#BuckFiftyADay Since March, 2014

#BuckFiftyADay Since March, 2014

Friday, November 20, 2015

#BuckFiftyADay: Selling Cars

A year ago I was trying to sell cars. Sad as it sounds, the only call-backs I was getting when applying for jobs on craigslist were from car dealerships. So, finally, one day I took the job from the dealership that offered "training." I spent a week memorizing a script. The dealership was transitioning into being a "one price" shop. For those who don't know about this stuff, "one price' dealerships put the price of the car on a sticker on the windshield. No negotiation. No haggling. I thought this was perfect for me. I'd sell cars simply by being an honest, nice guy, the kind of salesman from whom I'd want to buy a car. I memorized the script and went to work. About two weeks in, we were getting slaughtered by dealerships that negotiated. We quickly reverted and I was a down-and-dirty car salesman. I lasted two months.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

#BuckFiftyADay: I Got A Job Working Construction

On Dec. 19, 1980, my 22-year old brother Rob put me in his Proctor and Gamble company car, a red Ford Fairmont, and drove me (his just-turned-17 year old little brother) to Madison Square Garden for my first Bruce Springsteen concert. He had paid $50 from a scalper for the tickets, or so he told me and my dad. Years later, he'd confess it was significantly more than $50 (face value $10.50). From the first song, Prove it All Night, until the last encore, Raise Your Hand, I was mesmerized. It would be the first of close to 100 Springsteen shows for me. So, while many shrug at Springsteen's latest project, a box-set called The Ties the Bind, I practically twitch with anticipation as I wait to see the DVD of a Tempe, Arizona show. A birthday present for a 52-year old man who’s ready to feel 17 again.

Monday, November 16, 2015

#BuckFiftyADay: Why I am the Luckiest

During the middle of Game 2 of the 1995 American League Division Series, I called my wife from Yankee Stadium to say goodbye. We'd be going to Seattle for Games 3-5. She said to me, "I think I might be pregnant." We'd been married a year and were hoping to get a family started. "OK," I said. "Let's wait until I come home and you can take the test." The Yankees lost the next three games, which meant I would not be home for a month. So, she took the test while I held on to the phone. Positive! The next four weeks all I could think was that there was no way I could be a dad and a baseball beat writer. Whenever I feel sorry for myself I think about how lucky I was to find a job as a sportswriter that allowed me to be a dad.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

#BuckFiftyADay: Tough All Over

Got a lot off my chest yesterday. Appreciate those who understand. Also appreciate those who told me to suck it up, because it's tough all over. I get that. But understand one thing. I'm not at a point in my life where I can afford to do many of the things suggested, like write a book without an advance, or write a blog for "exposure." I am a professional journalist and will not operate as an amateur. I write for money only (except when I vent here). If I were a kid today who wanted to be a writer, I’d probably write for free too. Back in “my day,” I spent my first 3-4 years post college doing things like taking dictation, making coffee, taking lunch orders. But I had a salary and benefits and confidence it would lead to bigger and better things. Thankfully, it did. For a while.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

A Little Ditty About an Out-of-Work Sportswriter

I am an out-of-work sportswriter, laid off on January 15, 2013 by the Newark Star-Ledger, where I was a baseball columnist and fill-in baseball beat writer. I don't expect anyone to feel sorry for me.

The Daily News - another place where I worked - recently laid off some of the best sportswriters in the business. This was humbling for me. I could never turn a phrase like Filip Bondy. Bill Madden has broken more stories than I've written. Wayne Coffey was my mentor as a feature writer.

I'm nothing compared to those guys.

But I'm going to share some of what I've experienced the last three years, as I've searched for a job to help me support my family, which includes two teenage sons.

Just to set the scene for you, I'll let you know that for the past four months I've worked a seasonal job at a golf club. I was the locker room attendant. I cleaned and polished golf shoes. I vacuumed the carpet several times a day. I kept the bathrooms clean, which sometimes included heavy lifting.

One day, a golfer (a guest) asked me, "Where's the locker room guy?"

"That's me," I said.

"Oh," he said. "I thought you were one of us."

Honestly, it's not as bad as it sounds. I always dressed for work in proper golf attire. It's a nice club. Perhaps I wasn't as "ethnic" as the past locker room guys he'd met. I was not offended.

