Of the thousands of things that worry me
Tomorrow night, for the NBA season opener in the city of Boston, I’m going to watch my favorite basketball team begin their season against the Brooklyn Nets. More than going to watch them — I’ve been to dozens of games — I’m going as a member of the working press. I will be on press row, sitting as close to the action as I ever have, with full media access the entire time. It’s kind of a dream come true.
Look, I’ve covered some cool shit. I’ve been to Hall of Fame inductions, I’ve been to Fenway, I’ve been field level watching USC-era Reggie Bush as his jogs resembled Olympic-speed sprints.
But this is the Celtics. I’ve been watching the Celtics for a long time and, being just old enough to have watched Bird, but juuuuust young enough to not really remember it, my fondest Celtics days were the KG-Pierce-Ray teams that I always felt should have won more championships. And my brother tells me it’s solely — yup, there’s NO other reason, not injuries or Kobe or luck or any other variable — because Rondo couldn’t hit an open jumper. Hey, I’m not saying it’s not a reason. It’s just not the reason.
This year’s iteration should be fun to watch. It’s a team in a player’s league. They’re probably not winning an NBA title, but at least they’ll be entertaining and competitive and will win more than they lose.
That’s not my worry.
I won’t get into specifics, but the price I sold the piece for went down today due to an extremely tight budget, says the editor. That’s okay. I’m not mad about this. It’s certainly not going to affect my kick-ass telling of the story; Certainly not going to keep me from heading into the Garden tomorrow. That said, in the freelance game, you hear things like this. It happens at one publication, then another … then you hear it a third time. It’s not to not worry.
Another editor told me last night about another pitch that they’re beginning to focus on more athlete-created content. So there’s another site that’s veering away from the model of “let’s get some writers in here to write” and cutting out the middle man to tell the stories of professional athletes. I get it. Kind of. I get that there are athletes that are capable of writing a 400-word (or 4,000-word) piece on their lives and their opinions.
The good news for these publications is that an athlete making $6 million dollars a year isn’t really that concerned with freelance rates and will surely do the piece for free. It’s promotion of their brand and their message (and usually there’s a plug for a charity in there, too, some company who, you know, pays them).
It’s hard not to worry as a writer that these opportunities to talk to athletes and tell their stories or being able to go into Fenway or the Garden or anywhere where people play sports and cover a story will go away. It’s hard not to worry when it seems that more of more publications can get content cheaper or they have a nonexistent or very small freelance budget.
Freelancing is an ever-changing landscape that forces us to adjust on the fly. Who pays, who doesn’t; Who is accepting pitches, who’s not. It’s not easy to remain confident going forward sometimes especially as the number of opportunities seems to vanish every few months. Soon, I wonder what’ll be left.
As writers, we have to remain confident that above most else, story telling will endure. There will always be a story to tell. I just hope we have a place to tell it.