In my 17-year career in sports, I’ve received a lot of advice.
My first sports editor used to remind me of two things, over and over: Never trust a roster, and never trust a coach when he says he’ll call you back.
He also beat into me — over and over — the difference between its and their.
My first managing editor pulled me outside one day after my first column appeared and said, “Son, some people have it, and some people don’t.” When I asked him if I “had it,” he just took a long drag from his Marlboro Light 100.
The first time I was told I’ll never win a Pulitzer Prize for a Friday night high school football game story on deadline, I was somewhat disappointed. But, mostly, relieved.
Remember: You can’t rush lateness.
Over the years, I’ve gotten even more advice on how to write, edit, design, take photos and even answer phone calls. Some from colleagues and/or bosses, some from readers.
Former Richmond Times-Dispatch sports editor, managing editor and executive editor Bill Millsaps, whose footsteps are entirely too big to even hope to follow in, told me Friday during lunch at Joe’s Inn about the advice he received from the sports editor who hired him, Chauncey Durden.
“Every man knows he can do three things better than any other man,” Millsaps said. “Build a fire. Run a hotel. And run a sports department.”
I laughed and shook my head.
Because he’s right.
Oh, so right.
I’ve also given a lot of advice in my sports career:
Don’t eat the press box hot dogs at FedEx Field …
Always get two ice creams during halftime at Jordan-Hare Stadium …
Show, don’t tell …
It’s better to be right and last than first and wrong …
If it’s free, take three! …
I’ve tried to take hold of those nuggets of wisdom and put them into practice to become the best sports reporter, columnist and editor I could possibly be. Sometimes I was successful. Sometimes I was not.
But it wasn’t for the lack of trying.
The best advice I ever received, however, was the most simplistic: Have no regrets.
When the opportunity arose to apply for the managing editor’s position at this paper, I couldn’t pass it up.
Don’t get me wrong, I love being a sports editor. I love how every night is election night. I love the competition. I love the adrenaline rush that comes with writing about breaking news or a goal-line stand. It’s in my blood.
But so is the desire to challenge myself and better myself, as well as bettering my team.
So I jumped at the chance to become the managing editor. I would have regretted not leaving my feet.
And now that I’m stepping away from sports (I’ll still have a hand in it until we hire a new sports editor) and into running a newsroom for the first time in my career, I’m clinging to another piece of advice I received a long time ago: Don’t screw it up.