I was never shy about sharing my story with golfers who wanted to strike up conversation. "Yeah, I used to be somebody..." That's the way I'd begin to tell them about my 25-year career as a sportswriter. "I worked for Sports Illustrated, the New York Daily News, was a columnist at the Star-Ledger. And for almost 14 years, I was a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine."

I wasn't trying to impress them with my story - okay, maybe a little bit - but for some reason I thought maybe one of the well-to-do members would say to me, like in the movies, "Here's my card. Call my secretary tomorrow and she'll discuss your salary and benefits package."

That didn't happen. Usually,  the more caring members would give me a pat on the back and a "hang in there, bro." If I had a dollar for every "Hang in there, bro," I'd have a few dollars.

No one had a job for me, though one guy insisted I apply for a job at UPS. So, I went through the whole background check thing on their website, was asked to schedule an interview, and then was greeted with the disclaimer: "You will be on call 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and make $10 an hour."

Okay, then. Next.

Lots of people had ideas. The one I hear the most is, "Write a book." My response to that is usually, "I will write a book one day. Probably when I retire. But right now, I need a job."

My favorite suggestion was always, "You should start your own sports blog." But when I'd follow up with, "Yeah, there are a lot of those, and I'm not really sure too many of them make money..."

What I've learned in three years is that in my chosen profession, right now there are assignments, but not jobs. I've hung in there for three years, grabbing assignments with reputable outlets like SI.com and the New York Times. The reality, however, is that I'd have to write 300 stories per year for those two outlets to make half of what I used to make at ESPN The Magazine. It's impossible to write 300 stories per year. If  you crushed it, you could write 150, which would mean I'd make a quarter of what I used to make. I have not crushed it. So, maybe that explains why I became the locker room guy.

The reality in sports journalism in 2015 is this: You need to be willing to work 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, and do so with a smile on your face...and not worry about being well paid. I think I'm willing to work hard. I think I proved that in 2012, when I was asked to give up my columnist job at the Ledger and become the Yankees beat writer. It had been 17 years since I'd covered a beat. That was before the internet, boys and girls, but I gave it my best shot.

I would tell you that - not gonna be humble here - my writing was really good. I will also tell you that my other skills - live tweeting, posting random photos of things in the stadium, in the press box -  were really bad. Why? Because I was an old dog trying to learn new tricks. And like I said, it had been 17 years since I'd worked a beat and I decided to focus on, ya know, working the beat.

I felt I was taking one for the team when I went on the beat. Not that I had any choice. My editor told me, flat-out, "Another writer is not walking through the doors of the Star-Ledger..."

When I finished the 2012 season, I was brain-fried. And them came Sandy, which crushed the Jersey Shore, where I have lived since 1993, so I then became a baseball writer who was also trying to help my 80-year old parents get back in their home. I think I performed admirably.

And then I got laid off.

At first, I was relieved. The beat was taking me away from my family. My son had just played his first season of varsity baseball - as a freshman - and I saw about three games. That killed me. There was no way  could envision myself missing his baseball games for the rest of his high school career, or my younger son's soccer games, as he was also about to enter high school at the time.

So, I was relieved. I was also excited to look for work outside of sports writing. I got my foot in the door for an interview as editor of a college alumni magazine. Made it to the final round, but didn't get the job. "In the end we went with a candidate whose past work experience more closely meets the job description." Some version of that reply became the all-too-frequent response to subsequent interviews. I was in the running for a job as director of communications for a senior living community. I got in the door to try to manage sports marketing/communications for a major investment firm. I was a finalist for a communications position at a prep school. I went through four months of interviews for a position with a Major League Soccer team...and the same thing with one of golf's major governing bodies. Those last two rejections were especially painful because, for some god unknown reason - the guy doing the hiring told me the salary and benefits, and asked me if those conditions would be acceptable... ummm...hell yeah...only to give me bad news the next day.

Now, it's been a year since I've been able to get past a phone interview with Human Resources. I haven't met for a face to face interview with an actual human being in a year. I apply for a job a day on-line, which has only led to ridiculous amounts of viral spam in my mailbox every day.

