In September a notice went up for the WFTDA (Women’s Flat Track Derby Association) needed writers for the upcoming playoff season. I replied to the request and was fortunate enough to be picked up for the job. It’s not especially glamorous or anything like that, but it was enabling me to write sports again.
When I graduated from high school I knew that I wanted to be a journalist, specifically a sports journalist. So in 1996 I started writing for my college paper called The Collegian and would later become one of its editors. Not long after I began writing for the college paper, I got picked up to be a stringer for The Lorain Morning Journal. I just covered city council meetings but it was fun and a lot of good practice.
But the sports department was where I wanted to be. It was mere feet away from my desk and computer. I could see all the guys typing away, joking and enjoying themselves — around sports. And that was where I wanted to be.
It was a small department. To this day, I don’t know how many people worked in it. There was one woman in the department and the men made fun of her constantly, because she “didn’t know how to handle jokes” and was a “bitch”… But they were writing what I wanted to write. Even if it meant being harassed on some level.
My classmate, Jason, was already writing sports when I got to The Journal. He was a nice guy. He was charming, funny and most importantly knew how to write. He asked me if I wanted to being a sports stringer (YES) and then proceeded to tell me what I already knew. I would be treated differently because I was a woman.
So one afternoon Jason took me to the sports department, which had a glass wall partition. In my head, smoking was still allowed in the building, so my memory is of a room that had smoke hanging in the air like a heavy theater curtain. Of course it could be too many old sports movies of clouded the memory. Jason had to vouch for me. Literally.
He took me in front of the sports editor and basically said: Hi Kermit (I think that was his name) this is Deanna and she wants to do sports writing. I think she’d be a good fit. The editor asked me a couple of questions and maybe I heard some rumblings about how a woman should handle herself in the department AND while out in the field.
I learned a lot. Jason took me to a couple of basketball games to teach me where to sit, how to keep stats and how to find a coach after the game to get a couple of quotes.
On my own, I had to quickly learn that the high school basketball coaches had to define things like: layup, dunk, free throw and out of bounds. They mansplained. I also had to keep my chin up and learn that some coaches would come out and say that I wasn’t allowed into the locker room, of which I wasn’t trying to get into. Ew. Who would want to be around a bunch of high school boys? And ew, how dare you think that I would look at anyone and not keep things professional because I was a “girl”.
I also had to learn that the coaches felt like they could demean me. I pretended it didn’t bother me. I couldn’t talk to anyone in the department about it because I’d be another woman who “failed” couldn’t “joke” or took things “too personal”.
I’m happy to say that I took matters into my own hands. One coach in particular was a jerk. He was always a jerk and would look down my shirt and try to touch my breasts “accidentally”. People know when it’s by accident and when it’s on purpose. So when I got back to the newsroom to write up my story before the midnight deadline, I wrote a lead sentence and questioned his coaching ability. It was rightly deserved in that I believed he made poor choices and that is why his team lost. It was just that simple.
From that point on, he would quickly give me a quote and be on his way.
But writing for the WFTDA seems to be so different. I have written maybe seven articles for them, but find the other writers and editors to be amazingly supportive. Especially since I’m coming back into real writing and journalism after 15 years. The digital stuff doesn’t bother me, but I’m struggling with how to embed quotes from Twitter, Facebook and add gifs. I’m learning how to do that effectively now.
But for once, in the world of writing and sports, I feel like I belong and I don’t have to hide or be defensive. Yes, I still get stressed but it’s mostly because I want to do a good job. I have a lot to still learn and I can always learn to write better. But writing for the WFTDA is amazing.
Yes, I have clips from all sorts of writing scenarios. But writing for the WFTDA is my little writer’s heart. I feel like I finally get to use the gifts that I cultivated all those years ago and then buried because I thought I was supposed to do something else with my life.
Writing has always been my first love. When I’m asked what I’d like to do for the rest of my life, it’s always writing. So, writing it is. It’ll never pay the bills, but hopefully it will enrich my life. And really, I’m fortunate to be in a situation in which I can do that.