Wednesday, May 6, 2009

What It's Like to Get Laid Off at the Ballpark

David Steele, a former Baltimore Sun sports columnist, describes the feelings and emotions he and his colleagues went through as they were laid off while covering the Baltimore O's baseball came. His detailed account is in Real Clear Sports:
Soon, Peter Schmuck, our columnist/blogger, told me that he had just been told to write live for the next day. That’s crazy, I said, we can’t have two columns from this game. There must be a mistake. Or some other news is breaking and I need to switch. Or my editor forgot that I told him I’d be here. Or something. Oh, it was something all right, but again, the giant hint just whizzed right over my head. Schmuck figured it was a mistake, too, and dashed off an email to tell our editor that we were both here, so let’s try to clear this up.

Not long after that, around 2 p.m., one of the other writers pulled me aside: “Maese just sent a text saying he got laid off." It was a perfectly legible sentence, but it made no sense to anyone there. It’s the middle of the game, they just had layoffs yesterday, he’s a prominent columnist … huh? It wasn’t anything to joke about, but it didn’t sound true at all. But he had, for the moment, disappeared from his seat.

I went back to my seat and saw that there was a message on my cell from the office. I hadn’t turned the ringer back up after the manager’s pre-game press conference, so I hadn’t heard it. The message: call back as soon as you get this. Good, I thought, we’ll straighten out this business of who is writing for the next day. Which, technically, is what happened. Still, apparently, I was either completely clueless or in total denial, I’m still not sure which.

It didn’t matter. I called back and got the voice mail. At 2:34 p.m. (that time-stamp is kind of stuck in my head for the time being), the office called back. I went into a hallway behind the press box and answered it with something like, “Hey, what’s up?’’ Or “What’s going on?’’ Along those lines.

My editor greeted me, paused, took a deep breath. “David, I’m sorry you have to be told this way …"

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