In the end I have much to be thankful for. My wife is an amazing teacher who loves her job. My dad taught me a few things about saving money "for a rainy day." Don't get me wrong, I need a job. But because of the two things I just mentioned, I was able to quit my job as a car salesman after two months when I realized, much to my dismay, that the car business is shady, shady, shady. I have been able to watch my sons play their games, been able to make two trips to see my oldest son at college, have begun to take my younger son on school visits. Were I working 24/7/365 as a sports journalist, I would not have been able to do those things.

Money can buy a lot of things, but it can't buy back time.

But it's tough. One of my brothers, every time he hears about me not getting a job, or not getting an interview, comforts me by saying, "You're a good man, Jeff."

It means a lot, but I don't know anymore. How do you keep pushing for work - jobs that pay less than what you were making in 1990 - and continually hear you're not the right fit for the job?

I have never, ever, told anyone I was a great sportswriter. I've always felt I was lucky. Lucky to get a foot in the door. Lucky to get some chances I probably didn't deserve. Lucky to have a few editors at ESPN - in the beginning - who told me, "Jeff, you're good at explaining stuff."

Well, I guess that's why I just wrote this blog...I felt like I had some explaining to do.

Friday, March 13, 2015

#BuckFiftyADay: Soccer In America (Extended Club Mix)

I'll break format today and go longer than a buck fifty.

Who knows, I might go on forever. I've got plenty of time on my hands. I'm just going to let this post come off my fingertips, straight from my brain to you...pretty much unfiltered.

I'm going to write about Soccer in America. I will begin with a confession.

I am confused. It's my own fault, but I am confused. I think I'm confused because, even at my advanced age, when I should be smarter, I've gotten distracted by the noise.

The noise, as I call it, comes from all directions. Most call it "social media." The noise, in my opinion, can - if we allow it - give us a really distorted picture of reality. The noise has, at different times, made me feel universally beloved, and universally loathed. 

Neither is the truth.

So, apply that line of thinking to Soccer in America. It sucks. It's great.

It's neither.

The U.S. is mediocre. The U.S. has made no improvements since 1990. The U.S. system needs to be overhauled. The U.S. system is a joke. Major League Soccer is crap. American coaches are a joke. American players are...

You get the idea. Blanket statements that cause arguments, create debate, whatever. If you allow yourself to get sucked in, the noise will take you to places that are illogical.

I guess you can have fun taking part in these debates, but if you begin to think that the noise is even half as loud as it seems, you begin to take yourself way too seriously. You become the guy with all the answers. And we all know, no one has all the answers.

It's been a struggle for me, embarrassingly. I see a guy, maybe two or three guys, who take a hard line stance on something about the American game, and I get really angry.

How silly.

Here's what I know. I've been involved in the game of soccer, in one way or another, for as far back as I can remember. I grew up in a town that had a lot of kids playing soccer in the early 70s and went to a high school that won a lot of state championships in the 70s. A bunch of us went on a bus to Randall's Island one summer day to watch Pele play his first game for the Cosmos and, for a few years following that event, we'd pile into station wagons to go to Yankee Stadium and Giants Stadium to watch the Cosmos. 

I remember during our summer practice sessions, we'd actually have a radio so we could listen to Cosmos games and keep up with the scores. It was a big deal. Then it  was gone.

But the game wasn't gone.

When the NASL died, we focused more on college soccer. When I went to college at UNC, I went to practically every home game. I saw some really good players on Fetzer Field. 

At least to my eye, they were really good.

But there was something that was really far-fetched back then, and that was the notion that the United States would ever play in a World Cup. It was a pipe dream. Seriously.

So, as all people over 50 will tell you, the years start to fly by. And a lot of stuff happened really quickly. Quickly, in my opinion, because...did I just say I'm over 50? Holy crap.

My brother, who loved soccer more than any person I'd ever met, became a college coach. But I'd soon learn he was doing more than preparing Princeton for a three-month season. On weekends, he and other coaches, were trying to push players, any players they could find who took the game seriously. Any players they could find who had some blend of skill and athleticism and competitive drive...and push them to become better.

I'm not talking about pay for play.

Truth be told, I think my brother and his contemporaries were paying to coach. God knows they were giving up time, driving all over creation, to work with players and teams.

Meantime, things changed. Quickly.

I was working as a reporter at Sports Illustrated when Paul Caligiuri scored that goal, which we read on the AP wire on a computer the size of a Smart Car. Later, we watched some sort of replay on a little TV in someone's office. And the U.S. was going to a World Cup.

