Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Shyster: Circling the Bases

I've started a little writing project. This is the tenth installment. Here's Part 1Here's Part 2Here's Part 3Here's Part 4Here's Part 5 , Here's Part 6Here's Part 7 , Here's Part 8 and Here's Part 9.

After a month of unemployment I interviewed with the Ohio Attorney General's office. The people there knew me from my law firm work, much of which brought my clients -- many of them unsavory -- into conflict with various state agencies.

My interviewers asked a lot of questions designed to determine if I was what, during those cases, I pretended to be, or if I was something else. Most of them seemed satisfied that circumstances and not character caused me to take unreasonable positions in contentious litigation. In this they gave me more benefit of the doubt than I had been willing to give myself.

One other topic came up in interviews: the baseball writing, which I had included as an item on my resume.  How serious was I, they asked? How much of a time commitment was it?  I wouldn't be doing it on company time which, at this job, would be taxpayer time, would I?  I downplayed the seriousness and commitment. Having never considered the idea that blogging from a state office computer would represent a misuse of public resources -- which is a misdemeanor in Ohio -- I paused and then said, no, I wouldn't be doing that. They offered me the job.

I began working in the AG's office in mid February. By late March, something strange was beginning to happen: I was beginning to like the law a little bit. Released from the billable hour and the need to manage insane clients, I actually started to warm back up to it. My colleagues and I sat around and discussed competing legal theories just like I imagined I would always be doing back when I was in law school but never really did in private practice. No one ever talked about the amount of attorney time being devoted to the case. Everyone wanted to win it and to win with their honor intact, but when the day was done, they went home to their families. Everyone was well-adjusted and had lives. It was almost enough to make a guy forget that he was making half of what he made back at the law firm.

I was still blogging, although my habits had changed. I made a point to write even more from home in the morning than I used to. Paranoid of breaking work rules and, by extension, laws, I never used a state computer or Internet connection to blog at the office. I brought my personal laptop and a mobile broadband card with me to work each day and would write a few posts during lunch. And, well, occasionally when I was supposed to be doing something else, but only when something fairly major was going on. It was a balance I could have maintained indefinitely if I had to.  But the balance was about to be thrown off.

In late March I got an email from Aaron Gleeman, who worked for the Rotoworld website which was owned by NBC. I had met Aaron once before and knew him in that way you know people on the Internet, but I didn't know him particularly well. NBC was launching a new baseball blog, he said. It was called Circling the Bases and would be part of a relaunch of NBCSports.com. Aaron and Matthew Pouliot of Rotoworld would be writing it, but they felt they needed a third person involved to round out the coverage. In Aaron's words:

It's funny, when we first started talking about the need/want to have a third person involved, the NBC folks told Matthew Pouliot and I to both come up with a short list once we got off the conference call with them. We hung up the phone and immediately IM'd each other with your name. It was like a moment from the world's most boring, least romantic comedy or something. Some of the higher-ups weren't familiar with you, but after reading your blog and doing some Googling several of them basically came back and said, "I think this Craig guy would be a good fit."

I began contributing a handful of posts each morning to the tune of a couple hundred bucks a week. Basically, taking what I would have written for ShysterBall anyway and putting it on the NBC site. It didn't alter my legal workflow any. It did, however, start to prey on my mind. I wasn't making a living, but I was writing professionally. For a major media company who was invested in smart, sharp baseball blogging. Everything I had ever wanted to do -- the dream I had as a kid but buried for years and which I thought would be the end of me when it resurfaced -- was within my grasp.

The only question was whether I could balance the legal career with the baseball writing long enough to where I could make the latter pay off before the former crashed to the ground.