in which I took a seat in the middle of the aisle and opened a book about hockey.
And a book about baseball. And three on football. And one on basketball, and Wooden, and the Cubs, and Tiger’s swing, and a female’s guide to football...and it just hit me.
I had faded into a world all my own, surrounded by heroic tales of high school football teams, words of wisdom from beloved coaches, words of "wisdom" from the delightful Yogi Berra, and no one could have stolen me away from the pure happiness surrounding me like a protective bubble.
The feeling was spectacular. I'm sure it might've looked odd from an employee's point of view. Here, a girl, looking somewhat "Californian" in appearance—long, blonde hair, ripped t-shirt, flip flops, was completely absorbed in books on teams, athleticism, coaching, and sports like baseball, basketball, and football. But I'm used to getting odd reactions, and I kept reading.
Tonight, as I write this, comfortably sitting in a local Starbucks next to my best friend as we engage in a regular study session, I can rest assured that my writer’s block period is over.
The football is back in commission, ready to be passed, or run, or kicked. I realize now that I can tackle sport in any aspect I choose.
Rick Reilly isn't an opponent I need to sidestep on my way towards the end zone or someone I should critically compare my own writing to; he is an encouraging coach on the sideline, giving me inspiration through his stirring collections of writing.
I suddenly got that warm, fuzzy feeling on the inside again. Maybe it's the "signature" hazelnut hot chocolate I just sipped, but something leads me to believe it's more than just that. In a nutshell, it's the unshakable combination of passion, contentment, and happiness, all stemming from the power of sport that inspires me.