Really? I'd been watching college soccer. Watching Virginia with John Harkes and Tony Meola. Watching N.C. State with Tab Ramos. Watching Rutgers with Peter Vermes.

And, damn, these guys were good. So I remember thinking, maybe they'll hold their own in the World Cup. Maybe...maybe...we're good at this game, but no one's noticed?

We didn't have noise-making mechanisms back then. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention, the U.S. was awarded the 1994 World Cup, which many predicted would be a colossal failure.

But I digress.

So the 1990 World Cup came and went and the U.S. had this one moment, when Vermes had a chance to tie Italy in Rome, and Italy's goalkeeper Walter Zenga stopped the shot with his ass. And then it was over. But we'd had a taste. Then it was back to college soccer and a little bit of amazement that Harkes was playing in England for Sheffield Wednesday.

But it wasn't very noisy. You know why. Onward.

I remember watching Alexi Lalas...one day playing in front of a thousand or so folks in a Princeton-Rutgers game. Rutgers had some players that, to my eye, were really amazing. Lino DiCuollo. Jeff Zaun. Steve Rammel. There was no soccer on TV, so it wasn't until the Final Four came to Rutgers that I got to see Meola and this left-footed guy with long hair named Jeff Agoos. But Santa Clara had these guys, Paul Bravo and Jeff Baicher.

I was pretty excited...but looking back, it was quiet. Really quiet. Probably a good thing.

So, the World Cup came along and it wasn't a flop. Fans flocked to stadiums, paid top dollar for tickets. And the U.S. competed in every game it played, advancing to the knockout stage before losing to Brazil on the Fourth of July.

This is when I started to hear some rumblings. Remember, this is 1994. It wasn't really noisy, yet. But I started to hear the critics coming out. 

DISCLAIIMER: I don't think I had an email address until around 1996, so I was not privy to some of those North American Soccer Lists. Plus, I was a baseball beat writer for the New York Daily News and I was much more a soccer observer than a junkie.

But I started to hear some things. What? Well, the U.S. was ignoring the Latino player (Paul Gardner wrote and re-wrote this column a thousand times in the following years and continues to write it to this day). We have better players in the parks than we have on our national team. Our coaching is substandard. We only look for athletes, not skill. Kids are playing on teams at too young an age. Kids need to play small-sided games. The reason the U.S. is no good is because soccer is a rich kid's game. We don't have street soccer.

And then in 1996, I went to work for the MetroStars in Major League Soccer, a league that, in 1996, was Major in name only. But, it was hard to be totally down on it because, well, from 1984 (when the NASL folded) until 1996, we had no pro soccer. 

Well, at least, we had no pro soccer that the general public knew anything about, Now, at the very least, we had some teams to follow and some games to watch. We started to get acquainted with the American player on a much higher level as we got to see players like Eddie Pope and Chris Armas. We began to wonder if, for example, Jason Kreis could score goals for the national team. Love it or hate it, MLS 1.0 was a game-changer.

But the league as a business struggled and I really thought it might just fold in and around 2003, when it seemed Phil Anschutz had to hold the whole thing together for a spell.

To me, what's happened to the game in the U.S. since 2000...a decade and a half...has been remarkable. The number of teams. The number of stadiums. The fact that I can watch games...pretty much any game I want...at any time...seriously? Amazing.

But, the noise.

The noise is both amazing and annoying. The noise can educate and it can misinform. More than anything, the noise, if you let it, will distract you and keep you from thinking clearly.

Not everything is a crisis. And not everything is an inspiration. Things happen. And then something else happens. Get caught up in the noise at your own peril. Things aren't as bad as they seem when you're in there. Or as great as they seem when you're in there.

Soccer in America. Oh yeah, that's what I set out to write about.

I can hardly believe where the game has come. When I step away from the noise, I can hardly believe what's happened with this sport in my lifetime.

That's not saying it's great. Not saying it can't get better.

But I'm not into absolutes. Not into broad strokes. Not into black and white.

