What was I doing when the typing stopped?
Writing words. Of course.
It was the first day of May. Like many of you, I was playing tight defense against the Covid-19,, doing my job in the safe space of my home office. After completing my Friday morning radio show for 101 ESPN via remote broadcasting unit, I began writing a column for the station’s site.
I planned to take a speculative look at Yadier Molina, Adam Wainwright and the possible wipeout of the 2020 MLB season. If the pandemic terminated an entire year of ball, what would it mean for the two most enduring and beloved Cardinals? Would this be the end of their playing days in St. Louis?
Well, I never finished the column. About 10 paragraphs in, I got a message to call the station manager. I knew right away: this would not be good.
I was fired.
The event was a familiar story of our times. The virus from hell, plummeting revenues, corporate anxiety, an aggressive round of payroll slashing, the predictable elimination of jobs. When the machete comes out, the larger salaries are vulnerable.
That would be me.
I understood. No hard feelings. The station was generous in its severance agreement, and I’m still thankful for that. But because of a non compete clause that’s common in radio contracts, I had to sit on the sideline for six months and was prohibited from working in the St. Louis market. This would be interesting; I’d never lost a job during 40 years in a volatile and increasingly insecure profession.
Ironically, the title-theme for the aborted column was “Missing You.” It’s still there, on the top of the saved file, here on my laptop, in reference to the potential reality of saying farewell to Yadi and Waino.
The moment I got whacked, the “Missing You” had different meaning.
Suddenly, it was about having my career taken away, put in limbo, and eventually having to face the challenge of seeking a job at a terrible time in our community and nation .A time of Illness, suffering, death, grief, vanishing jobs, a collapsing economy, and a sickening fear of the unknown.
We all miss normalcy.
During my six-month blackout I knew I’d be missing my work, missing my readers and listeners, and missing being part of our town’s sports community. I knew I’d be missing the certainty of an established daily routine. I’d be missing the comfort of counting on a fairly secure future. I knew I’d be sitting in my home, in exile, fretting about finances and my mental health and the darkness of it all. With the Covid raging, my life took an unsettling turn. And I took nothing for granted, personally or professionally.
Thankfully I made it through. I had some unpleasant phases of doubt along the way, and it was incredibly strange and disturbing for me to be out of work for the first time since age 12, when I got paid in one-dollar bills for doing odd jobs in the general store owned by my grandparents. (Sweeping, filling up vending machines, pumping gas, cleaning the deli, unpacking delivered boxes, restocking the shelves… and of course, eating a lot of candy and ice cream.)
Not having a daily professional purpose after 50 running years of b employment was a jolt to my system. It messed with my psyche. But I also realized I was a fortunate soul because I knew we could survive the adversity. I tried hard to keep the self-pity to a minimum. When I cried it was always after reading or watching a Covid-19 story about a heart-breaking death.
No one had to feel sorry for me; I rarely felt sorry for myself. Life is all about adjusting and adapting. It helped me to maintain that attitude.
I’m pleased and relieved to tell you that I’m back, with a fresh start and a more clear-headed outlook. In many ways, having a chance to shut down and unplug and decompress was beneficial. If anything I was too consumed by work. Going forward, I’ll make some changes. Work hard, yes. But work smart. And don’t get overwhelmed by insignificant irritations and disappointments.
This morning my enthusiasm is sincere and substantial because I’ve found the ideal writing home at Scoops With Danny Mac. I’ll be doing daily columns here, and happily yapping on a weekday afternoon sports-talk show (3-6 p.m.) at 590 KFNS.
I’m ready to work again — only have more fun this time around.
When Dan McLaughlin asked me to join him at Scoops, it took me about 30 seconds to accept. Sure, I had other columnist-role opportunities but this was an easy call.
Let’s count it down:
1. Danny Mac is one of my best friends, and through the years we’ve had a lot of conversations about working together one day. And here we are. Perfect timing.
