All Balls Don’t Bounce: My Departure Explained
Tuesday morning I stood on a crowded subway car as the train pulled into Royal York station. Behind me, sliding doors. Beyond them, the platform.
As the train stopped and the doors eased open a man nudged past me to exit the car, pausing for a second to stare me down.
“You’re Morgan Campbell!” he said after a moment.
“I am him,” I said, looking up from my newspaper.
“I really love your work, man.”
“Thanks,” I said. “I appreciate hearing that. I really do.”
And I really, really, really do.
Not for the ego stroke that accompanies the knowledge that a complete stranger regards you as (somewhat) famous, and the thought that a split-second interaction probably brightened his day like it brightened mine.
Instead, more than anything, I felt vindicated.
The last 16 months have been the most difficult of my career. In some ways even unemployment was less frustrating because even when I didn’t have a gig I could mark my progress toward one.
But these days I can’t seem to stay planted in one place long enough to build a house of cards, much less bridges, a brand or a following.
Just when I had hit my stride as a baseball writer I was moved to a general assignment gig. And just when I had tamed that job and returned to churning out the kinds of features that put me on the sportswriting map in the first place, upheaval found me again.
On the first Tuesday in August I not only learned my favourite morning radio show (and source of freelance paydays) would disappear by September, but I was also informed that I’d been traded from the Star’s sports department to its business section. Honestly, it’s hard to move forward on such shaky ground but as I told you guys when I switched roles in August, my career is a testament to triumph over change.
And so was that encounter on the subway.
When you spend 16 months shuttling between roles it’s easy to wonder what you’re doing wrong. But when a reader recognizes your face and lets you know he’s a fan of your work even though that work might appear in a different section of the newspaper, you realize you’re still doing something right.
You’re still doing what they pay you to do, and still doing the only thing you’ve ever really wanted to do since, as a nine-year-old, you received your first subscription to Sports Illustrated.
You’re telling true stories and telling them well.
You’re engaging in a daily conversation with readers even though the venue keeps shifting.
You’re finding a way to triumph over change.
And that’s a good thing, because still more change came this week when I decided to step down from my position in the sports and entertainment media content collective known as All Balls Don’t Bounce.
I didn’t want to have to leave. It’s not easy to walk away from something you helped create, and part of me feels like I’m abandoning an audience that grew week by week since we recorded our first podcast last March.
I lost a lot of sleep and hair working with ABDB to bring John Carlos and Dave Zirin to Toronto in November. Aged years in a matter of weeks but I’d never trade the experience gained working with those two guys. Intelligent, principled and a lot of fun.
Those events were by far the biggest ABDB has ever hosted, but I know the crew has much bigger plans for the remainder of 2012.
And for me that’s exactly the problem.
As much as I enjoyed the film screenings and John Carlos lectures, my heart isn’t in event planning.
I’m a journalist first and finally.
And evolving as a storyteller requires a focus on the art, craft and profession of writing that in turn demands I tackle a different type of project than I was pursuing with ABDB. It means writing more, hosting less, and doing what I must to breathe some air into my career as a sports scribe.
Would I like to be able to do both?
But time is a finite resource, like petroleum.
When we only needed fossil fuels to power cars in the first world, meeting demand wasn’t a problem. But now we use petroleum to make everything from shopping bags to Evian bottles to fertilizer. And now the two most populous countries on the planet are eager to join the party? Yeah, things are getting complicated.
That was about to be my life — an ever-increasing demand on a limited supply of hours and energy.
It wasn’t going to last forever, or even for another year.
I had to sacrifice something, and it wasn’t going to be my health, or the career as a sportswriter I’m fighting so hard to sustain. I couldn’t live without those things and still live with myself.
But living without All Balls Don’t Bounce?
I can do that.
It’s a change, for sure, but you guys know me.
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