Becoming the Barry Bonds of journalism

Published 12:00 am Monday, November 26, 2007

I have not lied under oath, but I do feel the pressure to come clean.

There’s a skeleton in my closet that must be revealed. Unlike Barry Bonds, I will be truthful about my addition to performance-enhancing drugs.

That’s right….I’m admitting that I have a problem. I will deal with whatever consequences there are for my wrongful actions.

Just getting that much off my chest is a relief. I’ve been hiding my addiction for well over one year and coming clean is the only way I can get on with my life. I just hope it doesn’t cost me my job, although my publisher has every right to show me the door if he so chooses.

For 11 years, I covered the local sports beat for this newspaper. I wrote sports and served as a sports photographer long before becoming Sports Editor in 1989. There were no instances of performance-enhancing drugs in my life at that time. I was having too much fun covering high school and college athletes to mess with that stuff.

It wasn’t until 2000 that my life began to change. I was named News Editor that year and later turned 47 years old. I began to notice that I couldn’t keep-up with the demands of my job. My age was beginning to show…my eyes were failing and my stamina just wasn’t what it once was.

I needed a boost. I flirted with the idea of purchasing over-the-counter drugs designed to boost a person’s energy, but I couldn’t bring myself to take that step. I thought about seeking help from a counseling standpoint, but was too embarrassed to do so.

Fast forward to 2005. I accepted the job of Editor in the early part of that year. The demands of my time went through the roof after that. Seventy-hour workweeks became the norm. I had no home life; no social life; my days and nights were consumed by overseeing one tri-weekly newspaper and a pair of weekly publications, not to mention various tabloids and other special .

I could stand it no longer. I had to find something to maintain my journalistic edge in a newsroom dominated by younger people.

By the time the winter of 2005-06 rolled around, my energy level was flirting with empty. To make matters worse, I was faced with our annual Crossroads edition, one that demands even more of my time. What could I do….what could I do?

It all started harmlessly. It was during a late night writing session on a Crossroads story. An already busy day had left me drained, but the section deadline loomed on this particular edition. I boosted my brain by smoking two Winston Select (the prime tobacco) 100’s back-to-back and chasing it with a 20-ounce Mountain Dew. I immediately caught my second wind and finished my story, scanned the photos and finished the section prior to deadline.

Gee, that was easy; I remember thinking to myself at that time.

Then the next section deadline loomed. A couple of story ideas fell through, leaving me scrambling for something to fill the empty space. By the time I had filled the void with a back-up story, I could hardly remain awake. This time I straight-lined a Winston Select 100 (tore off the filter before firing it up) and slammed a can of Red Bull. Presto, I became wide-awake and fully alert. The story flowed from my keyboard, the photos were right on target and once again I beat the deadline.

I was now hooked. My nicotine/caffeine habit was working wonders. I began experimenting with other combinations….smoking imported Cuban cigars and guzzling two-liter Mountain Dews like they were water; three filter less Pall Malls and a can of Hype MFP Energy Drink; and following a Latte Macchiato with a hand-rolled cigarette made of only the finest Oriental and Virginia broad-leaf tobaccos.

I have become the Barry Bonds of journalism, of course without the big head or bulging muscles. Barry does have an edge on me with all those homeruns, but he’s never won an award from the NC Press Association, so I guess we’re even.

And, of course, all my ramblings today were in jest, not like those of Mr. Bonds who must have thought it was funny to lie to a federal grand jury.

Guess what Barry; I get to keep all my awards for writing. Your name may be on top of the all-time homerun list, but we all know how it got there and that thought alone leaves meaningless a lifetime of effort.