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Just Off-Camera

"They respect you if you write. The dumber the world gets, the more the words matter." -Dan Jenkins

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

A Farewell To Bristol

It's been nearly a month since I wrote here on the site, but I have a good excuse. I swear. I moved to California.

That's right. I no longer work at ESPN. Instead, come Monday, I'll be back in school, studying law at UCLA. With the move (obviously) come a few changes, but what it means for the site is that I no longer have the unique perspective of an ESPN employee. However, I do have the perspective of a former employee...

Seriously though, I'm going to keep on writing here, so I hope those of you who came to the site hoping for some insight on ESPN won't stop reading now that my vocation has changed.

A long-running joke among ESPN employees is that "Happiness is Bristol in the rear-view mirror," the implication being that Bristol is perhaps the most boring place in all of Connecticut, New England, or maybe even the entire East Coast. Admittedly, there were times when I bought into that.

Then I drove cross-country.

Bristol is a bustling metropolis compared to most of America. Desolation is a sign in the desert of southern Utah reading, "No services next 100 miles." Such a sign exists. There were times when I would stop for gas or lunch in towns, such as Beaver, Utah, whose populations couldn't have been half that of ESPN's Bristol work force.

I don't mean to single out Utah as the measuring stick by which Bristol looks good, though. At some point between Mile Run, Pennsylvania (near where there is a sign that says "Mile Run - 2 miles") and Pittsburgh, there's not much going on either. Ditto for the areas near Ogallala, Nebraska, or Fort Morgan, Colorado. My car's thermometer hit 117 degrees somewhere near the barren Arizona-Nevada state line. And Barstow, California will always be known as that town that's on I-15 between Vegas and L.A.

My route covered 2,991.7 miles over slightly more than 48 hours of driving time. I averaged about 61 mph during the trip, and went through about 105 gallons of gasoline. Fortunately, I won $55 at the blackjack table at New York New York to help cover that expense.

I left ESPN a little sad to be going away - after all, there aren't many jobs where a sports nerd like myself can fit in so well, let alone put random knowledge to use. I know my Criminal Law professor will never ask me when the last time a Yankees righty hit 40 homers in a season. I will miss ESPN, and I do hope that one day I'll be back.

However, ESPN is fully aware of the unique quality and desirability of its jobs, and consequently pays accordingly. The show "Dream Job" might have been for an anchor position, but really, most sports fans would leap at the chance to work any job at ESPN, and management knows it. So while I loved what I did at ESPN, I didn't earn nearly enough to make a living.

Along my route from the Worldwide Leader to law school, I went from a place 50 miles from the Atlantic to one five from the Pacific. I saw the first of my high school friends get married (which really put my life change into perspective). I visited some old friends from college. I saw a minor league baseball game in which Pete Rose Jr. went 0-4 and only got the ball out of the infield once. I swam in the world's largest outdoor hot springs. I went to Venice, Rome, Paris, and New York, all in one night, in Las Vegas. I drove through cities, prairies, mountain ranges, and deserts. I passed through 13 states. In short, I had an experience everyone should have at least once in their life.

Now, I'm about to start law school, something that was just a speck of an idea to me a year ago, before I even started working at ESPN. I can't wait for the challenge, to try something new, to see if perhaps this is what I'm meant to do.

Perhaps it's hyperbole to compare myself with a paroled inmate, but I imagine I feel a lot like Andy Dufresne's friend Red did at the end of The Shawshank Redemption.

"Get busy livin', or get busy dyin'. That's goddamn right... I find I'm so excited I can barely sit still or hold a thought in my head. I think it's the excitement only a free man can feel - a free man at the start of a long journey whose conclusion is uncertain. I hope I can make it across the border. I hope to see my friend and shake his hand. I hope the Pacific is as blue as it has been in my dreams. I hope."

I also hope that you'll keep reading, as I plan to continue updating the now ill-named site, Just Off-Camera.


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