Like a lot of you, my career started a long time ago. It’s strange how I used to be the youngest pup in the room and now I’m the oldest. It’s even stranger, and more than a little humbling, to remember how I used to think I knew everything and now I realize how little I truly do.
No worries to the regular eight or nine of you who follow these ramblings. This is not a maudlin march through memory meadows. If anything, I’m playing the part of Uncle Sam today. You remember the image . . . Uncle Sam on a poster, looking very serious, his right hand in front with the index finger pointing straight to your heart – I want YOU!
Well, aspiring, sports writers . . . it ain’t Uncle Sam calling, but your locally owned newspaper wants you!
But before we get into the lifestyle, the fame and fortune awaiting you – well, two out of three ain’t bad – let’s talk a little bit about sports writing.
Friends, one of the benefits (?) of being the oldest guy in most rooms is that you’ve been there, done it all. I’ve stuffed newspapers with inserts, delivered those same newspapers, sold ads, sold subscriptions, taken out the trash, written stories, taken photos, answered phones, interviewed presidents and even celebrated in a champagne-soaked newsroom after our photographer won the coveted Pulitzer Prize.
By far, my favorite job since I started in this business in the 1970s is being a sports writer.
Not even a close second.
Way back then my career goal was to become the next Frank DeFord, Dan Jenkins, Shirley Povich, Mike Royko, Red Smith, Lewis Grizzard, Jim Murray, Jerome Holtzman . . . (sorry, this could go a while). I wanted to work for Sports Illustrated, travel the world. I wanted to cover the Masters, the British Open, Wimbledon (since I couldn’t get there as a player), the bigs in baseball, the NFL, the AFL (remember, this was a while ago), championship heavyweight boxing bouts, the Derby (yeah, yeah, this could go on a while, too).
Truth to tell, it all came down to one of those forks in the road the Big Man upstairs places right in front of you every once in a while. The great American newspaper company I spent a couple of decades with (the last great company that owned the Journal-Review) was talking to me about moving out of my sports job in Texas and taking over a newsroom in the middle of North Carolina. At the same time, the Dallas Morning News and the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram were talking to me about joining their sports staffs.
For me, it was a chance to leave the mid-majors and move up to the big leagues. I was 31 years old and the move to the Metroplex would’ve kept me on path toward that shiny goal.
It was a tough call and I won’t bore you with all the details. In the end, becoming an editor and later a general manager and publisher was the right move and I don’t regret it one bit.
But, oh, I miss sports writing.
Here’s the deal. If you like the drama that unfolds with every sporting event then writing about sports might be for you.
Hold on there, Hoss, you say! Drama in every single sporting event? Nay, nay, buffalo breath! There’s no drama in an 8-0 baseball game, a 41-0 football contest or any soccer match. Well, OK, you got me on soccer. But there is indeed plenty of drama in the others.
Let’s leave the pros and big-time colleges out of this. For our purposes, let’s stay with the high schoolers and guys and gals at small colleges. The drama might involve a kid getting into a game and taking advantage of the big break by making a name for themselves. It might involve one coach being ticked off over a perceived slight from the other coach running up a score last year. It might involve a coach who is facing an angry fan base and disenchanted administration and is trying to save their job. It could be almost anything.
Some of you may remember Jim McKay’s golden pipes belting out . . . Spanning the globe to bring you the constant variety of sports. The thrill of victory, and the agony of defeat; the human drama of athletic competition . . . This is "ABC's Wide World of Sports!"
He wasn’t lying. It’s fun to write about the thrill of victory. It’s challenging to write about the agony of defeat. But in both, you are there. You are in the locker room, the press box, the coach’s office . . . you see the cheers and the tears.
If that moves you, then perhaps sports writing is for you.
Which brings us full circle and back to, we want you! If any of the above is appealing and if you aren’t looking to get rich (because sports writing sure as hell doesn’t get you there!), then let me know. My e-mail is below. If you are anywhere near my age and the small print presents a challenge, it’s ttimmons@thepaper24-7.com. Heck, call me if you want. I’m at (765) 361-0100, ext. 22 way more hours than I’m not.
What’s required? Well, uh, a general knowledge of sports. It’s hard to cover a football game if you don’t know what legally constitutes a catch . . . uh, let’s skip that one. You also need to be able to type reasonably well and quickly. A lot of stories are written on deadline and the hunt and peck method on a keyboard is no way to keep an editor happy.
Most of all, you really need to like sports and the kids who play them. You need to want to tell their stories. When a senior in high school hits a home run to win the game, you should be thrilled to give that kid, his mom and dad and everyone a headline and story that goes straight into their scrapbook. If the same kid fumbles on the last play and his team loses, your heart will guide your head and the game story will write around that fact, while still serving your readers honestly. After all, these are high school kids and not pros.
If any of the above appeals, then let’s talk. Soon.

Two cents, which is about how much Timmons said his columns are worth, appears periodically on Wednesdays in The Paper. Timmons is the publisher of The Paper and can be contacted at ttimmons@thepaper24-7.com.