Aug 19, 2010, 3:30 PM EDT
I wrote this for my personal blog last week. My boss emailed me a bit ago and said that he thought I should run it here too. He’s on vacation right now and may be up to his eyeballs in mojitos, so take that judgment for what it’s worth. Anyway, if this isn’t your cup of tea, wait a few minutes. We write new stuff all damn day.
In the last eight months there have been several occasions on which I’ve
had to name my occupation. Forms at the doctor’s office. Surveys.
Applications for this or that. It used to be easy. I’d write “lawyer”
or, if I was feeling a tad pretentious that day, “attorney.” It’s not as
The most technically correct term for what I do and what I am is
probably “blogger.” But for as much as I love and defend the fine art of
blogging, the title “blogger” sounds a bit, I dunno, silly. And even if
didn’t sound silly it’s not always a useful term. Sure, anyone reading
this or generally surfing around the web will be cool with it, but
anyone who isn’t at least moderately Internet savvy — which is a lot
more people than you may realize — has trouble with the term. If
they’ve heard it at all, it probably was used in some bullshit newspaper
trend piece about how the lowering of journalistic standards is
ushering in the End Times. If they haven’t heard the term it takes so
much time to explain what I do that the thumbnailing purpose of a title
is defeated anyway.
I’ve toyed with “writer,” but that’s even more pretentious than
“attorney.” For one thing it’s vague. What do you write? Are you a
writer of novels? Children’s books? Instruction manuals for washing
machines? Saying you’re a “writer” is less a description of one’s
occupation than it is a lifestyle statement. A person who says that
they’re “a writer” — and nothing more — is usually trying to tell you
that they’re an intellectually-inclined soul who wears interesting
and/or complicated glasses, doesn’t hold up all that well when their
political assumptions are challenged and likes jazz a little too much.
Or they’re trying to get laid. Either way, the only people who can
really get away with calling themselves “writers” are people who have
written a novel, a thin volume of half-decent poetry and an interesting
though ultimately rejected screenplay. The rest of us are poseurs.
That led me to “baseball writer.” First time I whipped that one out,
however, I was asked which team I covered and why I wasn’t at the
ballpark that night. That aside, it’s the best I had been able to come
up with and — after explaining that I’m closer to being a columnist
than a beat writer — it satisfies most people.
But it’s not perfect. No, the closest to perfect is a description my friend Ethan came up with recently and emailed to me:
I just realized: You’re a DJ for the baseball news. You
don’t create the news; you aren’t the news; you just riff on the
news. You keep the music (news) going. You know you have to play
what’s hot, but it’s your mix and your patter, and you throw in an
oldie or an obscure Smiths single when you want to, dammit.
I like it. I’ve taken to telling people that I’ve only had two jobs I’ve ever liked. Turns out they were the same job all along.
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