Accidentally in love

I joke about a lot of things – almost everything, in fact. I can make light of almost any situation. It’s a quality in myself that I both love and despise at the same time. Some find it endearing, others find it obnoxious, but such is my personality.

I so frequently say “my life is a joke,” that at times I start to actually believe it. Lately, though, the reality of my life is smacking me in the face.

I may be a college student, but my work as a student journalist is nothing if not full-time. I get paid on salary, (although it’s nothing to write home about) many of my travel expenses are covered and I’m absolutely never off the clock.

As long as there are student-athletes at Murray State, there is always breaking news for my section. And when a team is as successful as our basketball team has been this season, I’m constantly on the road, hunting down the most current story.

As I begin this column, I’m on the road. I’m in the back of a Toyota Camry rented from Hertz Automotive on the way to Norfolk, Va., with only short pit stops in Murray and Knoxville for clothes and sleep. I’ve been following the Racer basketball team all season, giving completely new meaning to the term “jersey chaser.”

After a second-round NIT victory over Tulsa and Illinois State’s annoyingly close loss to Old Dominion University, a staff photographer, the staff from the local newspaper and I regrouped to decide how we would get from Oklahoma to Virginia.

A short night’s sleep in a hotel bed and an early morning breakfast were all that stood between us and the open road, chasing the Racers as they flew overhead to the NIT quarterfinals.

Traveling 8-15 hour days for three hours of media work at a game and staying in random hotels and eating out of Pizza Hut/Taco Bell/Burger King truck stops isn’t the most glamorous job, but I have to say it’s one of the most fun.

The footwork is tedious but the real work is glorious. Watching one of the best basketball programs in the nation day-in and day-out just to write stories and tweet about them is a dream come true – albeit a dream I never dreamt for myself before it fell into my lap.

When I applied at The Murray State News, I was hoping to sell advertisements. When the Sports Editor at the time, Ryan, graduated and left a void in his position, I saw the opportunity as a resume booster, but I never thought it would be something I’d enjoy as much as I do.

A year ago at this time, as I was just about to transition into this role, I never could have imagined the journey this job would take me on.

This week alone, I’ve stayed in two states that I’d never set foot in before. I joke about the occasional crappy hotel and revel in the fancy ones, but at the end of the day I’m living a life that most people would kill for. And it’s all by accident. The people I’ve met, the opportunities I’ve seized and the games that I’ve watched are something I will never be able to replace.

Now, as I finish this column, I’m sitting courtside at the Ted Constant Convocation Center in Norfolk watching two of the best mid-major basketball teams in the country warm up. I could reach out with my left hand and touch one of Old Dominion’s coaches, while other students are simply watching the game on ESPN2 from their couches.

Sometimes, I have to pinch myself. When my friends say things like, “Ugh, I have to go to work,” I pity them. Every game day I wake up with a smile on my face and say, “I get to go to work today.” I never, ever meant to be an editor or a sports journalist, and I definitely never meant to fall in love with this career, but somehow I managed to do both. The joke’s on me, I guess.

Column by Mallory Tucker, Sports Editor