If you even half pay attention to sports, you know football in its various forms is in full swing now, which means if I were still at my old sportswriting job, I’d be more than a month into that part of the year in which my life was not my own.
When you cover sports in the South, a common misconception is that it’s the coolest or most fun job in the world. I mean, so many people pay hundreds of dollars to see a college football good, but if you’re a sports writer, SOMEONE PAYS YOU to attend instead. Well, if your idea of ‘fun’ is trying to create insightful analysis in complete, grammatically correct sentences (that will be read by tens of thousands of people) on the fly at midnight after working a 50-hour week with nary a day off while your (probably already drunk) friends head to a bar to enjoy their Saturday night … AND if your idea of ‘cool’ is to have your world centered around the actions — legal and otherwise — of 18- to 22-year-olds and to have your rare moments off work interrupted frequently by breaking news that needs reporting … AND you’re ok with being paid peanuts, then sportswriting may be for you. Also, you’re a masochist and you should probably seek therapy.
Don’t get me wrong, there were times that I did enjoy it. I occasionally saw what could be categorized as a decent game. I came to appreciate the fact that when you don’t have a dog in the fight, you’re never bitten by the agony of defeat. I also grew to really love the calm and quiet of the press box before and during the game and the free chocolate chip cookies made available at halftime.
But I missed out on really experiencing fall every single year. I worked all the way through most weekends, neglecting to see friends who were in town for the very event I was covering. The weather would grow cooler and the trees would turn lovely with hardly a chance for me to appreciate either. And I would develop a weariness somewhere around the third or fourth week of September that wouldn’t really let up until April when basketball season had ended. I also stopped enjoying sports.
There are people who embrace the sportswriting life, and they do it well. I love them for it. They’re crazy for embracing it, and I frequently say that to their faces, but I have tremendous respect for how they handle their jobs. I just came to terms with the fact that I was not one of them about a year ago. I wanted my life back for more than just the three months of the year that my teams were out of season.
It’s hard for me to really wrap my head around just how much my life has changed since then. Even five and a half months into my new job, I’m still having ‘Toto, we’re not in Kansas’ moments frequently. I had Labor Day off for maybe only the second time in nine years. Last week, seven hours of pulling weeds at the local botanical garden counted as a day of work. And on Saturday, I sat in the stands for a football game for the first time in six years, and I left the game 30 minutes before it was over as opposed to two to three hours after.
Now my mission is to live the fuck out of fall. In fact, I just decided that is my new mantra for the next two months or so. I’m going to do All the Fall Things. I’m going to take my lunches on the terrace at work so as to enjoy the beautiful weather. I’m going to drive through the Smoky Mountains to appreciate the colorful leaves. I’m going to tailgate before football games that I will attend without the motivation of a paycheck. I’m going to bake and cook hearty foods. I’m going to go for jogs before it gets dark outside without dying of heat exhaustion. I’m going to buy new, cute brown boots and wear them with new, cute socks. I’m going to drink All the Pumpkin Beer, as in every single variety offered by our local distributors. I’m going to see if it’s humanly possible to tire of pumpkin beer before it’s switched out for the winter warmers.
Two or three months full of crisp weather, the opportunity to enjoy football, cooking and baking, cute boots and pumpkin beer? I’m going to live the fuck out of fall, exclamation point. Who’s with me?