Once in a while, not always, I'll try to observe in silence.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

#BuckFiftyADay: Dean Smith's Classroom

So, as I wrote yesterday, my brother Scott became a regular attendee at Dean Smith’s practices in the early 90s. Since I worked in the Sports Information Office, I’d been privy to a few practices, and was keenly aware of Coach Smith’s meticulously choreographed sessions. I’d told Scott and he wanted to see for himself because, as he says, “There’s a connection between all sports.” What he witnessed was down-to-the-minute schedules, where student managers ran the clock, where balls were racked and quickly positioned for the next drill. The horn would sound, instructions were relayed, and it was on to the next thing. Statistics were kept in practice. Not so much points, but things like charges drawn, loose balls recovered, successful box-outs, as well as fundamental errors. My brother hasn’t taken it to that extreme in baseball, but I know he’s tried to make efficiency one of his coaching hallmarks.

Monday, February 9, 2015

#BuckFiftyADay: Dean Smith, Remembered. Dean Smith Remembered.

The end of pro baseball was nearing for my brother Scott, so he decided he was going back to Chapel Hill to get his degree. He wrote a letter to Dean Smith. Paraphrasing, Scott wrote: “I played baseball at UNC and I’ve played pro ball for the last 10-11 years. I’m coming back to graduate and I want to be a coach someday. Can I come to watch some of your practices?” Carolina practices were closed to the public. Scott quickly got a letter back from Coach Smith, telling him, “I remember you and followed your career. Your name is going on a list. Come anytime.” Scott became a regular attendee. Years later Scott became the coach at Princeton. He never told Coach Smith, but one day there was a knock on his office door. The Heels were playing at Jadwin that night. Coach Smith was there, just checking in.

Monday, February 2, 2015

#BuckFiftyADay: No One Cares about Tiger Woods' Swing

When I covered the Yankees from 1992-95, captain Don Mattingly refused to talk about his swing. He’d talk about anything else. But ask him, when he was going good or bad, to discuss his swing and he’d say, “I’m not going to talk about that.” Privately, he once said to me, “I’ve learned that it doesn’t do me any good.” I understood, which is why I think Tiger Woods now has to follow the lead of Donnie Baseball and stop talking about his swing. Ever since he started losing his grip on the game, it’s been one take after another on what he’s tweaking, why he’s changing, etc. Stop talking about your swing, Tiger. Better yet, stop focusing on your swing and focus only on the numbers you’re putting up. Get back to grinding, competing, scoring. And for God’s sake, stop telling everyone you’re close! The score’s all that matters.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

#BuckFiftyADay: Stop Telling Me What's Wrong with Youth Sports

Teammates, friends for life.
Every day, it seems, I read another story on all that’s wrong in youth sports. We are pushing our kids too hard! Let them have fun! I could go on and on, but I’d use up the entire buck-fifty. So, I’ll cut to the chase. What’s right for me, might be wrong for you. What’s right for you, might be wrong for me. I played sports like my life depended on it, from the age of 10-19. Agonized over bad days, lost sleep worrying about the next game. Big deal! Today, in large part because of all I poured into trying to be a good athlete (I was NOT a good athlete), I have life long friends who don’t remember if I booted a groundball to cost our team a game, or delivered a game-winning hit. What they do remember is that we gave everything we had for each other.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

#BuckFiftyADay: If You Only Knew Him Like I Know Him

Sometimes I think if you only knew. If you only knew about the former players who’ve told me he changed their lives, inspired them to be better players, better people, to stop drinking or doing drugs. If you only knew about the texts that come, often from players who barely speak English, to thank him, because they just got called up to their national team for the first time, or because his words, which maybe didn’t make sense when he coached them, now make perfect sense. If you only knew that coaching is so much more than putting on a nice suit on the sidelines on game day and looking the part. That coaching is time spent preparing to speak to players, because you know every word counts, every word has the potential to inspire or deflate. If you only knew him like I know him… But no, that’s impossible.

