Turns out Red readers don't like serials very much, so I'll have to wrap this up: Gig, the Grande Finale

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That weekend I bought every single newspaper I could lay my hands on and, for the first time in my life, I skipped over the arts section and went straight to sports.

It was painful.

I began to ask my father questions like: "How many players are in a rugby team?"

Elated at his youngest daughter's sudden interest in rugby - and even more overjoyed (and stunned!) when he found out the reason behind my interest - he started laying out the in-depth history of rugby. In detail. 'Cause my dad's like that. If you ask him what time it is he'll start telling you how you can manufacture your own watch. From scratch.

(Yeah, now you know who's to blame for my verbosity!)

But alas, my crash course in Sports A - Z turned out to be about as productive as those elementary school attempts to discover my inner athlete. The more I tried to learn, the more I began to realize just how little I knew. That weekend would probably go down as one of the worst of my life.

I was actually relieved to wake up on Monday morning. (Another first.)

Even though it was the day of The Interview.

As promised, my friend was there to meet me at the newsroom door and to personally escort me to slaughter.

As we were walking up the stairs, he thought it would help me to relax a bit if he asked me a few questions to distract me. So he decided to test my brand new general knowledge about sports.

"So, can you tell me what Ernie Els's handicap is?"

"What? He is DISABLED? I didn't know that pro golfers could be disabled! What's wrong with him?"

He laughed, but stopped rather abruptly when he realized that I was dead serious.

Then he just gave a little sigh of resignation and said: "Well, at least you know that he is a golfer. I suppose there is some hope left after all."

Before we knocked on the door so that he could introduce me to the editor and leave me behind to humiliate myself, he gave me a bit of last second advice: "Just relax. Do your best. It might also do you a world of good to feign a bit of enthusiasm for sports. I'm sure you'll get the position because they're desperate and right now there aren't too many other candidates."

Depending on who you ask, it was probably the best or very worst advice that anyone's ever given me.

He was certainly correct about their desperation, and I must've learned SOMETHING about acting during all my years in performing arts school, because I got the job.

After about an hour in the company of the editor, a surprisingly soft-spoken Scotsman who, despite many years in South Africa, still had traces of the lilting accent of his birth country lingering in his speech, I had myself a job. The bad news? My friend wasn't joking. I was a sports reporter who knew absolutely nothing about sports.

Other than my surprise at the editor's soft-spokenness ('cause in the movies shown to us in journalism school, the editors were always boozing chain-smokers barking loud rasping orders at their underlings) and my wrecked nerves, I don't remember anything else about the interview itself. I just know that it couldn't have taken very long (I was done before lunch) and that he offered me the job while I was still sitting across from him at his desk.

I MIGHT also just vaguely (VERY vaguely) remember gushing something about my enthusiasm for all things sports related. "Yes, sir! Even though I don't actively participate in any sporting events myself - I have very flat feet, you see, but I assure you, other than that I'm healthy as an ox - I'm the most avid spectator and fan of sports that you'll ever find!"

My hell began that following Monday. He had actually wanted me to start immediately - THAT's how desperate they were - but I managed to convince him that I had to relocate first.

Good thing I did, because I really did end up moving!

Oh, dear reader... the job was bad and I was bad at the job (which is probably why it was so bad in the first place!). Luckily I was too bewildered, scared and busy to notice. I reported for duty on my first day only to discover that no one from the sports desk was there to show me the way.

A very thick file with phone numbers, names of agents, athletes and sports clubs were unceremoniously tossed onto my desk with the news that I had two days (that's FORTY-EIGHT HOURS) to come up with enough stories and photographs to fill FIVE TABLOID-SIZED PAGES.

That's when it dawned on me that no one from the sports desk was going to show up later to teach me the ropes, because I WAS the sports desk.

Now remember... most South Africans are completely sports crazy. So having me write about all those hallowed activities and the super beings who participate in it was like asking an English-speaking atheist to rewrite the entire Bible. In the original Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek.

Once again, that part of the brain which suppresses memory in order to protect one from life-long trauma, leaves me unable to recall how I made it through those first few days.

A few months after starting the job, I did page through my reporter's notebooks of that time in the hopes of reviving my memory and thus reigniting the ignorant bravery I must've possessed to do a job I knew less than nothing about; but unfortunately the process left me none the wiser.

However, in the notebook I discovered a lot of hastily sketched carricatures of some of the athletes whom I had written stories about. (Unfortunately for me the paper already had a cartoonist.)

Another page of the notebook was filled with my attempts to come up with humorous names for phantom sports teams: For a team of senior citizen cyclists, I came up with The Slow Spokes. Apparently I thought that The Blind Bats would be an ideal and hilarious name for a team of visually impaired baseball/cricket players.

And, yes, I simply have to share this last one: The Ricebergs... I thought it would be the perfect name for a team of Chinese ice hockey players.

That love I had back then for all things punny was even more evident when I went through copies of the newspapers to collect clippings of my work for my portfolio.

"SKATING ON THIN ICE!" was a headline I had dreamed up for a story about a dispute between ice hockey players and their team managers.

Oh, yes... and that was merely a TASTE of the horrors I managed to come up with week after week.

Amazingly, I wasn't fired from that job. Not to say that I didn't come dangerously close a few times, but... well, that's another story for another time.

3 Comments

Jessica said:

OMG you brave girl, I could never have attmepted such a thing... you really do rock.

Bookstore Diva said:

I would have to compare that to working in a bookstore and not being able to read. Yikes!!!

Fatima said:

oh man that's kak!
wat a nightmare!

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is a South African girl living in South Africa. That doesn't sound very original, we know, but you might find it remotely interesting when you learn that she has only recently returned to South Africa for the first time after a nine year, one month and two week (non-stop!) stint in the United States where she accidentally became an outlawed alien (also known, especially in immigration circles, as an 'illegal immigrant.' We prefer the term 'outlawed alien' ourselves). During her reversed exile from her homeland, she kept herself occupied by winning this website (but only after shamelessly bribing the judges) and thus being unleashed on the web where she slowly, leisurely became the World's Laziest Blogger; by being a nanny and by attending sci-fi conventions in search of other aliens. In the US, she also made her sailing debut, her international acting debut, tried and failed to learn the piano, and never learned to cook. She is hopelessly addicted to coffee, dogs (especially Labrador Retrievers), how-to books (with a particular fondness for her copy of the Time/Life A - Z Medical Encyclopedia), and she tends to grossly overuse parentheses (we're not kidding) during her attempts at writing, which you may - if you really have masochistic tendencies - subject yourself to by reading the words to the right of this column. If you REALLY and truly STILL want to know more, you can read her C.V. here.
Or you can stalk her send her some love via e-mail at: redsaid[AT]gmail[DOT]com

The Wish List (Because yes, she really does need more how-to books. Honestly!)

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comments
  • Fatima : oh man that's kak! wat a nightmare!... [go]
  • Bookstore Diva : I would have to compare that to working in a bookstore and not being able to read. Yikes!!!... [go]
  • Jessica : OMG you brave girl, I could never have attmepted such a thing... you really do rock.... [go]
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