Most sports fans follow the mundane and everyday grind of the season and post-season. What are the stories underneath all that? These are what pushes me to be at my best as a writer.
I am at my best when I am inspired. As a writer that usually comes from stories that move me, are important to the masses or experiences that differ from the everyday.
As a sports blogger, I am usually writing about the major sports and teams. The history, directions, lists, happenings and future of our teams are what make up a prevalence of my posts.
Many things can move a sports fan. We love to see our teams win and we suffer when they don't. The one constant that will never change is there will always be a winner and loser. Getting inside those stories are what truly inspires me to be at my best.
Two stories recently challenged in the past six months to be at the top of my game as a writer. In December 2015, I wrote about a student with Autism at Elm Place School in Highland Park, Il. William Lipka was the manager for the seventh and eighth grade basketball teams. I originally saw the story posted on head coach John Whitehead's facebook page. John and I both grew up in Highland Park. I knew him peripherally through youth sports as a child. He was a year ahead of me in school.
The story is one of hope, faith, working together and acceptance. He had been a part of the team for a couple of years. The love and care that Whitehead and assistant coach Trevor Kahn have for Lipka is incredibly inspiring. In order to tell the story the love it deserved I had to be at the top of my game. I had their reputation in my hands.
The story received a lot of attention locally. Whitehead and Kahn put Lipka in at the end of a game. It took him eight tries but he finally scored a basket. Elm Place's opponent showed a tremendous amount of sportsmanship and excitement when Lipka made the shot. Their story transcends sports and touched hundreds if not thousands of people.
When a writer tells a story, we are often introducing it to the reader for the first time. It is the writer's responsibility to bring the reader in as if they are a participating . I was able to use John and Trevor's facebook pages and their comments to guide my blog post. This helped bring the readers in to what John, Trevor and William thought during this entire process.
Whitehead and Kahn approached Lipka about being a part of the team. They said Lipka is a huge basketball fan with a great heart and the happiest boy you will ever meet. They explained to me Lipka's jobs on the team and his relationship with the players. I had a huge sense of responsibility to tell the story accurately and with heart.
While I love writing about the teams we all love to follow, the uncommon stories and those that effect all of us are the ones that drive me to be my best.
The other story that I felt a strong sense of responsibility to tell was the angry tweets from the more than mean video. The video involved sports personalities Julie DiCaro and Sarah Spain having angry social media posts read back to them by men.
These posts were incredulous. "Fans" (and I use that term loosely) sent tweets to DiCaro and Spain with numerous threats and name calling. Among some of the more outrageous tweets included "One of the players should beat you to death with their hockey stick like the whore that you are" "I hope your dog gets hit by a car" and "I hope you are Bill Cosby's next victim"
Writing a story about the treatment of women in sports and how it mimics society, pushed me to be on the top of my game. I wanted to get this right for the sheer enormity of the story and to help illuminate the importance of treating women and people in general with respect.
Sports has long been a man's place. That is slowly eroding. I was fortunate to be able to attend the sports blogging seminar Blogs with Balls with some of my Chicago Now colleagues in April. Going to events like this inspire me to be at my best. I learn about what other bloggers have done to thrive and succeed.
One panel discussed how women are treated in sports. The majority of the conversation revolved around the more than mean video. The panel delved deep into the thoughts of women in sports. The discussion illustrated how much animosity and hatred women often face in the sports world.
The story garnered great discussion nationally. Julie is a former Chicago Now colleague and I frequently interact with Sarah on Facebook. The Blogs with Balls crowd was a few hundred people. Hearing the discussion allowed me to further understand DiCaro and Spain's thought processes when they received the tweets, during the filming of more than mean and the fallout.
I felt a tremendous amount of responsibility to step up my game for my blog post on more than mean. I figured, and hoped this would reach a bigger audience than my other posts. I wanted to be at my best to bring the reader into the Blogs With Balls panel, DiCaro and Spain's minds and the minds of their three colleagues on the panel as much as possible.
Female sports fans are growing. It's sad that there is still a bias against many female sports fans and those in the industry. I wanted to tell the story correctly. This pushed me to be my best.
I continue to look for stories that need to be told. Some of these are inspiring, some might touch someone to see that they are not alone and others are like more than mean that need to show society that its not OK to treat others with extreme disrespect. These are the stories that motivate me to be my best.