Friday, January 23, 2015

#BuckFiftyADay: My Brother Bob's First Words on the Hall of Fame

By Bob Bradley

I've not said one word about the Hall of Fame, so today I'll offer up a few with a guest appearance on my brother’s #BuckFiftyADay blog, starting things off with two names. Walter and Manfred. You see, long before my journey took me through places like Cairo and Oslo this ride began in my VW Rabbit, which I'd drive from Princeton to Union where I'd jump into Manfred Schellscheidt's Rabbit and make the four-hour trip to State College with a Union Lancer team or Region I team, or a pickup team, for a game at Penn State. Walter Bahr's Penn State. Manfred always made sure we'd spend a few hours at the Bahr home where we'd be welcomed by Walter's beautiful wife Davies. Sitting in the living room, a young coach had the amazing opportunity to listen to two great men discuss experiences, challenges, ideas and wishes for our game. Doing it with intelligence, humor and humility. I'll never forget their wisdom. I hope those two Hall of Famers know how much it meant to me. Congratulations also to Kristine Lilly and Brian McBride on your induction.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

#BuckFiftyADay: Every Day I Write the (Fatherhood) Book

I’ve never read a book on fatherhood or parenthood, I guess, because I find it hard to believe that there’s a book worth reading. A book on fatherhood would have to be written in pencil and you’d need plenty of erasers on hand. Or, it would have to be written on a Word document, so you could continually make changes. What I did right today may not work tomorrow. Words that didn’t get through last week suddenly registered today, but will probably evaporate soon. Sometimes yelling works. But yelling too much becomes a din. Sometimes a quiet mentoring session resonates. Sometimes you see your son glancing at his phone. I’ve been at this for 18 years and every day is a new test, a new challenge. The only thing I could write that would hold up is this. I love every single minute of it, even on the worst days.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

#BuckFiftyADay: No Access, Favor or Discretion = Anything Goes

I like Deadspin.com. I swear, I do. I like Deadspin because it’s entertaining and it’s informative and because they clearly have a hard-working staff. That’s apparent because of the volume of content, which is ever-changing and always fresh. But if you’re going to be a Deadspin fan, like me, I think it’s important to understand their motto: “Sports News without Access, Favor or Discretion.” What they’re saying, really, is “anything goes.” They occasionally nail a true investigative piece, but it could play alongside a story about a fan taking a dump in a plant. The motto is a catch-all. They don’t want access because with access comes accountability. They favor no one, because, well, why would they? And the “Discretion” part gives them license to not really give a crap what anyone thinks. So, I like Deadspin. But I know what it is. It’s a little bit of everything.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

#BuckFiftyADay: Saying Goodbye to the Long Run

At the age of 37, I ran my first marathon. Over the next 13 years I ran 26.2 miles a total of six times. I am not one of those people who thinks finishing a marathon is a big deal. My typical response when someone says, “Wow!” or “That’s amazing!” is to say, “Oprah and P-Diddy ran marathons.” I fell in love with marathoning not because I was good at it (personal best: 3:28...personal worst: 4:13), but because I loved the process of preparing. I’d usually train for four months and the feeling two months in, when you were 10 miles into a 12-mile run, cruising, and thinking back to when you struggled to run five, was awesome. Sadly, as I type this, my body can’t handle the training anymore. I still work out, try to keep in shape, but nothing will replace the long run.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

#BuckFiftyADay: MLS or Europe? It's Complicated

I’m amused at how many Answer Men we have among our soccer fanbase these days. People - good people I am sure - who think they know everything about what’s good for the game in our country. You’d think the questions were easy, so proficient they are with the solutions. Within my self-imposed 150-word limit I can’t get into it all, so let’s just focus on everyone’s current fascination with our national team players’ choosing between Europe vs. MLS. The answer is so simple, it’s complicated...see what I did there? Here’s what is simple. It’s not one-size-fits-all. For some players, being at the right club in the right league in Europe is exactly what’s needed. But for others, a key role on an MLS team serves them better. Making matters more complicated, in both MLS and Europe...no one on either side has all the answers right or wrong.

Friday, January 16, 2015

#BuckFiftyADay: Maybe I'm Crap. Maybe I'm Brilliant

It’s two years now since I got the call to Human Resources at the Star-Ledger, told to bring my ID and anything else that belonged to them. I haven’t been able to find full-time work doing what I (think I) do best. It’s not that I don’t like the concept of freelancing, but I have not yet figured out how to make a living one story at a time. Pitching ain’t what it used to be. There is such a glut of content online, that the challenge to be original is daunting. The glut of content also makes it harder to execute stories that require cooperation from an athlete and/or coach. A lot of them are worn out, understandably, not to mention distrustful. I’m all for hard-nosed sportswriting when there’s accountability, but there are so many guys now who wield a hatchet but never show their face in public.


