Background check

I’ve been meaning to write this all down for a while and in light of the Deadspin/ESPN stuff, now seems like as good a time as any to actually do it. This is long and incredibly self-indulgent, for which I apologize. Site’s called TedQuarters. And I mostly want something handy to link when people ask.

I get emails pretty frequently from prospective media types wondering how I got my job and how they can get one like it. That makes sense: I have an awesome job that includes writing about the Mets (my favorite sports team), sandwiches (pretty much my favorite thing) and just about anything else I want as long as it meets with this network’s utterly reasonable standards of decency. And in addition to my administrative and editorial duties on SNY.tv, I get to host videos and podcasts, interview athletes and celebrity hairstylists, and attend all sorts of amazing events for free. It’s sweet. Keith Hernandez says hello to me at Citi Field. I met Shaq!

(Plus I have healthcare. That’s huge.)

Don’t take any of this as bragging or false humility. I think I’m pretty good at my job, but I also think there are countless unemployed or underemployed Mets fans out there who would love to have this job and could do just as well in it who just haven’t benefited from the series of events that put me here. And though I’m thrilled to have a job this cool, I’m never thoroughly satisfied with my standing. I’m vain enough to want my name to ring out in the streets, to want people naming haircuts after mine 2,000 years after I’m dead like Caesar. I sit down to write about Taco Bell with some hope I’ll churn out the greatest work of art ever created by man, then wind up disappointed every time I don’t.

Anyway, the point: I never mean to discourage anyone from trying to find a job like mine or employment in sports media because if I did, people clearly do. But I’m not sure any other job exactly like mine exists or that it’s easy to count on the type of randomness that put me in a job so perfectly tailored to the things I want to do.

I hosted a sports and comedy show on campus cable in college and interned at the sports desk for the Washington, DC Fox affiliate, but graduated in 2003 with no job lined up and no real direction. I wanted to go into TV, I thought, and probably sports. Ultimately I wanted to host a sports version of the Daily Show, like all those sports versions of the Daily Show that have since come out and failed (but better, obviously).

I moved back home with my parents on Long Island. I worked at the deli for a while, then coached football and subbed at my old high school, then worked at Macys.com and got fired for admitting I was pursuing a job elsewhere. That job — the NBC Page Program — put me through a series of five interviews over seven months then called to say thanks-but-no-thanks. I got a lead on a six-month position working as a production assistant on the ESPN25 series, but I couldn’t afford to move to Bristol on what they would have paid — especially since there was no guarantee it would have continued past the six months. I might have figured a way to make it work, but I was getting serious with my girlfriend (whom I later married) and playing in a new band I was psyched about.

Soon after I got fired at Macys.com, I started subbing again, then got hired as a full-time Teacher’s Assistant at the high school. Desperate for more money, I put up flyers around town advertising my services as an SAT Verbal tutor. My first student, Sarah, a smart and tireless worker who clearly just underperformed on her PSAT, went up 170 points. Word got out in the suburbs, and soon I had more students than I could handle.

I kept working at the high school, coaching football and tutoring in 2004 and the spring of 2005. With the money I saved from tutoring, I moved to Brooklyn that summer and entered a 40-credit interdisciplinary arts masters program at NYU, aiming to improve my academic resume to make myself a better candidate for doctoral programs and a life in academia. I left the high school but kept tutoring, and parlayed that into a part-time job in the writing center at Nassau Community College.

Sometime in early 2006, on a whim, I applied for a job at MLB.com on Craigslist even though I was a full-time student working two part-time jobs. Months later, just as the spring semester was finishing up and I was starting to look for more work for the summer, I got a call from someone there.

The guy, Richard, was the head of the partner-sites division. He claimed that in his first wave of hires, he had focused on tech-savvy editors and was now looking for people with better grammar. So he said my writing background appealed to him. It later came out that he plucked my resume from a reject pile because he thought it was funny that I included my experience as a Shea Stadium vendor and that my email address at the time was ted@awesomeburrito.com. He wasn’t even sure he wanted to hire me; he thought it’d be an entertaining freak show. I went in for an interview and we spent 45 minutes talking about food, which won him over.

I started working part-time at MLB.com a few weeks later and trained on SNY.tv, which was and still is run in partnership with MLBAM. I began working night shifts, cutting photos and posting Mets recaps, taking breaks to walk around the newly hip meatpacking district. One night, I briefly met a guy named Bob working at a nearby cubicle. Bob worked out of Maryland for another partner site, WCSN.com, but was in New York for training.

A few nights later, Bob called the late-night helpline that was set up for partners to call in with editorial issues. I was the only one in our section of the office, so I took the call. He was struggling to get a live video streaming on WCSN.com. I had no idea how to help him with that, but together we poked around the site’s CMS and figured it out.

The next time I saw Richard, he told me that Bob “raved” about how helpful I was and thanked me for putting out a potential fire. I asked if he was sure Bob meant me, because I didn’t think I helped that much, but I guess Bob liked to give credit where it was due — and sometimes where it really wasn’t.

After a few days off, I came in for my next shift and got that week’s schedule only to find I was set to work some 60 hours over six days. Richard pulled me aside.

“Sorry to schedule you for so many hours,” he said. “We won’t normally do that, but we need you to step up this week because of the Bob situation.”

“What’s the Bob situation?” I asked.

“Oh,” he paused. “He died.”

This is awful: It turned out that about a day after crediting me for something he hardly needed help with, Bob got hit by a car. Needing someone to fill his shifts and thinking — thanks to Bob — that I was some sort of CMS wiz, they scheduled me for most of them. I was hired as a full-time employee about a month later.

I wanted to write, and the good graces I earned by being thought good at managing the sites helped me do that. I took assignments on SNY.tv wherever possible, starting with a fan-reaction piece about Mike Piazza’s return to Shea and then covering odd sporting events around the city.

The editor liked the way I (over)wrote those articles, and when the site added team blogs in October, 2006, he accepted my offer to write the site’s Mets blog (later renamed a column). I worked mostly on WCSN.com in 2007 but got a season credential to Shea Stadium and maintained the blog (and finished my masters) in my downtime. As I became a little more vocal about my distaste for the Olympics sports covered on WCSN.com, my bosses started giving me more responsibilities on SNY.tv.

In fact, I learned that SNY was adding my current position — Senior Editorial Producer, for what it’s worth — because the job listing was sent to me to post on the website. And as I was adding HTML code around the responsibilities, I realized I was already doing most of them and applied. I was hired in December of 2007 and started working here at the beginning of 2008. This site launched in Oct. 2009 and immediately started dropping truth bombs like this one.

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