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  • Writer's pictureSteve Gamel

Throwback Thursday: Writer Edition

Throwback Thursday: Writer Edition

In honor of Throwback Thursday, I thought I'd share a column I wrote eight years ago for the Denton Record-Chronicle. In the article, I told a story about our oldest son, Christian, who, for a while there, had a difficult time dealing with my crazy work schedule.

Basically, the poor guy couldn't sleep at night until he knew Daddy was home safe.

For those of you who don't know, I used to be a high school sports writer. And that schedule I referred to kept me out late several times a week. Being the dunce I am, I had no idea how much that affected my kids. We all balance work, family, and life as best we can. But on that one Thursday night, I felt like I let my son down.

Below is the full column as it was printed on September 17, 2015. I keep it framed on the wall in my office as a reminder that my biggest fans are at home.


Pick up the phone Daddy, deadline or not

There’s a moment during every football game we report on — typically right when the clock hits zero — when things get hectic in the press box, and meeting our deadline is top priority. Don’t get me wrong, it is fun. There’s an indescribable energy we draw from being able to cover sports.

But after more than 18 years of doing this sports writer gig, even my wife, Leslie, knows to not call me in the middle of it.

“I can’t answer, Honey,” I try to say politely before leaving the house.

And I didn’t answer when she called at 10:14 p.m. last Thursday after the Ryan-Wylie East game. I remember thinking, “Is she serious? She knows better.” So I did what I shouldn’t have done and ignored the call. Then there was a text message a minute later. “Can you talk to Bean for a minute?” she wrote, referring to our 8-year-old son, Christian.

What was he still doing up? At this point, I knew it was likely not an emergency. What are a few more minutes?

When I did call back — after finishing my story, packing up and making a few last-minute corrections with the copy desk — Christian was still wide awake. He wasn’t trying to be bad. He just couldn’t go to sleep until he knew I was OK. Since I hadn’t returned the call or text, and he hadn’t seen me since early that morning, who could blame him?

My heart hit the floor.

As busy as we get at work and in life, sometimes we forget our biggest fans are at home — waiting for us to call or walk through that door. Trust me when I say it isn’t easy on us, either. Even at a smaller, community paper like the Denton Record-Chronicle, we can be gone up to four nights a week covering games.

Over the previous three weeks, I’ve covered eight games and traveled as far as Rockwall, Denison, Wylie and Celina — with several games on back-to-back nights. By the time I came home on those late nights, my family was asleep. If I have a game the next night, I’ll see my wife, Christian and 3-year-old son, Jackson, for an hour before they go to school and work, and I’m already gone by the time they get home.

It’s hard finding that happy medium. My buddy here at the paper, Adam Boedeker, briefly stopped by a few weeks ago to watch a little bit of the Ryan-Hebron football game on what was supposed to be a night off. But only after he made it a point to put his daughter to bed.

My editor, who has been in sports writing for more than four decades, was gone from his family just as much as we are now and used to wonder what he would do when his kids were old enough to play high school sports. Would he be there, or off covering a different game?

We all balance work, family and life as best we can. But on that one Thursday night, I feel like I let my son down.

Just like I hastily said about my wife earlier in this piece, I should have known better.

On my way home that night, I recalled a conversation Christian and I had only a month earlier when he asked me about Grandma, whom we lost to cancer just more than two years ago. He confided in me how sad he still was over that, and that he was scared about what might happen to Mommy and Daddy.

It was a truly profound conversation, one that I was not prepared to handle. Looking back on it, I promised him that day that Mommy and Daddy weren’t going anywhere. He was already spending a ton of time with me at my office during those summer months and while I was out visiting the many schools I cover. We also had plenty of free time, and all of it gave him a sense of security knowing I was there for him.

But then school started and I was off covering games again. As busy as my schedule had become, though, I wasn’t busy to the point where I couldn’t talk to my own son. I shouldn’t have labeled it that way.

Thirty seconds. That’s all it would have taken to pick up the phone to reassure him.

In retrospect, I felt like a workaholic … and much less like a dad.

I got home that night and had barely walked into his room when Christian jumped up and gave me a giant hug. I didn’t feel I deserved it, but I was quick to look him in the eyes and apologize. I put him to bed, and we talked for the next 30 minutes until he fell asleep.

By that next night — as I was off covering an Argyle game — they were clamoring to get me back home again. This time I didn’t have to answer the phone, though. A text from my lovely wife said it all. Christian was exhausted from the long night before and had already passed out.

Sorry I’m so late all the time, guys. But I will pick up the phone from now on … deadline or not.


Thanks for reading!

STEVE GAMEL is the President & Owner of Edit This®, a writing and editing services company in Denton, TX. He is also a consultant and coach and the author of Write Like You Mean It: Mastering Your Passion for the Written Word. Steve handles anything involving the written word. Give him a call today to help give your business a clear voice.

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