Hello Stranger from Issue #38
One never knows what stirs the passions that drive us to write. For Christy McWilson, it may be those hours lying awake and wondering about the weight of the world. For Lonesome Bob, it may be the way that weight of the world settles on your shoulders in the wake of tragedy. For Caitlin Cary, it may be heartfelt concern for a friend or a relative, or undying affection for a lover or a horse.
For me, sometimes, it’s sports. Yes, sports. Maybe I say that because we’ve been watching the Super Bowl as we put the final touches on this issue, and after writing and talking and thinking about music constantly during the deadline crunch, one’s mind begins to wander in search of diversions.
Once upon a time, music was the diversion for me. Truth be known, when I began this journey toward journalism in my high school days, my goal was to become a sportswriter. Football, and to a lesser extent basketball, baseball and soccer, dominated the days of my youth; nothing was anticipated with more excitement than a Longhorns game at Memorial Stadium, or a youth soccer league game at the junior high fields, or a Cowboys game on TV, or just shooting baskets in the driveway.
A couple years as sports editor for the high school paper led to an entry-level job in the sports department of the daily paper, and by college I was sharing space on the pages with the writers I’d grown up reading. Until somewhere along the line, reality set in: Athletes, generally speaking, are about the most boring people you could possibly be assigned to interview. There’s a reason one of my cohorts at the daily paper was working on a master’s thesis about the abundance of cliches in sports media.
Austin’s music scene, on the other hand, was overflowing with vibrant, interesting, creative and humorous characters. You can only hear a coach say “He’s a competitor” or “He’ll hit ya” so many times before you start being drawn in by the lyrical wonder of a line like “There ain’t no dark till something shines” or the shimmering clang of a wall of electric guitars. In due time, music stirred the passion that drove me to write, and sports moved to the sidelines of my life.
That decision opened up an opportunity to appreciate sports from a renewed perspective. No longer did my happiness depend so heavily on the winner or loser of last night’s game. If my team lost, well, big deal, Zeitgeist was playing at Liberty Lunch later.
Yet there is always the inevitable side-effect of immersing yourself into that which you love the most. When what once was the diversion becomes the occupation, it’s harder to turn to that source with the same carefree innocence anymore. It comes with the territory, of course, and I have no regrets: Writing about music has been more rewarding for me than writing about sports ever could have been.
But sometimes that sideline diversion still has its place. Tonight’s Super Bowl rekindled that notion, even though I was pulling for the Rams. And there are good stories and good characters in sports — Kurt Warner’s improbable rise two years ago being one, Tom Brady’s run this year being another. None have moved me more than Major Applewhite’s trials and triumphs in 2001 — so much so that sports, once again, stirred the passion that drove me to write. (If this time just to family and friends, and old colleagues at the daily paper.)
One of them, Brad Buchholz, is still there — though, like me, he drifted away from sports many years ago. Two months ago we met in line at a Toni Price show just after fiddler Champ Hood had died; later we shared with each other what we’d been moved to write about Champ’s passing.
Tonight, I’m reminded of a Cowboys-Redskins game Brad had covered that ended in a upset victory. To be honest, I don’t recall which team won…yet I still remember his words that night, probably because it was clear he’d found the passion that drives us to write:
“Outside, a gentle snow began to fall. You could feel it coming.”