As a child who grew up in front of a t.v. watching sports in the suburbs of Chicago, I always dreamed of, in some way, being involved in the scene or drama that was unfolding before my eyes. Before I could imagine playing sports, I thought what a great job it must be to report on sports. From watching Bruce Roberts report on golf and Bob Frink talk about the Sox and Cubs, to a young Johnny Morris interviewing Bears players after the game and seeing a young Tim Weigel running around on skates trying to interview roller derby women or playing pickup basketball with what-was-her-name? It always seemed the reporters were having as much fun as the athletes themselves.
So at an age when perhaps I shouldn’t have given up on my dream of playing sports, I enrolled at Harper Jr. College to begin pursuing a degree in journalism. This of course led me to answer an ad in the paper to become a stringer reporter for the Daily Herald to report on little league sports. I took the 2 journalism tests I had to take, which I passed pretty easily. Had my interview with Scott Orton, the Neighbor Section Editor, and he gave me the lowdown on getting started with my own beat, which would be Des Plaines baseball, Rolling Meadows and Mount Prospect football and swimming in Palatine.
Now most events would involve me calling to get results from coaches and managers at the end of the night, but I attended a lot of baseball and football games. Spent more than a few holidays and family related birthdays and events in the company of strangers. Sitting in the stands, hoping my mom wouldn’t be too mad that I missed another party. And after a while these weren’t really strangers anyway. There were more than a few families who genuinely appreciated that I was there to report on their sons achievements on a 90 degree day on the the 4th of July.
But as I learned a couple years later, there are a number of men, angry at life, pissed off at one thing or another, who are sooo rotten that they ruin everything that they touch. Where does a guy who coaches little league basketball get off on claiming that I’m “one of those idiots in the media” in front of his team, his kids. Hey buddy, I’m not the freaking media. I get paid minimum wage on my 3rd job, yes I had 2 other jobs at the time, and work on Saturdays and Sunday nights to pay my dues toward being a journalist, that I would never become. The Media and the world doesn’t give a fuck that Johnny had 12 points and 5 assists against a southside team.
As people, whether we’re aware of it or not, everyday is full of moments that are teachable, things we can learn from that affect the quality of our lives and our work, lessons on how to do things with common sense. The first lesson I learned on the first day on the first job that I ever had, where I wasn’t working for my father at his mold shop, I learned at Pete’s-A-Pie, from my friend at the time, Vince. READ THE ORDER BACK! It seems so simple. By reading back EVERY order that I ever took, I put the burden of proof and responsibility on the the customer. If every order was made to the ticket and it was wrong, it was the customers fault if they called back to complain.
Scammers, cheats, assholes, they are everywhere, trying to gain the system, make a point, pass-the-buck. Make themselves look good and feel good. It happens, people demand something for nothing because they are gonna yell at you and the person who speaks loudest is always right, right? Give me free food, give me money back, my life sucks so I’m gonna belittle this other asshole. Well guess what asshole, people take notes and read things back, when you sign off on it, it’s on you. I might be the only person who knows it, but that’s all I need. Take your $3.50 and hour and stick it where it don’t shine.
So I quit. Went back to enjoying my holidays, went to birthday parties. Still worked at the pizza place until I finished my degree. One day I had a fight with the owner, what it was about, not important. I told him to check the tablet where we had written down the names and orders of all of our screw-ups, total it up, I told him and then talk to me later. He totaled it up to over $700 in food he owed customers and checked the dates, none of those notes were in my handwriting and none occurred on a night that I worked. Not one in ten years.
That coach was right about the “media” though. That newsroom was full of people just out of college, making fun of other people as soon as they hang up the phone with them. It was a rotten place full of arrogant people who didn’t answer to anybody. When I would sit there and write my stories on Sunday nights, I could never get out of there fast enough. Sometimes I would push back from my desk and look at my feet because I could swear I was surrounded by snakes.
In future articles I plan to dismantle the conventional thought and present contrarian opinions on sports, it’s personalities and teams, people talking and reporting on them, as well as write about the culture of personality. One of my heroes in life is Edward Murrow. Years ago I read a biography on the man and was struck by his integrity, honesty and passion of the stories he reported on and told. That is part of what I hope to convey as well, in this tiny little corner of the internet….welcome to the Takedown!