Reading the book “Those Guys Have All the Fun” about all the ESPN guys reminds me that so much more about getting into successful business has to do with luck than skill. Am I better at writing or on-air broadcasting than some of the guys who got to ESPN in its infancy and made a career out of it? I’d say it’s debatable but that I’d at least have a chance, given the same opportunity, to get to be as good as they are now. I have little doubt that I am a better writer than some of the dot-com guys that have ‘graced’ their Web pages over the last decade or so *cough*scoopjackson*cough*.
Luck has never been my strong suit, however. I spent a decade preparing myself to be a sports broadcaster, only to find that any attempt I made to get into radio play by play was blocked, some for reasons of talent and some for reasons of office politics. One notable example came in my senior year. After being told repeatedly and in no uncertain terms that ‘board-ops’ – times you putzed yourself over to the WCRD studio and ran the audio board for a game broadcast – would be a major factor in determining positions for the next year, I busted my ass for that station. I believe in that school year, I ran the audio board for something like 25-30 audio broadcasts of games – and keep in mind this was in addition to the games I myself broadcast for the station that year. My total ranked behind only one other person, I believe, and it was someone with very little interest in actually doing on-air work.
My reward for all this labor was to be passed over for the two play by play jobs I tried for. One, the school’s football team, was legitimate – both guys ahead of me had plentiful experience, even though my level of knowledge of the team was at the time completely unmatched. The other, the school’s softball team, was one that seemed a natural fit, since I had already done some work broadcasting their games and knew the sport of baseball very well. Inexplicably, this job went to a guy who was not even done with his freshman year at the time. It was a guy who was friends with one of the ‘higher-ups’ at the student run station going back to high school, and had already made waves for getting a weekly segment on the television sports talk show we ran not two months into his college career.
Now, there was no arguing this guy had some talent. He was a good broadcaster, probably would still be if he had stuck with that side. But he hadn’t paid his dues – and I have. And I wasn’t happy. I wasn’t alone, either. The whole thing – not just this, but the general atmosphere surrounding it – sparked kind of a line-drawing at the station – you were either on the side of the Kyles and Karls or you were with the Andys and Levins. It was relatively unspoken but was still there. I am still friends with the majority of the people at the station, but there were definite personality conflicts.
So my next move was print journalism. Despite some degree of success covering field hockey and – especially – men’s basketball in ’07-’08, I had and still have no experience doing any kind of editing or paginating. And that essentially means no job for me in a world where you have to do everything all day every day, all for barely more money than I’m making at IHOP – albeit with benefits. I’ve obtained a freelance job at the Kendallville, Indiana paper, but that’s about as high as it’s going to get. I recently interviewed for the sports editor job at that paper and lost out to someone with plentiful experience. If I cannot get a job at a paper where everyone knows and likes me, then no paper is ever going to hire me.
I wonder if I should try something else, but what am I supposed to do, really? I’m not most people, I don’t have connections into any field I choose to get into. A friend of mine, who I’ve known for a while is one of those guys that good things just happen for, got a job in PR recently, the very field I was studying in grad school. This job was not mine to take, nor would it ever be, but this guy who’d never done a day of PR in his life at any level of schooling or career got the gig. It’s that kind of thing that makes me think so much more of your career – hell, so much more of life – comes down to luck than any of us want to admit to ourselves. We want to have control over our lives, and realizing that so much of life is luck kills our motivation to try.