‘Stick to sports.”
Anyone who has worked in the sports media business for any length of time – and at any level, in any medium, from community newspapers to major network TV – has been on the business end of that phrase at least once.
For more prominent figures, especially those active on social media, the directive comes daily, and more so in recent weeks as many in the industry voice opinions on a certain president of the United States, who earlier this month declared the media “the enemy of the American people.”
And though I doubt Donald Trump’s claim was directed at the talking heads on ESPN, like it or not, those who work for the media’s “toy department” – as newspaper sports sections have oft been called – are included in this group, too, even though most of our time is spent writing about basketball rather than political strife.
And after more than a dozen years working in the toy department myself – mostly here at the Peace Arch News – I can now proudly add my name to the list of those who’ve been told, in no uncertain terms, to keep my non-sports thoughts and opinions to myself.
The request came back at the end of 2016, shortly after I’d written a sarcastic, tongue-in-cheek column about Trump, thinking – incorrectly, it turns out – that he had no chance to win.
Fool me once, I guess.
But shortly after that column ran, we received a letter to the editor from a reader who instructed me to contain my “juvenile” writing to the sports section, and leave the real opinions for the grownups.
I figured now – just days after me and my journalism colleagues were declared enemies of the state – was as good a time as any to respond publicly:
There’s a line in an old episode of Seinfeld, where George Costanza says “If it’s not about sports, I find it very hard to concentrate.” It’s a great line, and one I’ve quoted often, but I do have other interests.
I mean, I’m not about to give up my day job and volunteer to take on a city council beat – though I suspect my alleged juvenile behaviour would fit right in – but contrary to what some may believe, I have the ability to discuss myriad topics, even politics. (Though, in the interest of full disclosure, it’d be best if talking points didn’t extend beyond The Simpson’s, old sitcoms, mid-’90s rap music and how great dogs are).
My transformation into a Renaissance man – whereby I throw off the shackles of soccer highlights and embrace a world outside the arena – continued further last week, when I attended my very first play (excluding an elementary school production in which I had my star turn as ‘Kid Standing Quietly in the Back #4’).
The show in question was Surrey Little Theatre’s Twelve Angry Men. Being a novice on the subject of live theatre, I took my seat for the show not knowing what to expect, though I had many questions.
Would I be bored? Would it be awful? How will it compare to my Grade 6 Christmas play? And how long is this thing, anyway?
Being that it was directed by PAN editor Lance Peverley, I was fully prepared to lie to him, had I not enjoyed myself that evening. (In the interest of self-preservation, I find it’s never wise to tell your boss that something he’s worked so hard on for months, well, sucks.)
But, it turns out, I didn’t have to lie at all.
And though I’m no professional critic, and I may run the risk of stealing theatre-reviewing duties from PAN’s longtime arts reporter Alex Browne – himself a wearer of many hats, including those of bandleader and playwright – I will offer this succinct evaluation:
I really enjoyed myself.
I mean, I didn’t catch the final score, but I still thought it was pretty good.
Nick Greenizan is a reporter at the Peace Arch News.