2. I was impressed by the ambitious launch of “Scoops,” and have enjoyed watching it grow into a STL sports-destination site. I wanted to be a part of it. The chance to help a close friend build something up — an aspiring local startup owned and operated by the longtime TV voice of Cardinals’ baseball — was irresistible to me.
3. Danny Mac is the quintessential underdog who worked like a maniac to establish a prestigious career. If anything, he gets after it with more energy than ever. I’m wired the same way as Dan. We both believe this: Gotta Prove Yourself, Gotta Earn It, Gotta Bring Max Effort Every Bleeping Day. I want to work with inspired, like minded people. McLaughlin has high standards. He cares deeply about everything he does. He’s berserk. And that’s a compliment.
4.True confession; I was prepared to walk away from writing, at least for a time. Why? Because I didn’t want to take something that’s been a special part of my heart since childhood — sportswriting — and waste it on a platform that didn’t really give a damn about the work. That’s demoralizing. Thankfully, that won’t be an issue now. I am exactly where I belong. Dan is my STL brother. I am proud of what he’s accomplished, and I admire his strength of character in confronting difficult personal challenges at an earlier stage of his life. I know all about that. I’ve battled my own demons … and it ain’t easy.
5. I’m fired up. I’m here to help expand on the creative podcast-video foundation at “Scoops” by adding lots of columns at the site. Opinions, analyses. historical perspective, fun stuff. I won’t hold back. But I will be fair, even if it means disappointing people who constantly demand blood. Example: I don’t think John Mozeliak should be fired. But for goodness sake, when will the Cards get it right in the outfield? I’m not an all-or-nothing guy. I weigh the merits of each side of an argument. (Gee, what a quaint concept.) But I won’t hesitate to “Bern” it up with molten-take blasts when warranted. And I’ll contribute podcasts.
6. The Post-Dispatch does a phenomenal job of covering the Cardinals, but this isn’t about fans having to choose one place, and one spot only for Cards content. I mean, think about it… do we watch only one TV show? Do we read only one book, over and over? Do we eat the same exact meal three times per day, seven days a week? Of course not. One of the goals here at “Scoops” is to provide content that will bring you back for more. You can count on it. By all means, head to STLtoday as your first visit in the morning; that’s my tradition too. And then hop on over to Scoops to see what we’re serving up.
7. I’m proud of what we’re putting together here. There’s only one joint in the marketplace that has (A) the TV voice of the Cardinals for the last 24 seasons; and (B) the longest-running St. Louis sports columnist who has written thousands of Cardinals’ columns since 1989. A steady stream of Cardinals-related audio interviews by Dan and has given Scoops an important presence in our town. Brian Walton does a great job of keeping you updated on Cardinals’ prospects. The versatile Chris Hrabe brings years of experience of Cardinals’ coverage to the mix. And now I’m jumping on board to supply columns. We’re ramping up to earn more of your support as a go-to site for Cardinals fans. I’ve made it a point to emphasize Cards’ content, and obviously that’s a priority. But there’s a lot more to Scoops than baseball. Dan is determined to grow those areas. (Example: St. Louis U. basketball fans have noticed the increased Billikens’ coverage.) One step at a time. We’re a r work in progress.
8. Finally, I’m excited to have a proper, comfy home for “The Bits,” so I’m bringing them out of retirement. The Bits were a Saturday-morning fixture during my 25+ years as a columnist at the Post-Dispatch. Readers liked the weekly brew of opinions, notes, quotes, facts, stats, rumors, zingers, out-of-town excerpts and cheers. I got away from doing the Bits when I left the newspaper, and I can’t explain why. But carrying them to the next stop just didn’t feel right to me. Over the ensuing years, so many of you have told me that you miss The Bits. And that really motivated me to revive my signature column. I miss The Bits too. But now that I am moving into a meaningful new writing home, The Bits are coming with me.
It just feels right.
Thanks for reading…