I figured something out tonight. It’s funny how recounting a story to someone who is getting to know you, can help clarify things in your head.
I shed any idealism about my profession over the summer of 1991-1992 when the Gold Coast franchise in the NBL changed from the Gold Coast Cougars to the Gold Coast Rollers.
The details are unimportant, other than to say the club at the end of the NBL season in ’91 was close to losing its licence and was given an ultimatum to find new owners or be kicked out of the league.
The GM of the club, whose name I have expunged from my memory, spent the summer using me as a conduit for his strategy for attracting new owners. I got exclusives and the knowledge that I was in a one-paper, one-team town, he got to time the release of information and, of course, I had been a journalist for all of about 3 years, so I was eminently green and malleable.
It was hell. It wasn’t an explicitly stated arrangement. And I wasn’t very good at it. I had to ask a lot of stupid questions. I spent a lot of sleepless nights trying to figure out what the fuck was going on, and when I finally figured it out I felt dirty and trapped and meaningless.
But I got it done.
It wasn’t until the following season, when I was with the team in Wollongong that I realised the impact that summer had on my psyche.
To cut a long story short, the team’s American import, Mike Mitchell, put his hand through a metal-reinforced glass window in the locker-room door, shredding his forearm down to the bone.
While waiting with some of the players outside the locker-room for the ambulance to arrive, I was approached by a reporter from the local television station. I was wearing a team jacket, so I guess he thought I was a team spokesperson. Either that or he was expecting some collegial inter-journalistic fact-swapping.
I told him ‘no comment’ and more or less told him to fuck off. One of the players then high-fived me. End of my life as a serious journalist. Lol.
Don’t get me wrong. I kept doing that job for another five years. I wrote stories critical of the team when they played like shit (frequently) or when they were badly operated (not so frequently, but still) and was thoroughly professional. I also kept their secrets. What happens on the road, stays on the road, right?
But I never felt the same about my profession. I just kept it all internalised and became the two-faced individual I am today.
And until I told a friend that sequence of events, I never realised that was what triggered the whole shift.
* Disclaimer … I am such a crap journalist I may have gotten some of the timing of this tale wrong. It was a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, and I have deliberately blurred it all in my mind. Feel free to correct me on the details if you know better.