Diary No. 2: Billy, Bob and My Quarantined Sports Writing Career

A few weeks ago the world made a lot more sense. At that time I was hopeful that my stalled career could be lifted by simply taking more MasterClasses.

Today, of course, the major problem is that I’m trying to become an international sports reporter at a time when sports have been cancelled. For the foreseeable future. 

That’s a rather significant detail, I have to admit, but I’ve always been the kind of person who dreams big so I believe I can overcome that obstacle. 

The challenge I’m not so sure I can rise to is networking. It has been a problem for me even in peacetime. It’s not that I don’t rub shoulders with the greats. That’s easy to do in L.A. My problem is that I have absolutely no idea what to say to them when I do. 

I’m not talking about committing the cardinal sin of appearing too enthusiastic. I’ve been in L.A. for 10 years now so I’m experienced at keeping my excitement in check. 

OK before you throw it in my face, I’ll admit that an exception to this was Tony Hawk. Yes, I fangirled over Tony Hawk. I met him just last year and before I could stop myself I was telling him how we idolized him growing up and built skate ramps in the backyard and illegally ripped songs from the Tony Hawk Pro Skater collection to burn to our mixed CDs. I did all of this before asking him, like the cherry on top, if he would take a selfie with me.

I’ve invested 10 years into becoming increasingly jaded but somehow I let it all fly out the window with one glance at The Birdman. I guess we all have our off days. 

Typically that’s not my issue. The struggle I face is that I simply don’t know what to say to important people when I see them. Take Billy Crystal, for example. You can argue about how relevant Billy Crystal is these days but I grew up in the nineties and still have faith he could make things happen in Hollywood if he wanted to. 

I see Billy around a lot because he’s a Clipper season ticket holder and the entrance to the VIP area is beside my usual seats. I guess I could technically strike up a conversation with him at any moment. Certainly, there’s nothing preventing me from saying, ‘Hey, how about that local sports team,’ or ‘I’ve noticed you always wear a flat cap, why is that?’ or ‘Tell me about working with Nora Ephron.’ 

But no matter what I could say to Billy Crystal, he and I would both know the main reason I’m talking to him is because he is a celebrity and secretly I’m hoping he’ll somehow help me land my big break even though I have nothing to offer in return except an acknowledgment in my memoir one day.

So instead I just keep quiet, and watch him silently pass by, my one tenuous connection to the golden age of romantic comedies.

There is one power broker who I have often been on the verge of striking up a conversation with. 

Bob Iger. 

If you don’t know, Bob Iger is the former CEO of Disney. He recently stepped aside as CEO to become the executive chairman, but, trust me, he’s still as important as ever. This man literally runs a kingdom. If anyone could make anything happen in Los Angeles, it’s Bob Iger.

Bob is also a big Clipper fan. I’m assuming that’s because Chris Paul and him were once neighbors but I don’t know for sure because, again, I’ve never spoken with Bob. The point is I see him walk by me alot, presumably going to the same VIP area where Billy hangs out.

He seems approachable. More approachable than Billy at least, who has a permanent air of “honestly, don’t bother me,” hanging around him. 

Did you see how diplomatically Bob handled Prince Harry’s request to get Meghan a voice gig? And not long later, guess what, Meghan was voicing a movie about elephants, or whatever it’s about. A dream come true for her, I’m sure. 

I need similar magic in my life.

Since I know I have absolutely nothing to offer Bob Iger, I decided the best I could do was show him I at least think he’s cool. Not in a fake flattery way, but something genuine. 

This is why I took Bob Iger’s MasterClass. 

Has anyone else you know besides me ever taken a MasterClass? They’re advertised everywhere but how many people are actually shelling out for these things? I’m not sure, but in any case, they got me with Bob Iger. Or, well, someone else paid for the membership actually, but I used their access to listen to Bob Iger. That’s how we do things in the sharing economy.

Bob’s class is 13 lessons long, 12 minutes each and at the end, you’re supposed to know his secrets on business and leadership. 

I was hoping he would say something at least mildly profound so that I could use it as inspiration and change something crucial about the way I work. Then, I envisioned stopping him on his way to the VIP hallway next time I saw him at a Clipper game. 

“Bob,” I would say. “I took your MasterClass.”

“Oh really?” He smiles, looks at me somewhat bashfully. “What did you think?”

“It was really great Bob, I loved the detail about your afternoon productivity hack in Lesson 11. Since I’ve applied that in my own life I’ve placed 10 stories in just five days, I sent my reel to five producers and all of them want me as a reporter on their next broadcast, every door that I’ve been trying to open for 10 years is finally opening to me.”

Bob would smile, touched that his simple tip had done so much good in the world. 

“Here’s my card,” he would say, “You have real potential.”

But, none of that happened. I hope Bob never reads what I’m about to say but the truth is his MasterClass wasn’t revolutionary. No hidden mantra, special system or secret cheat code. Nothing even really that profound I could reasonably cling to. 

It kind of just sounds like Bob works really hard and is a creative problem solver.

What am I going to do with that Bob? Don’t tell me the same things my dad’s been trying to tell me all these years! 

I did see Bob again after I took his MasterClass. He walked by, about the same time as Billy, headed to the VIP lounger as usual. 

I didn’t stop him. I think we’ve established there’s nothing valuable I can say. 

Of course, all of that is but a distant memory since coronavirus has hit and sports are cancelled. I’m self quarantined in my parents’ basement in Canada. Maybe I’ve squandered the only shot I’ll ever have at getting a big break.

Then again, sports are bound to come back at some point. Maybe I had better take a MasterClass in networking with all this free time.

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