So, in a way, I understand there are going to be more “not interested in doing the story at this time” responses to requests than there used to be. Guys are leery. And who can blame them? The public has seemingly demanded more “voice of the fan” type writing, which is often entertaining, but unchained. There’s no civility. No code of ethics. It’s just torch and hide. I would have no problem with it, except that it’s not what I (a fossil) was trained to do. What I was taught was the importance of building respect, through asking intelligent and civil questions, and always being fair...especially when being hard. Don’t write that a guy sucks. Write that he’s two for his last 30 with runners in scoring position. Nowadays, that’s considered “pulling punches.” I get it. Fans enjoy the hard stuff. And a whole generation has been weaned on it.


Where will I end up? Nobody knows. I appreciate all the well-wishes I’ve received the past two years. As I wrote when I was laid off, it’s humbling to know how many writers - better writers - are in the same situation, peddling their skills, now, as “content producers.” What do you need? No problem. Wait on the check. Wash, rinse, repeat. If there are full-time jobs out there, I haven’t gotten a sniff of one. Do I think being 49-50-51 has hurt? Hell, yeah. Age discrimination is supposed to be illegal, but when a website is looking for someone to write and write and write, to be in tune with the sports world in a 24-hour news cycle, you focus on hiring kids, not guys who have kids. I can’t blame folks for hiring that way. Still, I’d rather be a struggling writer, great father than the opposite.


So, to finish up, before I dig into my latest freelance piece, after 26 years of steady full-time employment, I now enter my third year as an independent contractor. It has not been fun. Not even a little fun. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t learned a lot. I’ve learned that I was lucky to have had as many years as I had at (or at least near) the top of this business. Because I’ve talked to a lot of great writers who only got to experience that for a year or two. Perhaps more than anything, I’ve learned that, in this business, everybody has a different opinion of what’s good and what’s crap. I’m talking about readers and I’m talking about decision makers. So, with that, I know a lot of people think my stuff is crap. But I hold out hope that somebody out there thinks I’m good.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

#BuckFiftyADay: The Great Glove Thief Caper

So, as you know, I am a partner in a baseball glove company called Leather Head. We’ve worked hard for two years to build our brand. Now for a story. Phone rings a few months ago. A voice on the other end says, “This is Josh Geer. I’m a pitcher in the Padres organization and I’m a cancer survivor. I’m a big fan of your gloves and I’d love to wear one when I make my return to the big leagues when rosters are expanded on Sept. 1.” A great story. Sent him a glove. Turns out it was a slimeball impostor, who played us. Anyway, I did get to meet the real Josh Geer over the phone. Great guy, survivor of Lymphoma. Turns out we weren’t the only small glove company that got duped. So, be on the lookout for a guy in Texas with a bunch of leather.

Monday, January 12, 2015

#BuckFiftyADay: Me vs. Moneyball

Moneyball has become a generic, often derogatory, term in sports, but I’m not sure anyone (myself included) totally gets it. Basically, I’ve always taken it as when a team searches for something of importance that is undervalued, and makes it the basis of it’s team-building strategy. For example, the book Moneyball, the undervalued stat was On Base Percentage. So the A’s built their team offensively around OBP. But there’s a part of Moneyball that’s always bugged me as a fan. Billy Beane talks about trying to take all human emotion out of the process, basically telling his scouts to not fall in love with a player’s swing, his movements, etc. I don’t begrudge teams for this type of thinking, it makes sense. But it also goes against everything I love about sports as a fan. I want to watch, fall in love...even if it turns into love gone bad.

Friday, January 9, 2015

#BuckFiftyADay: My Personal Mission Statement

I hate mission statements. Why? Because I think they’re basically fiction, so they run counter to my profession, which is about truth-seeking and truth-telling. But I’ve written a few in my day. Sometimes they were called “goals” and they were equally inane and useless. I used to list goals like, “To write a minimum of five cover stories,” knowing fully well that covers were out of my control. Why did I list that as a goal? To be done with the exercise. I believe in goals in the same way that focused athletes set them, by looking through the smallest window possible. Golfers talk about it all the time. Focus on one shot. Pitchers try to de-clutter their brain after each pitch. Football coaches even preach, “Win the next play.” In the end, BS prevails and workers around the world are given the ultimate busy work assignment. A mission statement.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

