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Tending to Burnout

March 17, 2014 - Eric Benac
It's going to be a slow couple of weeks at the office for us sports guys.

Basketball playoffs are over and although several teams played their hearts out and got far, none of them made it to the big dance. It was a wild few weeks for James and I: during the boys district/girls regional week, I was averaging two stories a day. I drove to Hillman three times, Pellston once and St. Ignace twice, earning a mileage check significantly larger than normal.

I hate to be idle at the office, but to be frank with you, there's not much for me to do. I wrote a column about March Madness earlier. I edited some photos and tweaked some cutlines. I puttered around the office for awhile before deciding it would be a good time to update my blog.

However, by the time I sat down to write, nothing came out. No ideas, no thoughts and no creative urges. It was then that I realized how entirely burned out I am from the basketball season. Seasonal burnout is a real, but inevitable, danger every sportswriter will face.

At first, I'm really excited about the upcoming sports seasons. There's always the touch of anticipation, the excitement of wondering how each team will do this year and hoping everybody improves. What kind of upsets will I see? Will the weather hold out? Will I get that perfect sports picture I always wanted? The possibilities are endless and new experiences seem to await me with every new game.

About midway through the season, I'm starting to get wore out. Not that I don't enjoy the games or wish the teams well (because I do). I simply get exhausted from over exposure. Sports writing can be a very challenging endeavor. Its technically not difficult to describe what happened in a game. But to make it interesting and informative? Much harder.

Each team and each game has a story line and finding it is the essential job of any sportswriter. You don't just tell your audience what happened: you bring the game alive, illustrate what happened during the game and enhance a story that weaves through an entire season.

As sportswriter, we're not really creating the stories. Teams make the stories. Yes, we write the newspaper articles, but we're just holding these stories up to the light. The teams play the games. They take the bumps and nurse the bruises. They do all the hard work playing and creating a season.

After all, I'm not out on the field practicing my pitch, my swing, my kick or my throw. I'm not in the gym five hours a day, perfecting my wrestling holds. I'm simply spotting the stories that teams are building, defining them and giving them shape. The story is already there: I just make it clearer.

Watching a team's storyline come to an abrupt end is the biggest contributor to seasonal burnout. Its like finishing a great book: you get to the end and wish there were a few more pages. Just a few more, telling just a little bit more story. You don't want to leave the world that the writer has created.

Team losses in the playoffs abruptly force teams, fans and sportswriters alike out of the story and leave them begging for just a few more pages. Just a few more words telling us what happened after the last pitch fell and everyone had to go home.

Between season breaks are essential for sportswriters that are physically, mentally and emotionally exhausted from following these stories and watching them end. By the time the next season rolls around, we can't wait to find the new story lines and get back to work.

For now, though, things are going to be nice and slow for awhile. I can handle that.



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