My freshman year of college, I took a class during my first semester called "Intro to Sport Management". My professor introduced herself and, as an icebreaker, asked everyone to state their names, hometowns and their career goals. As every student presented themselves, a common theme was recognized by the barely-developed brains of seventeen-and-eighteen-year-old dreamers. No one wanted to become ticket takers or salespeople, directors of fan services or statisticians. There was no mention of any sport outside of baseball, football, basketball, hockey or soccer. Every response fell in the realm of ESPN broadcasters or general managers, agents or owners. Realities of how far-fetched those dreams were fell by the wayside. The glitz and glamour of an industry with such a reach enticed young minds and over-promised lives and careers filled with all-stars, fame and fortune.
After introductions were finished, my professor asked us to take a moment and really think about our goals. She asked us to close our eyes and raise our hands if we thought our dreams were really attainable – then she asked us to open them. Almost every student had their hand up.
With a sad smile, my professor sat on a table in front of the class and counted out the GMs sitting in our classroom, the aspiring broadcasters in the desks before her, the future agents that were going to represent the A-Rods and the Kobes of the world, and the great owners that would change the face of their respective leagues. All in all, there were about seven to nine students that fell into each of the aforementioned categories. Comprehension began to dawn on young faces in the room and everyone was quiet. If the competitiveness of the industry was nearly tangible in a room of thirty students, how were we going to fare in the real world, faced with millions of other visionaries working toward the same positions?
The next week, we were given an assignment to interview someone in the industry using our own network. If we didn't have a network, we were encouraged to start creating one. We were assured that most people in the biz would take some time to talk to ambitious sport managers and give valuable advice. Always the overachiever, I had already begun to build a little network and reached out to Mychael Urban to ask if I could pick his brain.
A majority of the questions were basic, mostly along the lines of what he did, how he launched his career, what advice he could give to an aspiring journalist. Mychael had seen my posts and I had the opportunity to talk to him at AN Day a few years prior, so he knew I wanted to write. When I asked him for advice, he made sure I knew becoming a writer came with "many years of eating lettuce sandwiches" before you got your break. From the get go, he made it very clear that it would be difficult to get into the business and stressed how challenging it was to get into sports without working yourself into the ground first. He didn't just hint at the fact that most people gave up before getting remotely close to their dreams of making it in the industry – he admitted it without batting an eyelash.
The goal of the project was to help misguided, fanatical teenagers overcome the romanticized reputation of a career in sports. My interview with Mychael accomplished everything my professor wanted – he didn't put the path into sports on a pedestal; he didn't promise me sunshine and rainbows and a full-time job as a beat writer out of college; he didn't guarantee the riches everyone expects. I took everything in. Every warning, every cautionary tale and every single obstacle that I was notified of was placed firmly in my mind. What was supposed to be an assignment that made us grasp the fact that only one or two of the kids in my class was going to make it only made me want to work harder.
With the imminent threat of not breaking into the sports world, I made sure I was out-working and out-smiling everyone I knew. I completed eight internships in three years, all while working a part time job and going to school full time. Sleep was not in my nature and free time was a foreign concept. I interned in everything from operations to group sales, marketing to community relations. Although I was writing for Pacific’s men’s basketball team and hosting a radio show on campus, I wanted to get more experience out in the real media world. In the summer of 2011, I was able to land an internship with Comcast SportsNet, thanks to my favorite journalist, and, as a junior in college, I was doing what I loved.
Of course, internships end and I left my dream job to go back to school. Life took me in a different direction than expected after graduation and I ended up across the country, in Orlando, working for the Mouse Boss. I learned some incredible things, got to pick the brains of some brilliant people and fell out of touch with my original passion – writing.
Following in my original footsteps, my time in Orlando was filled with almost nothing but work. Since an intern stipend wasn't enough for me to live on and make a car payment with, I worked a full-time internship and two part time jobs with the Orlando Magic and Apple to make ends meet. Suddenly, lettuce sandwiches were looking me square in the face and everything Mychael told me came flooding back.
