Being a sports journalist – or sports blogger, if you prefer – is not that difficult of a task. The job is essentially paid escapism. I get to slump down in my tiny home office, flip through Brewers news, turn off my real-world brain and just talk baseball to the world.
It doesn’t really pay for any of my bills, but it’s a starting path at a great place in an incredibly tough field.
Plus, there’s nothing cooler than telling your old high school buddies with confidence that you’re a “sportswriter,” there’s nary a job title that sounds more fun or more unreal.
Which is what makes times like this all the more difficult.
No doubt you, like the rest of the nation, have been keeping a close eye on the tragic shooting in an Aurora, Colorado movie theatre two days ago. It’s a shock so jarring that it forces perspective. I’ve been trying to piece together the news since it happened, and one name has drawn me in over and over again:
It’s a name I’ve never really recognized, save for a few times in passing when I actually tried to care about hockey before the postseason. Now I wish I had. In part, it’s one of those selfish wishes made by someone with no connection to the loss of someone’s life – the desperate, straw-grasping kind of wish that if you can just make a connection of any kind, maybe some rationality will come through. In some way, you can find a reason to sort this all out. It’s my standard sort of response to these events.
That’s not the only reason, however. She was also a damn good writer, and it makes me feel like a dick that I’ve spent hours pouring over her articles at Busted Coverage and her blog. But it’s more than a morbid fascination or some sad wish – there’s a real-life lesson here.
People who write about sports – or who want to write about sports – make their respective beat their life in some sense. I don’t think I go day in my shit-kicking day job without mentioning that I’m an editor of a Brewers blog. You have to, at least when you’re starting out. Because some days it’s just impossible to fill these blank pages with something – but if you don’t the job will go to somebody else. That’s the reality – there’s always some scrappy, witty, and more driven person than you just waiting for a shot at a real gig.
Jessica Redfield, as she was known in bylines – was that person.
I never knew her, but you could feel it in the way she wrote. She wrote with flair, quirks, and humor that was entirely her own – a rare feat indeed for us hack internet sportswriters. Sure, there was some draw to a pretty young Texas redhead writing about hockey that drew people out of curiosity. But she dangled that carrot in front of you, and once you were in she hit you with entertaining, engaging, and informative content that looked so effortless.
Had she survived that tragic night in Aurora, there’s no telling how far talent like that could have gone.
It’s awful rare to see a real unique talent int he ocean of white noise that is internet sports writing. It takes a special person to use that rather trite soapbox to do something really worthwhile. Jessica Gwahi did it, and she did it with the zeal and determination that is a credit to her, her family, and the people smart enough to employ her.
She’s an example of what I selfishly wish to be, of the person I wish I could be when the XBox is more appealing than the page. Had she not been one of the victims at the hands of a senseless shooter, she would have been the type of person I would have nit-picked out of jealousy and some irrational form of feeling victimized by success.
Now I look at her work, and the remembrances pouring in, and I want to kick the crap out of myself for not being more like her. It’s not just sports, or sportswriting, or blogging that could use more people like her:
it’s the world.