This past week has been very emotional for our country. I would not describe myself as a political person, but over the last six months, no one was able to hide from the negative and overwhelmingly stressful campaigns that led up to the election.
Since the results came in, there have been protests and riots around the country. People are arguing and fighting on the trains here in New York. I feel like I need a long break from social media as the negativity swirls. It’s heavy — like the air is almost hard to breathe in our country right now.
So what does this have to do with hockey you’re asking? To me, it’s a reminder of a decision I made years ago to make a full-time switch to sports.
Rewind with me for a bit…
I went to journalism school at the University of Missouri. It was everything I could have asked for – and more – to prepare me for the real TV world once I graduated. At Mizzou, I was fondly referred to as a half sporto. Most students who go through the program know early on if they want to pursue sports or news. As a collegiate athlete, I was always interested in sports, but I also liked covering hard news. I took several classes in both. Anchoring morning sports at the local TV station, and reporting and anchoring for the news portion of the broadcast.
When graduation came, I was open to taking a job in either specialty. When I interviewed at KION in Salinas, California, It felt like a great fit for my first job. I would be the sports anchor on weekends, and a news reporter during the week.
Those two years changed me. I learned to juggle it all in a small television market. I shot my own video and edited all my stories. Heck, I even ran the teleprompter with my foot. I had the amazing chance to cover the Pebble Beach Pro-AM, the US Open, the Moto GP at Laguna Seca, and the Giants winning the World Series in 2010. That’s what I highlight when people ask about my first job in television.
For the most part, only my friends and family know the dark stuff. But after all that’s happened of late, I’m willing to share it to help make my point.
Salinas, California has one of the largest gang problems in the country. It’s so significant that when I was working there, they had one of the highest murder rates per capita in the country. In a town with just about 150,000, I can’t count how many shootings I reported. I even carried different colored jackets in my car, choosing the one to wear based on which gang territory my story was in. I didn’t sleep well at night. My mom worried about me all the time. I knocked on doors in neighborhoods where kids got shot walking to school. I met a mother whose young son was killed by gangsters in a drive-by shooting. He was asleep in his room. But nothing I do can erase the memory of a story I did in King City, California, just a few miles south of Salinas in the valley.
It was the end of my shift when we heard on the scanners that several shots were fired. We hopped in the live truck and made our way to the scene. We were the first of the media to arrive. In a neighborhood that looked like any other middle-class community, I stood in disbelief as a neighbor told me that some gang members burst into the garage of the house next door to him, and shot four people. I still feel sick thinking about it and I’m crying now as I write these words.
I remember my boss telling me I had to go to the hospital to try to talk to a family member. I remember being there when the doctors came out and said their son wouldn’t make it. I remember how the older brother ran off screaming. I remember standing on the helipad in tears as I told my producer I couldn’t do this story. I couldn’t go on TV and tell this story. I was told that it was my job and I had to pull it together.
A few months after that King City shooting, I interviewed at Fox Sports Detroit. At the time, Michigan was struggling mightily with the recession. With the car companies in trouble, many people were out of work. During my interview, they asked why I wanted the job? Why sports in Detroit? I responded, “I want to be a good part of someone’s day.” I went on to explain how no matter what is going on in your life, if you’ve lost your job, lost your house or lost a loved one, there is one thing you can always turn to as an escape. Sports. Even if your team isn’t playing well, it’s still a good part of your day. It’s still something you look forward to watching. It brings you together with the hundreds of thousands of other fans that cheer for that team. It gives you a sense of belonging to something.
Almost six years ago exactly, I made the decision to switch to sports full-time. I wanted to be a good part of the day. I didn’t want to tell people that someone’s child was shot. I didn’t want to be the person who reminded them nightly of the bad things going on in our world. I wanted and still want to be the one who helps make you smile.
I feel beyond blessed to have the opportunity to cover the Islanders for MSG+. I’m grateful that I work with amazing people and get to meet awesome fans. I know there is frustration surrounding the Isles tough start. But with all the REAL issues going on in our world, I hope that – win or lose – our broadcast is a positive escape for you and your friends.
Thank you for allowing me to be a good part of your day.