It has been eight months, seven days and a few hours since my alliteration-happy fingers took to my keyboard to write. The last time I checked in with my AN family, I was in Florida, experiencing life as an intern for Disney Sports. It was my first position after college and my first time away from California. Born and raised in the Bay Area, it seemed so alien to be 3,000 miles away from everything I had ever known. The words of Mychael Urban stuck with me, though, and I was determined to make it through. I started prowling job boards for anything that would get me a stable, full-time job. I was fortunate enough to have a great resume, which gave me the freedom to apply almost anywhere my heart desired.
In December 2012, I applied to a full-time job on the East Coast, hoping for a little more time to get acquainted with my new territory. In January of this year, I officially accepted a position with the front office of the Boston Red Sox. As a twenty-two year old, not even a year out of college, I am incredibly lucky to have the opportunity to work for one of the most historical franchises in the game and live in one of the oldest cities in the country. It wasn't my original goal, but when an opportunity like this presents itself, you take it by the horns and pray to Jonny Gomes to lead you through.
On Monday, April 15th at around 2:30pm, I was at Fenway Park, watching Mike Napoli smash a ball to left that struck the Monster and scored Pedroia, giving the Sox a walk-off win on Patriot’s Day. I was in a suite with a couple of season ticket holders and a few coworkers and we felt like we were on top of the world. It was Marathon Monday and the euphoria after the win was contagious – the city was buzzing with pure happiness. As a novice to New England, I wanted to head over to the finish line with friends and see what the buzz was all about. I wanted to feel like a Bostonian. I wanted to embrace my new city.
Had the game not gone to the bottom of the ninth inning, I would have been at the finish line on that beautiful Monday afternoon. Instead, I was at Fenway Park about a mile away, absentmindedly wondering why there were so many sirens. Back at the ticket office, everyone was live-streaming the chaos. Cell phone service was not working. The sirens got louder. No one had any idea what to do. We were sent home, but it was of little comfort to me. My apartment is two blocks from Fenway and looks out over the Prudential building, right by the site and the anarchy seemed omnipresent.
I can honestly say I have never felt as lonely as I did in the week following the bombings. I missed my home, my family and everything I have out in California. I was scared and in a new city, afraid to go to work and very much still in shock. A few weeks prior, I had purchased tickets for the Bruins game on April 17th. It was supposed to be exciting – I had never been to a hockey game and I was looking forward to seeing what all the hype was about. Instead, I had to convince myself that it was safe and I would be okay. I almost didn't go.
I was lucky enough to partake in one of the most emotional moments in sports and Boston history when every single person in attendance at TD Garden stood up and belted the National Anthem. I cried and I sang and I hugged and I cheered. I let out all the emotions that had been building up and I finally saw what the buzz was all about. I felt like a Bostonian.
On Monday, April 22nd, one week after the bombings, I went to work with a skip in my step and a smile on my face. The entire weekend had been long and emotional, from the lock-down of the city to the capture, from David Ortiz professing love for his city to the new-found camaraderie I had developed with everyone I knew in Boston. I was no longer afraid... and the A’s were in town.
Before the game, one of my coworkers and I headed upstairs for media dining. We were chatting about the weekend’s events when I looked around the room and realized Glen Kuiper was sitting at the table next to ours. I made sure he wasn't eating and I went over to introduce myself. I told him that I was born and raised in California and, if he kept my secret, I could admit that I was a die-hard A’s fan. I explained that I was new to the city and had only recently moved to Boston. On the verge of tears, I thanked him for being in Boston. After the sleepless nights and isolation of the week before, it was so nice to have a little piece of home and a big piece of my heart at Fenway.
Although being in Boston was tough, being in Boston made me tougher. I learned to look at life through a different lens and got perspective. I told my parents I loved them and I stared at fear in the face. I grew up.
For all you Boston-area fans: another Green and Gold faithful has joined your ranks. Please welcome me with open arms because Sox fans are of a different breed!
For all you New York-area fans: If you are going to any game this weekend, please join me for a drink. I will be at all three games and will be sure to express any and all cheering that I held back while watching the team that ensures my financial stability play against the team that ensures my emotional stability.
Now that I’m a NRAF, expect me to be around a little more. :)