Sometimes I look out my living room window into the almond-bearing trees and wonder what the heck happened.
I’m not despondent or depressed, just reflective.
On March 7, 2002, I was in the bowels of the Staples Center in Los Angeles writing a game recap after No. 14 Arizona’s 73-56 beat-down of Arizona State in the first round of the Pac-10 Tournament. I was the men’s basketball beat writer for the Arizona Daily Wildcat, UA’s newspaper.
I used a borrowed laptop to email the story back to my editor Maxx in Tucson. Two days later I was recapping the championship game. Arizona beat No. 20 USC by 10.
Two weeks later I was in San Jose, writing a game recap and sidebar analyzing how the Wildcats had been pummeled by 30-3 Oklahoma in the Sweet Sixteen. Two years later I was watching March Madness from my couch in Stockton.
Everyone that asks sees the logic in an Alaska kid going to Arizona for college, but it’s the ending up in Manteca that brings the quizzical looks. There’s almost an accusatory tone, as if starting a career in Manteca is the anti-making it.
It’s minor-league living, life-light, a place for those that can’t hack it. For some, Manteca is all those things, a choke-chain leading to the inevitable death of potential and prosperity.
But not for me.
Life brought me here, I wasn’t stuck. Plenty others have come back to Manteca by choice and wouldn’t choose anything else. Cities can be simultaneously ideal and imperfect; it just depends on what you’re looking for. The move here wasn’t scary, it was just next.
It was fun consuming college basketball courtside, busting out game recaps next to professional beat writers and listening to suspicious stories told by the veterans in the hospitality room of the media hotel, but there is also something great about seeing where life takes you. It’s cliché I know, but that’s about as good as I can put it.
As a teacher my nights end a lot earlier now. Great fish have replaced the ballers, wordsmiths and deadlines of those frenetic post-game minutes.
Time does not move faster than when you have an hour to talk to depressed, over-joyed, inarticulate or overly talkative athletes then write 1,000 words of basketball prose. It’s a dream job for some, the perfect job to tell others about, or pick up a certain type of girl with, but it’s not for me.
I discovered I’m a better fan than a sports writer. There was nothing fun about the thick, depressed pall in the quiet, humid locker room. You have to disguise questions to get the “This is how I feel” quote without asking an athlete that just lost, “So, you just lost. How does that make you feel?”
When it comes to writing, I’m my own boss to a degree, which I like.
On stinging mornings on Alaskan rivers, or while wet wading on hot afternoons in the Sierra Nevada I ask myself, “How do you feel?”
I give good quotes and that will never get old, or age me too fast.
I guess that’s why I have no regrets about my courtside action being that of a junior varsity coach and the copy I type comes from stories about scrambling around rivers after water bottle-sized trout within an hour of my almond blossom view.
Yeah, things could be very different and might eventually be if life uproots me, but until then, I’m not missing out.
To contact Jeff Lund, email email@example.com.