#BuckFiftyADay: Living in the Pay For Play World

I’m nearing the end of a sports journey with my son Tyler. He is a senior, getting ready for his final season of high school baseball. He hopes to play in college and I am proud of him because he has worked extremely hard and been pretty good at focusing on the process and not obsessing over the results. If I could share $1.50 worth of advice to parents who are in the beginning or middle of a sports journey with your kids, here it is. We live in a pay-for-play world, whether we like it or not. So, when choosing a program for your son in any sport, choose a place where he is going to play a lot as opposed to signing him up for the program with the biggest name and/or best sales pitch. He won’t improve - or have fun - without playing time.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

#BuckFiftyADay: Maybe They Were All on the Juice

It’s a good thing I didn’t put in the commensurate number of years with the BBWA to vote for the Hall of Fame because I don't know what I’d do. I was a pretty vigilant anti-steroid voice in the Year 2000 and remained so for a long time. But as time has passed, I’ve come to the conclusion that if you’re going to assume some are guilty from the Era, you might as well assume they’re all guilty. Yeah, even the Jeters and Griffeys. Or just accept that they were all playing under a Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy created by both the Players Union and the Commissioner’s office, and vote for the guys who were the best players during that time. The clean players probably should’ve raised hell, but the game was flourishing. Everyone was making bank. Maybe we should just accept that. Or maybe not. Glad I don’t vote.

Monday, January 5, 2015

#BuckFiftyADay: I Once Resented Guys Like Stuart Scott

Been trying to think of a different kind of take on Stuart Scott, whom I met in or around 1984 as a student at UNC Chapel Hill. Here’s what I’ve come up with. There was a time in the early 90s that I resented the hell out of guys like Stuart, who went on SportsCenter and did more than tell us the score. Why? I guess because they became celebrities and when they’d show up to cover games they’d be greeted by players with hugs and smiles while those of us who were working the beat were pretty much regarded as green flies. Over time, I realized Stuart, Dan Patrick, Keith Olbermann and others were rock stars who basically created a popular genre. So, more power to ‘em. Sports should be fun. I can’t say I knew Stuart well, but I think he had fun. May he rest in peace.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

#BuckFiftyADay: It's Not Like I Didn't Try in 2014

A few things I tried this year. Writing songs. Yeah, for about a month I went on a song-writing binge. I sent them to my friend Sam Lardner, a musician in Barcelona. He ended up doing this and said my writing inspired him. Now, let me tell you, what Sam produced was nothing like what I wrote, but it was nice of him to say. I interviewed for non-sports writing jobs like, public relations for a senior living company, editor of TCNJ’s alumni magazine and manager of sponsorships for TD Ameritrade. I was a finalist for those positions. I didn’t get any of them. Selling cars. I went to a week of training, where I learned how we’d sell cars an “open and honest way.” But when we weren’t selling enough cars that way, we went back to the old back and forth to the manager thing. And I quit.

Friday, January 2, 2015

#BuckFiftyADay: A Love Note to Doug Flynn?

When I was a kid playing ball, I became enamored with the way Mets’ second baseman Doug Flynn could turn a doubleplay. It seemed the ball would barely touch his glove and it would somehow be on its way to first base. I did not care that Flynn could not hit. Watching him around the bag was mesmerizing. I would practice trying to Turn it Like Flynn. I’d also try to mimic the swings of George Brett, Fred Lynn and Jerry Remy. When I became a baseball writer, I still had crushes on certain players’ actions. Ken Griffey Jr. Everything about Junior was beautiful to watch. But my adoration wasn’t reserved for stars. For example, I had a thing for Pokey Reese. The way he threw across the diamond. Pokey Freaking Reese. What’s the point? I guess, for me, the game I love will always be about falling in love.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

#BuckFiftyADay: Workaholism, Not My Thing

I am probably the only person in the world who watches athletic events during the holiday season and sees a disease known as "workaholism." You see a full lineup of NBA games on Christmas Day and I see a bunch of dads who are working when they should be with their kids. You see the Bowl games in all their glory and I think of all the people in my business who routinely kiss the wife and kids goodbye to go to work long, strange hours. I also think how lucky I was, for 14 years, to be able to cover a lot of big events while still coaching Little League, making lunch for my kids and being around most nights to help them with homework. Honestly, a bigger paycheck could not have swayed me to work more hours than I was already working. Workaholic.That’s not who I am.