Workin’ 9 to 5, just trying to make a living. As Labor Day 2023 approaches, I have never been able to relate more strongly to these lyrics from Dolly Parton’s hit song. Between my two jobs, I have been putting in a six to seven-day work week most of the Summer. My hours are far from 9 to 5, however. Most ballgames I cover as a sportswriter begin at seven and I submit my final draft of the story around midnight. Covering Liverpool soccer on the other hand is on the opposite end of the spectrum, beginning as early as 6:30 AM due to the time difference between NC and the U.K.
I’m thankful and blessed to have both jobs and with the rising cost of Gabe’s food, medicine and general checkups at the vet (in addition to all those expenses for my two cats and my duck), I need it. But being a writer is tough. Not only do we have the pressure of deadlines as in the past, we also have the added worry of AI (Artificial Intelligence). Some of the biggest newspapers already use the technology to cover games and it is just a matter of time before the technology makes its way to small, community papers, putting myself and others out of a job.
In addition to the “normal” challenges a writer faces, I have the added difficulties of my Cerebral Palsy. I can’t just show up to a game and start writing. I have to ask several questions in the days leading up to the event. They include whether a venue has an elevator to the press box. If not, is there a place I can set up in the stands? Can the coaches and players meet me somewhere to do the interview because it’s hard for me to access the field? You get the idea.
Even covering an NFL game is not easy as I found out recently. Handicapped parking spots in the media parking lot are hard to find or nonexistent, while some press boxes do not have a raised workspace for wheelchairs to fit under. Finally, I was reminded that some people do not take you seriously if you are in a wheelchair. I needed access to the visiting New York Jets locker room after a game with the Carolina Panthers to interview a player. A member of the Jets’ staff thought I was a fan looking for autographs and looked shocked when I showed him my press pass and told him I was a member of the media. My photographer was angry, but I have learned to shrug off these types of incidents. The staff member apologized after the interview for making an assumption and would be more careful in the future. If nothing else came out of it, I’m glad things might be a little easier for the next reporter with a disability and that someone learned a lesson about making assumptions.
With all the challenges of being a writer with a disability, I still love to write and will take advantage of every assignment I am offered while the opportunity still exists. Working late nights and some early mornings means I get to spend less time with Gabe outside. To make up for it, he has been coming into the house more often so I can pet and play with him when I get home from work after dark. I must say, Gabe has taken to being a House Chessie quite easily, much to the chagrin of my cats and my Mom. Gabe will grab his favorite toy and happily chew away while I pet him. The only issue is that he doesn’t want to leave and go back outside, so we have to coax him with Arin’s Good Girl Dog Treats. Now Gabe thinks he is supposed to come into the house anytime the door is open an inch whether he is invited or not. He will push the door open with his nose and bolt for my bed, laying there with a panting grin on his face. If you give a Chessie an inch, they will take a mile, or 10.
Whether I spend time with Gabe indoors or out, he always makes coming home from a hard day's work rewarding. I have ready access to his hugs and I don’t have to go through a security guard to get to talk to him. If only my jobs were that easy.