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Go ahead, take that job, and love it

I read a summary of a study the other day, out of the Center for Study of Sport in Society, by Richard Lapchick - who for years has made a very good living out of stating the obvious. The man recently analyzed newspapers throughout the country and came to the less-than-startling conclusion that there aren't very many minorities working as sports editors in this country.

Before you figure I'm going to try to explain why that happens, step back. That's not my topic today. And I would leave any explanation to the esteemed Mr. Lapchick - who spends much of his time pondering these sorts of things.

When he gets some free time, though, I was kind of hoping he'd take on another project for me. Maybe he can tell me why anyone of any color or gender would want to be a sports editor in the first place?

It's a job that may rank right up there with cleaning public toilets in the thankless job category - only the hours are longer.

I've been amazed over the years at the patience and cool the average sports editor needs on a daily basis. For one thing, there's the ego of your average sportswriter - who always believes he (it's usually a he) ought to have a better beat, needs more time off, wonders why his stories get changed or cut and can't understand why he has to travel so much. Unless he's not traveling, in which case he is very out of sorts because he isn't.

Then there are the sports columnists, whose even bigger egos are armor against constant criticism of their opinions. Columnists are a special breed who always seem to offend someone - it's part of the job. Which often forces the sports editor into an apologist or peacemaker role. Over the years, I think I probably caused my sports editors enough anguish for them to constantly be thinking two words - early retirement.

But that's the easy part of being a sports editor. The hardest part of that job - if you're doing it correctly - is trying to determine exactly what stuff your paper is going to cover and then where to display it within the meager amount of space allotted.

Right now, there's a huge battle being waged between the traditionalists - old-timers - and the new breed. Cover more soccer, the young guys say. And mixed martial arts. And X Games stuff. And lacrosse. And hey - what about cycling, rock climbing and hiking?

Yeah, sure, the old-timers say. There's nobody under the age of 30 reading my sports page, anyway, and you want me to cover all that junk? I'll lose even more readers.

Well, if you did cover it, maybe some young people would read your paper.

Or not.

And so the argument goes. I don't have answers, only admiration for those who have to fight their way through the questions. Especially the ones who legitimately try to give the readers what they want - rather than just use the position of sports editor as an excuse to have reporters cover their own favorite teams or sports.

Oh, and you have to handle the phone calls, too. That's another big part of the job. These guys running your favorite sports page have all those decisions to make, while at the same time trying to please - at least temporarily - everyone.

You know what I'm talking about. Little Jimmy is playing in a Little League baseball game, for the championship of a neighborhood. And why wouldn't the paper be interested in covering that? Our fifth-grade soccer team is trying to raise money for a trip to Brazil, couldn't you give us a little plug? Or the worst calls: Hey, how come you guys favor (choose one) Grant, Benson, Cleveland, Wilson, (etc.) so much and never give any coverage to (choose one) Grant, Benson, Cleveland, Wilson (etc.)?

All of this without the occasional word of praise a writer can sometimes garner from an adoring fan. Show me something, Mr. Lapchick. Go find me a reason why anyone would want the job.

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