Thursday, June 07, 2007

Arthur: Work & Sports

A year ago, when being a writer meant getting paid for it rather than just putting things down to try to remain sane, there were a couple questions and comments I got a lot. The first, of course, was where I got ideas. Folks automatically assume that anyone who gives writer as their profession writes fiction, which is far from the case - the vast majority of the work to be had as a writer is work-for-hire, and most of that is for magazines or newspapers, or ghost-writing biographies and how-to books. Heck, if you want to get paid for writing fiction, you're mostly looking at writing somebody else's ideas - more ghost-writing, comics, film and television (if you can get that, which is really difficult), licensed work, mystery and romance series... Only a scant few people can afford to do things on spec or get advances.

That ties in with the other thing people say, they they couldn't be a writer because they get so intimidated staring at the blank page (screen today). Most of the time, putting down words is, while not easy, the result of preparation and research.

Research is how I've spent most of the past week. Nell's steadiest employment is doing play-by-play once a week for the San Francisco Cannons, a Major League Lacrosse (MLL) team. Depending on how you looked at it, Nell or I was already behind the eight ball for missing their opener in Denver, although R.J. had sent word to his office that Nell had fallen ill from bad clams on her trip to Maine, and thus would be unable to make it to the opener in Denver. That left me about a week to learn everything I could about the game of lacrosse in general, the San Francisco Dragons and Long Island Lizards in particular, and let's not forget the mechanics of working on television.

My priorities last week were finding out as much as I could about the game and players as I could; I figured that Nell's job as an announcer was similar to mine as a writer - communicating information to an audience. I sucked up as much information as I could, made sure I had media guides handy, and mostly listened at the planning meeting on Friday. That's where I met George Wilder, who produces and directs Dragons broadcasts for CSN. He asked if I was feeling better and asked if I'd gotten the DVD of the first game that they'd messengered to the condo. I had, but had sort of set it aside while trying to sort through the month's worth of mail waiting at Nell's place. After listening to George, Nell's broadcast partner Mike, and other people in the room talk about what went well and what didn't, I realized that as little as I knew about the game, I knew even less about the business of doing live television sports.

After leaving the meeting, I called Drew and stopped by the office he'd inherited from R.J. His assistant gave me a pleasant but knowing look - I guess that Nell and R.J. were dating wasn't much of a secret - and let me in to see Drew.

"She's cute," I said.

"Yeah, I guess. Looks a little too much like Daphne for my taste, though - it freaks me out."

I hadn't really noticed, and made a note to get a look at her on the way out. I told Drew that I needed any video he had of Nell's on-camera and announcing work to study. She probably has some in the condo, but I just wanted to make sure. He called the assistant and had her make some copies from the library.

That gave us a little time to talk. He and new-Drew are still trying to work out a schedule to get back to the Inn and get things set right, at least for him. Complicating matters are that he hasn't heard from the original R.J. yet, and they'll want to try and make that work.

"So... Gotten laid yet."

"Oh yeah." A huge smile came across Drew's new face. "It's almost painful, how intense it feels down there. And having a woman in your arms... You just can't beat it."

I sighed; I knew what he meant. As much as a woman's orgasm feels wonderful, and sex in general is pretty good... It's not the same. In a certain way, I have a hard time thinking of it as sex; I've just got too much memory of sex being a different experience to really recognize the opposite half as the same thing. And now I don't know if I'll ever feel that again.

He saw where my mind was going, and asked if I'd seen Jeremy yet. I shook my head no - I'd made a few calls, but I've been spending so much time trying not to screw up Nell's job that I haven't really had time to track him down. Drew said that was a great attitude, but I should get on it soon; wait too long and Jeremy might start to think I was okay with it.

That's when Drew's assistant knocked on the door, and gave me a pile of DVDs. I felt a little daunted looking at them. Drew asked me if I wanted to get a drink or a bite to eat, and I just pointed at the pile and said I had a lot of TV to watch that night.

It didn't help. I was awful at calling the game.

If it had been baseball or football, I might have been able to do all right. I know the A's and Raiders, and I know the games fairly well. Both have a flow to them that I'm familiar with. Lacrosse is crazy - each team has ten people on the field at once, running back and forth, checking each other with their sticks. There is a lot of scoring - the Dragons lost this game 12-14 - and the game moves fast. I fell behind the action a lot, missed a couple of names, and I'm fairly certain everybody watching (which, thankfully I guess, isn't that many people) must have thought Nell was an idiot.

Mike certainly felt that way. He wanted to know what the heck was going on, since Nell had called games for the San Jose Stealth (the closest NLL indoor lacrosse team) during the winter. I couldn't rightly say, and I think I got worse as I tried harder. I at least did all right with the post-game interviews; I was able to jot a few notes down during the game and be ready when I met the players just outside the locker room.

The camera scared me a bit at first, but I think I got over it. During the game, I just tried to think of myself as talking on the phone; afterward, I just reminded myself that I had nothing to worry about, since the audience wasn't seeing the real me, so to speak. I don't know how successful I was.

Not very, I think. I've been watching the tape of that game over and over again, comparing it to the one of Mike alone in Denver and Nell's NLL work. I've got a lot to learn if I'm going to keep this up.

-Art

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