The Quest for Journalistic Acceptance
04.02.06 - By Aaron King: Iíve been turning this question over in my head over and over again for a while now Ė How does a young person like myself gain acceptance in a world based on experience and longevity? Keep in mind the antipathy with which my generation is viewed.
Article posted on 05.02.2006
Boxing is a game of respect, not only regarding its competitors but also those who cover it. You should see the looks I get when I want an interview or take a seat at ringside or in a press box. To be honest, itís not only when I cover boxing. It happens when I cover basketball, football, elections Ö pretty much any time I show up. I get the ďwho the hell is this punk?Ē look.
Itís just that this tension is most palpable when I try to wiggle into the boxing fraternity.
I look all of my 19 years, Iím Mexican, and I have my hair buzzed low. I donít fit the journalistic prototype very well, but Iíve tried my damnedest to. With each revealed aspect of my personality and appearance, I lose a little more credibility. I donít speak Spanish. Iím a poor college student. I dig reggae music (shout out to my homie Buju Banton). And Iím a journalist who wants to concentrate in Ö boxing? Imagine the looks now.
I thought that boxing was on the fringe enough to accept me, who was on the fringe of journalistic image. But those in the boxing and journalism niches have turned the same cold shoulder at times. It doesnít matter that I have studied and watched since Iíve had the capacity to do so. Iím a kid. I donít know nothiní. Iíll just come back in 20 years, and weíll be cool.
Iíll refine this picture a bit. Last summer, I went into a boxing gym in my hometown to do a feature for my local newspaper (the story never ran anyway). I walked into the newly renovated gym and was approached by a little guy with thinning hair. It was the head trainer, a guy named Cordero. He asked me if I was new and if I had a mouthpiece and wraps. I told him I was with the newspaper and that I wanted to talk to him and some of the guys around the gym.
He asked me if I knew the first thing about boxing, then squinted his eyes and crossed his arms. The tenuous interview proceeded after I displayed some general familiarity. His countenance remained an odd blend of skepticism and amusement. He was accustomed to talking to ďrealĒ journalists. Not kids.
I decided to as many interviews by phone as I could. If I didnít tell them how old I was, theyíd never guess. As long as I knew what I was talking about and never gave a hint of my real age, I was in the clear.
But I couldnít hide when in attendance. I stuck out like John Stamos at the Apollo. Most of my counterparts were white men between the ages of 35 and 50. I did my best to disguise my youth, but I still got that look Ė ďWhat are you doing here?Ē
I see things from the other side of the tracks though. Why would somebody twice my age need to hear something from me? I canít possibly know anything they donít know. I understand. My gripe manifests only when those who feel this is true fail to reciprocate the gesture and see things from my view. I think some of these guys believe that writers are born middle-aged, with a memory stocked full with experience and knowledge.
It was gettiní to me. Iím not gonna lie. Nobody took me seriously. Newspapers and websites alike were looking for experience. They werenít interested in building my experience, just for me to kinda go get it someplace else. But that someplace else was probably saying the same thing.
Trainers and politicians figured they could just ignore me. After all, heís just some insignificant college student. One cat, a politician up here in Ithaca, N.Y., took my call one night, only to tell me to call him the next morning once I told him who I was. I called him when he told me to, and not surprisingly, he was nowhere to be found. I get respect like David Caruso gets good reviews. The same thing happens all the time. Iíve had to call a trainer four times to get an interview because he kept telling me he didnít have time for me. I called back a week later under a pseudonym and persona I created. He gave me the interview. In the end, I didnít really feel like using it.
Each time I start a story that will require me to deal with people in the flesh, I acknowledge that Iím going to have twice as much work as usual. I have to prove myself then do an interview with somebody who probably thinks Iím some young ignorant.
But thatís okay. I accepted that there were two ends of this spectrum, and I was just on the wrong side for the time being. It wasnít going to help if I tried to be on the other side, because I wasnít. I decided that there was something to be said for originality and being oneís self. Anyway, itís not like boxing doesnít need some youthful enthusiasm.
I went to fight cards and interviews as myself. I wrote as myself. Sure, I know how to write in AP style Ė I just donít like it. I elected to make my words be my bridge to the other side, sort of a common ground. Instead for trying to fit in and gain acceptance with the older dudes, Iím just gonna play it cool, Bogart style, and be a cog in the wheel that turns the wonderful world of boxing. Iíll try to learn from my older mates. So far, itís working for me.
Sure, the perception is that people my age are a bunch of shallow buffoons, and Latinos, despite being the fastest growing minority in America, still go to college with less regularity than any other ethnicity, but that ainít me. I love my people, and Iím gonna represent them with class and style. I got all of Damian Marley, Snoop Dogg and 50 Centís CDs, and I got hundreds and hundreds of fights on old school VHS. Iím taking it on myself to the join team of intermediaries like Scoop Jackson and Steven A. Smith. Typical acceptance ainít in the cards for me anymore.
Maybe thatís ambitious, but it looks like I got plenty of time.
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