By Michael Lewis
During the last three months of the shutdown and lockdown or whatever you want to call it, I’ve had a lot of time to think and be more introspective.
While we are going crazy in our own individual ways, sometimes it is good to look at yourself. Let’s face it. We’ve had plenty of time to smell the roses recently.
So, I asked myself the question: Why do I write?
Simple query, complicated answer.
Well, the easy and quick response is because I like to, and I earn my living from it.
Fine, but as I thought about it, as I delved into my past, I looked at how and why I became a writer, a sportswriter, for the most part.
It was hardly preordained or anything like that. Everything we do has a string to the past. Sometimes we don’t realize at the time or not at all.
Heck, when I was in high school, I thought I was going to become an accountant because I was entering college as a math major. But life has a way of throwing curves at us (sorry for all the sports terms int his piece) and we have to go with the punches, sometimes good, sometimes bad.
My parents both loved to write. My mother Judy majored in radio at the University of Miami and in journalist at Brooklyn College, my father Alan as the sports editor of his high school newspaper, although he turned out never to be a big sports fan. In fact, I was the only big-time sports fan in my immediate family, although my sister Jill played baseball with me and my friends. My sister Debbie wanted to know where I came from.
Truth be told, one of my first attempts at putting sentences together can be considered an abject failure.
We had this exercise in first grade in which we would take the spelling words for the week and turn them into a short composition. I remember my mother rewriting my original draft because it was so bad. I feel I took that criticism to heart and learned from it.
In sixth grade, I wrote a poem, “So This is April,” that blew my teacher and classmates away (no, I am not a poet).
For 11th grade homework assignment, our English teacher asked us to write about “An artist of our times.” I went outside the box (and inside the batter’s box) and did my essay about Pete Rose (this was well before his betting scandal). My teacher, Mr. Dolan, who could be as severe as a New York Times theater or movie critic and rip the student apart in front of the class, read it out loud and praised me. He gave it the highest grade possible with a plus. What a confidence booster that was!
When I first started writing news and sports for my first college paper, the Vignette, at Nassau Community College at first, I loved seeing my name at the top of the story, that was the original lure and an ego boost. But I quickly got over that and learned that it was much more important what was written below the byline than the name itself. At Syracuse University, which has been known to help produce some of the leading journalists in this country, sports, news, TV and radio, the learning curve was steep at times, but certainly worth it.
As a professional sportswriter, I also learned you could not be a one-trick pony.
In baseball parlance, you had to be a five-tool sportswriter, being about to break stories and write fluid and comprehensive news stories, cover games on deadline (and meeting those deadlines on a regular basis), write features (learning how to “pace” 1,500 to 2,000-word features) that were interesting, entertaining and educational and when appropriate opinion pieces and analyses were compelling and fact based. Also, having a 35 mm camera with you back in the day also helped you take photos when no one can (the raucous U.S. men’s national team locker room after the team ended 40 years in the World Cup desert to qualifying for Italia ’90 in 1979, when the victorious U.S. women return home to JFK after winning the first Women’s World Cup in 1991 and a special reunion of 1950 World Cup stars Walter Bahr and Harry Keough at the very venue in Belo Horizonte, Brazil in 1987.
Today, of course, everyone has a camera, but I still managed to get MLS commissioner Don Garber thanking former Rochester Lancers and other greats of the past at the NASL reunion in Frisco, Texas in 2018, which will always be special to me.
As a professional over the decades, I would like to think there was personal growth. I learned to become a better editor of my stories. I tell journalism classes and students today that they are the first editors of their work and if that if they have the time, make sure they don’t overwrite and be the first to make the correct bites instead of sometime else who is not engaged as you in the work.
So, why do I write?
Well, like I said, because I enjoy it and I can make a living about it.
Like a No. 10 or attacking midfielder, it gives me the opportunity to creative and express myself. I love to tell and weave together a good story, whether it is a news, game or breaking article, an in-depth feature piece that will entertain and educate the reader (if I have learned something, then I would like to think readers would as well) or an opinion column that probably will stir controversy, even if it was not intended to do that.
I just love to write.