Word on the Street

Clark Kent Job (klark kent jahb) noun. The sports blogger’s “day job.” That is, the form of employment – be it full or part-time – that allows the blogger to pay the bills until he can land the job of his dreams: Sports writer. No, wait: Paid sports writer.

Usage example:I work for as a technical writer for a global computer software firm. That’s my Clark Kent job.”

Word trivia: When you meet a “writer,” nine times out of 10, that person probably isn’t currently getting paid to write anything at all. The self-proclaimed Word Smith might be employed as a marketing analyst, or a Starbucks barista, or even a professional whistler. But thanks to the wonders of the Internet, as long as he can read, type, and register for a LiveJournal or Blogger.com account, he can (and will) refer to himself as a “sports blogger.” Kind of like how anybody who takes the LSAT, makes it through three years of law school, and passes the Bar exam gets to call themselves a “lawyer.”

However, no amount of irrational enthusiasm can convince a landlord to let him stay in an apartment for free, nor can it make lifegiving food magically appear in his mouth. Hence the absolute and dire necessity of the Clark Kent job. But the sports blogger will be quick to remind you, that’s just a job. They are working toward a career. And the career of a sports blogger can usually be broken down into the following stages:

Stage 1 – Awkward, stumbling beginning: This stage can last anywhere from a week, to six months, to even a year or more. The blogger is full of energy and fresh ideas, but either has no idea how to articulate them or lacks the confidence to do so. He spends hours pouring over existing blogs, repeatedly telling, “This is easy! I can do this! I’m smarter/funnier/better than [whoever].” He will publish a new post here and there, but nothing consistent. The blogger openly questions, “Why bother? What’s the point?” In many cases, the blogger will quit during this stage. If he does not, then he will move on to…

Stage 2 – Manic overactivity: Something clicks and the blogger kicks on the afterburners. He spends hours designing, redsigning, and re-re-designing his site. Years and years worth of fresh, unique ideas come pouring out in the form of two, three, four, sometimes even five posts a day. He’s reading and commenting on every similara blog he can find, he’s networking, he’s sending out resumes and writing samples. And he is writing like Apollo Creed is standing by his computer screaming, “There is no tomorrow! There is no tomorrow!” As far as he can tell, every post he publishes reads like a hilarious and polished South Park script. Every comment from a site visitor, even if that visitor’s name is “grandma,” brings him untold joy. He obsessively tracks site hits and clicks on the “Check Mail” button every two or three minutes. The blogger openly declares, “This is happening. I’m really going to do it!”

Stage 3 – The cold, crushing grip of reality: The number of posts slow down significantly, in some cases dwindling down to next to nothing. That untapped well of creativity and innovation begins to dry up. The blogger realizes that the 10 or 20 comments he receives each day come from the same two or three people, and even then half of the comments are his replies to their comments. He’s been blogging for months – blogging at the top of his game, damn it! – and ESPN hasn’t called. MSNBC hasn’t called. FOX Sports hasn’t called. Hell, the Homerville Gazette Weekly hasn’t called. The blogger openly questions, “Why bother? What’s the point?” In many cases, the blogger will quit during this stage, sometimes declaring to his small (but loyal) fan base that he is “retiring.” Sometimes, that retirement is permenant. Other times, it’s merely Jordanesque, which leads to…

Stage 4 – The Comeback: It’s hard to walk away from fame and notoriety, even if that “fame” consists solely of a few friends who keep asking the blogger when he’s going to post on his blog again, because they thought his other posts were “pretty funny.” After squirting a healthy dose of Visine in his Eye of the Tiger, the blogger makes his triumphant return. Only this time, he vows to start taking his blog seriously. He narrows the scope of his blogroll so that it only includes the best of the best. His posts take on a more professional feel. Gone, or mostly gone, are the personal details of his life and the real names of his friends and family. The writing becomes (or tries to become) a hybrid of straight news reporting and irreverent Generation Y-style humor. The blogger begins to look back at old posts and feels slightly embarrassed at how silly and amateurish they sounded, which leads him to edit some of them and delete others altogether. Conversely, the new posts are looked on with pride, and he deems that he is finally providing something of real value. When that paying job still doesn’t come, the blogger may become disillusioned. But, if he has retained any confidence, he will move on to…

Stage 5 – Reluctant acceptance: The biting pain of realization has worn off somewhat. The blogger develops a new understanding and appreciation for his lot in life, and submits to the fact that it takes more than a few months of blogging to break into the six-figure sports writing business. And, in fact, that it takes more than a few months of blogging to even break into the three-figure sports writing business. Instead of churning out as much content has humanly possibly, he concentrates on a steady stream of focused, quality posts. Moreover, he actually learns to enjoy (for the most part) the process of blogging without the need for immediate “success.” This stage can last anywhere from a few days to a few years, until it reaches the final stage…

Stage 6 – Surrender or Success: The blogger realizes that this isn’t really for him, or he wants to try something else, or it’s time to stop answering phones for the local brokerage firm and start looking for a job that pays well and provides some upward mobility. It’s never easy to walk away from The Dream, but sometimes it’s just time to move on. Or…

Eureka! ESPN/MSNBC/FOX Sports/The Homerville Gazette Weekly finally calls, and not only do they want the blogger to work for them, they want to pay him. Not in praise or free subscriptions to ESPN the Magazine, but in actual cash money. The blogger is now, officially, living the dream.

Within every despondant nine-to-fiver, there may be a Superblogger waiting to burst forth.


Labels: Michael Jordan (Jordanesque) / Word on the Street


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