Reinventing Myself At Age 50
I’ve had the same job for 60 percent of my lifetime. Now it’s gone, along with its entire industry.
What comes next?
Who I am
I should back up a little and introduce myself. I’m Dave, and I’m a freelance writer. When I was 20 — still a senior at Oakland University — I got hired to cover some games for the Associated Press in Detroit. In two weeks, I went from covering Division II basketball to covering the Pistons. Not only was I going from the GLIAC to the NBA, but I was also writing about the Bad Boys as they went for their second straight championship. They got there, beating the Chicago Bulls in the Eastern Conference finals. That rivalry has been getting some attention lately on ESPN.
That was March 1990. Last month — March 6, to be exact — I celebrated my 30th anniversary with AP. I still cover the Pistons and Tigers — another gig I started in the spring of 1990 — and I’ve been part of Lions coverage for most of those 30 years.
Having all those years of experience as a freelancer, I’ve always believed in multiple income streams. The Associated Press is about as stable as it gets, but I’ve made sure to have another steady source of money.
Where I’ve been
When I was young, I ran political campaigns, and I worked as a researcher for my alma mater and the Michigan Campaign Finance Network.
Since 2011, though, I’ve focused on sports. I covered the Pistons, Tigers, and the University of Michigan for Fox Sports Detroit’s website until they pivoted to video in 2015. My next stop was FanRag Sports, where I wrote about all four major sports, boxing, horse racing, pro wrestling, and anything else they needed in a pinch.
FRS lasted until 2017 when I got caught by another pivot to video. It didn’t work — the company went out of business a few months later — but I was already in my second season covering the Red Wings for the NHL’s website.
On March 6, I had 30 years at a company founded in 1846 and was in my fourth season working for a league born in 1917. Sports journalism hasn’t been stable for a long time, but I felt secure.
Four days later, Michigan reported its first case of COVID-19.
The governor immediately declared a state of emergency and banned large gatherings. Within 72 hours, every major sports league had shut down.
I hadn’t considered the possibility of sports going away. One sport? Sure. I’ve survived lockouts and strikes by having a backup plan. But all of them?
I had planned for many possible detours along my career path. Unfortunately, I hadn’t considered the possibility of sports going away. One sport? Sure. I’ve survived lockouts and strikes by having a backup plan. But all of them? That’s like working in the publishing industry, and thinking books might stop.
But sports did go away, and they aren’t going to be back any time soon.
I’m 50 with a mortgage and a wife whose kidney transplant in 2018 means we can’t risk her getting COVID-19, and now I’m unemployed for the first time. We’ll be self-quarantining as long as possible, which limits my options.
We contacted our mortgage company and learned we could skip our next three payments — April, May, and June. That sounded promising until they told us we would have to make four payments on July 1. That wasn’t helpful in any way, so we declined.
I’ve caught a few breaks. My wife is working from home, but she’s still at full salary, and my health insurance is through her job. My boss at AP started a fundraiser to help freelancers, and the government granted us the ability to file for unemployment. That wasn’t quick — it took almost six weeks to get my first check — but it will help.
I’m also blessed by my friends. They’ve found excuses to give us money — mostly by subscribing to a Patreon where I’m telling the story of 2020 in a sports world without the coronavirus. We’ve also gotten mysterious deliveries to our front porch every time we’ve run low on something.
My psychiatrist even found a way to help, paying me to write some blog posts for his office’s website.
Add in my Medium earnings — I’m almost to two dollars! — and I’m keeping myself busy. I’m even pleased with what I’m doing.
Granted, I don’t think an alternative universe where sports are happening is going to make a positive difference in the world. Still, I’m blogging about ways people are coping with the pandemic and trying to help my fellow Michiganders understand our situation. I’m proud of that and of telling the inspiring stories of two front-line medical professionals.
We aren’t going to starve or lose our house, and we’re doing everything possible to avoid COVID-19. It isn’t fun, but we’re in a much better spot than many families.
I don’t know what happens next. I’m going to keep writing things that can help people. I’m going to use social media to hold the government accountable — the courts have already told the president he can’t block me again on Twitter.
Also, according to a ton of posts, I’m going to make an incredible amount of money on Medium. I’m carefully following all the directions.
Sports will return. I only cover events in Detroit, and we’re several months away from any games taking place here, but it will happen.
Until then, I have a chance to find a different path. I’m scared — did I mention my depression and severe anxiety? — but if I can find ways to help, it will be worth it.