Why I’m Bad At My Job
Gus Merwin
amarc543@uwsp.edu Twitter @GusMerwin
I have been called a good writer by: my parents, my sister, my grandmothers, my aunts, cousins, countless family friends, my own friends, teachers, professors, colleagues, and fellow students. People I have known for years and people I have known for minutes.
 
This is the type of compliment we all like to hear. For any writer, musician, artist, designer, or plumber, any job where you are performing tasks that will be openly judged, the greatest feeling you can get is when you know what you have done has been appreciated by someone else.
 
The only person I know that has read something of mine and has never once uttered the phrase, "You are a good writer," or "Good job," is me.
 
That’s not because I’m a tortured soul or because I have some sort of obsession with chasing perfection, it’s much less egotistical than that.
 
The reason I have never, and will never compliment myself has nothing to do with me, and everything to do with what I write about.
No one who has ever written about sports can completely capture the moment with their words. We can provide recap, we can summarize, we can inject analysis, but we can’t infinitely preserve emotion. Once the moment passes the only ones who will keep it as it was are the people who actually lived it.
 
Pictures can freeze the exact instant, video can show us what happened, words can give us a person’s translation of the event, but nothing replaces living in that moment.
 
How am I supposed to properly capture the absolute anger that Cuban people everywhere are radiating this week because of Ozzie Guillen’s comments about Fidel Castro? How do I capture decades of pain and suffering by the victims of Castro’s rule in Cuba and put it in words? I can’t.
 
How do you tell the story of Bubba Watson winning the Masters without losing a little something by putting it in writing? He looked like a regular guy standing among the trees and the brush, until he hit it. The moment he cut that ball onto the green on the tenth at Augusta, he was no longer a regular guy. How does one go about putting legend into words? I can’t.
 
How should I write about a coach encouraging the intentional injury of players? What if under the watch of Gregg Williams a player suffered a career ending injury? What if a player with a history of concussions took one last hit and couldn’t get back up? Urging players to "Kill the head" is a despicable enough act, but what if someone actually did? I am incapable of taking a story with that much raw emotion and controversy and putting it on paper.
 
I love to write and I love sports. But writing about sports is like trying to map out space; no matter how much time you spend, how much work you put in, you haven’t even scratched the surface and you never will.
 
There are a lot of great writers out there that put their own style and spirit into their writing, and I would like to believe I am one of them. But when it comes to putting the spirit of an instance into writing, capturing the feelings of thousands of people, trying to put into words a spectacle that rendered the human mind incapable of forming any, I am quite an amateur.
 
The best way to experience sports is not through the paragraphs and pages of print that someone has put together for you to read. The best way to experience sports is to live through them. No word can fully describe a feeling, and no author can fully retell a tale.
I am bad at my job because I fail, but I love my job because I get to try.