Posts Tagged ‘Washington Times’

December 30th, 2009

A Personal Farewell to the Washington Times Sports Section

By now most folks in town have read about what many of us had been hearing first hand — that the Washington Times sports section, along with the rest of its local coverage, is living on borrowed time.  For a perspective of what the demise of the section will mean to the coverage of local sports, click here for a take from Dan Steinberg.  For what it will mean to coverage of the Caps, at least until Corey Masisack finds his legs elsewhere, click here for J.P.’s take.

With the passing of the paper’s sports section from the local scene, it’s impossible for me not to feel a sense of personal loss. Long before there was an Off Wing Opinion and gigs with NBC Sports, FanHouse and the Sporting News, I spent just about a full year working for the Times as a stringer for the sports section.

It was in the late Summer of 1993, and with two seasons of fantasy football under my belt, that I figured a weekly column about what I saw as a growing hobby could probably find a place in a daily newspaper. I sent a pitch letter to both the WaPo and the Washington Times. To say that my proposal to the city’s newspaper of record was received coldly would be an understatement. The conversation, such as it was, lasted less than a New York minute.

But the followup call I made to the Times was another story entirely. Mark Green, the paper’s sports editor at the time, was more than interested. As I had already written a full blown story on spec, Green told me that I would have a regular spot on the section’s football page every Friday for the princely sum of $50 per week if I could only edit the piece down to 500 words. As I had never received a paycheck for my writing before, I was more than eager to comply.

But a bigger surprise came the following February. Once I finished out the NFL regular season, I figured my gig had come to an end as well. As it turned out, Green had other ideas. Just a week before the start of Spring Training, Green called me out of the blue and asked when he could expect to see my first column on fantasy baseball. A few days later, he had my review of an ESPN fantasy baseball preview show hosted by Keith Olbermann, and I wrote another column for the remainder of the season until everything abruptly ended in August when the players went on strike.

Though I’ve since lost track of Green, I’ve never forgotten the debt my sports writing career owed to him and the Times. Thanks to my association with them, I was able to bag my first big interview, a full 30 minutes on the phone talking fantasy football with ESPN SportsCenter anchor Dan Patrick. It was worth every second, as he told me about how he was forced to participate in one draft via payphone at a Brooklyn subway station with one of his legs in a cast.

The gig also led to my first radio interview on a Saturday morning on WTEM, giving me a shot at getting to know my readers. I still remember getting a phone call from the paper on a Saturday morning to let me know that a reader had called the sports desk looking for me so he could ask my advice on a trade. And as for the $50 per week, I was able to squirrel that away to help pay the registration fee for the adult hockey league I was playing in. In every way, shape and form, it was nothing but a big win for me.

But every good thing must come to an end, and so it was with my gig at the Times. Green eventually left for a job as an editorial writer with another newspaper, and his replacement wasn’t nearly as interested in fantasy sports. But it didn’t matter.  I had gotten my first chance to write for a big audience, and I was grateful for the opportunity. Here’s hoping that the folks currently waiting for the axe to fall on New York Avenue are able to move on and enjoy success elsewhere. After showing day after day that you could compete with one of the largest newspapers in the country even when you were outgunned both in terms of budget and staff, they certainly deserve it.