'Jobs Almanac' overlooked good thing when it took a pass on sportswriting

John Steadman

October 30, 1992|By John Steadman

Surely, being a sportswriter must be included in the newly published "Jobs Rated Almanac," which sent us to our nearest book store to peruse a copy. Inside the red cover are 345 pages of analysis and documentation. Yet, woefully, not a mere mention of sportswriters.

L It's as if none existed, either by intent or blind omission.

But, as we look around The Baltimore Sun sports department, immersed in the daily grind-it-out process are Phil Jackman, Mike Preston, Mark Hyman, Sandra McKee, John Stewart, Jerry Bembry and others, too, all in pursuit of the written word on matters sport. This is most assuring because it notifies the rest of us there's reason for continuing to come to work.

In "The Jobs Rated Almanac," written by Les Krantz and distributed by Pharos Books, the business of reporting on sports is a no-show. Maybe, bottom line, it's not considered a job.

Newspaper publishers have been of this opinion for years. Boilermakers, travel agents, teachers, architects, attorneys, chemists and chiropractors are listed in this extensive compilation of careers for men and women. But sportswriters are absent.

Out of 250 jobs rated for desirability, there was not even an honorable mention for sportswriter. The office of the president of the United States, in case you are interested, is way down the line, No. 241, in order of preference. At least it was placed in the running.

But it only beat out roofers, line installers, meter readers, cab drivers, construction laborers, lumberjacks, cowboys, seamen and roustabouts. So every child growing up in America has 240 choices to consider as being more rewarding than attaining the presidency.

Surely being a sportswriter must rank in there somewhere, even as an also-ran. But, no, it's a humbling lesson to discover it's not even an agate footnote in the career manual. We never had illusions of where it might be placed in importance to the world because we always felt it ranked somewhere close to being a berry picker, hod-carrier or oyster shucker.

But, to be entirely shut out, via this literary put down, is a humbling experience. We take exception with author Krantz. There are many redeeming aspects to the job. Where else in any business could you meet such unforgettable characters as "Good Luck Slim," "Balls" Maggio, Mister Diz, and the "Michigan Walking Man," who walked across the country three times pulling, as his own beast-of-burden, a three-wheel, 700-pound live-in trailer?

Once at a newspaper place that used to be down the street, the Hearst-owned News American, children would frequently come from area schools to visit. They wanted to see what it was like to observe what Bob Considine termed the "daily miracle" and to decide for themselves if there was as much excitement going in putting out a newspaper as the stage and screen suggested.

The tour guide would point out and explain to the visitors the functions of the city desk, women's department, features, wire machines, with all the clatter of news coming in from all parts of the globe and then, somewhat apologetically, point to the sports department. "Now over there are the sportswriters," he or she would say. "They may not look as if they are working, but what you don't know is they are thinking."

That gave most of us the benefit of an enormous doubt as some were catching a short nap, calling a bookmaker, looking out the window checking on ship arrivals or kicking a rolled-up ball of newspaper in what resembled some kind of an indoor soccer game. You'd gladly pay to work in a place like that.

As the late Jim Ellis, who wrote sports for The Baltimore Evening Sun, once facetiously lamented, "Being a newspaper sportswriter would be the greatest job in the world if you didn't have to write a story."

Now this current essay is not to be interpreted as a defense of sportswriters, which, admittedly isn't the most noble of callings, but there are aspects of the job that give it a touch of distinction, or at least individuality.

The games themselves are rather simplified, even redundant. People in sports, though, are exceptional and reporters have working entree to most of them. We've walked the streets with Jack Dempsey while passing automobiles sounded horns in recognition; listened to John Unitas wonder aloud if, as an obscure rookie, he was going to make the team; heard "Red" Grange remark he never got a college scholarship; and respected Jesse Owens' expression of how much sports had elevated the brotherhood of man.

There has to be something said for the value of all that, plus all the other treasured personal memories that pass in review at the mere mention of almost any name, be it Ted Williams, Joe DiMaggio, Stan Musial, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Ty Cobb, Jim Lacy, Fred Scolari, Billy Vessels, Bob Goalby, Alan "The Horse" Ameche, Muhammad Ali, Joe Louis, Rocky Marciano, Eddie Arcaro, George Halas, Art Rooney and on, ad infinitum.

And, without a doubt, the travel was broadening. How about Claremore, Okla.; Egg Harbor, Wis.; Golden, Colo.; Sanoma, Calif.; and Holton, Maine? So the man who put together the book on which jobs offer the most appeal, via using a dozen vital criteria, such as salary, stress, benefits, security and physical demands, should have checked with a sportswriter or two, before giving the craft a blank report card.

He was wrong. Or maybe he was right. It's all in the perception. Anything with this much fun can't be a job.

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