This was a photo that I had taken on a cold Columbus night in December. December 6th to be exact. It was my sister’s birthday that day too. While I love her to death, it was an opportunity I couldn’t turn down. It was the chance to cover the Timbers when they played in the MLS Cup Final.
This isn’t a post to brag about the fact that the Timbers won or the fact that I was there. But rather, something that I’ve learned over time: Opportunity.
Growing up, I had heard a lot of stories from my parents before they were where they were today. My dad’s first real job when he first came to the United States? A janitor job in Pennsylvania. My mom? She made belts. They weren’t glamorous jobs at all. But they took them because it was an opportunity. It was a job and they needed to make a living somehow. I never really thought about it too much though as I grew up.
Years later, I’m an adult. Jobs are scarce and competitive. There’s a lot of people looking for jobs. There isn’t exactly much in terms of opportunities out there. In realizing this, I learned I had to take advantage of the opportunities that were presented to me. It was no longer the thought of “This is a $13.00 an hour position. It’s not enough.” It was, “It’s a job, just go for it.” I just started applying everywhere.
Part of me learning to become better is learning to be humble and that until you get that job you want, you’re going to have to work at jobs you might not want to get there.
I just learned to apply for anything and everything whenever an opportunity arose. If it meant I worked a job I didn’t plan on working, so be it. If I get rejected, that’s fine too. I just had to move onto the next chance I got. Eventually, I got that job that I did wanted. A friend sent me an email about an opening to work in health research as an analyst/programmer, so I took a shot at it. It took a while because of all the red tape that I had to go through, but eventually, I got there. Again, an opportunity that arose and going at it at the first chance I got.
So what does all this have to do with that photo?
September 25th, 2014. I was at work when I got this message from a friend who asked, “Anyone want to take part of a podcast? Talking about Cascadia matches.” Saw the word podcast and said, “Sure, why not?”
When I got to the house where we were doing the recording, I saw four college kids in a room with an older gentleman. And I’m not going to lie, my first impression was, “What the Hell am I getting myself into?” However, thinking about trying to stay humble and appreciating the fact that it’s an opportunity, I just went with it. Surely enough, my judgment was off and it was actually a good time talking about soccer, something I enjoy chatting about with other people that love the game. I’m still recording with them to this day.
Months later, one of the guys approached me and asked, “You want to do press box work? Cover the games, write an article after the game, go to the locker room and grab audio clips that you could use for those articles.”
Only an idiot would say no to an opportunity like that.
Eventually, I’d find myself with opportunities to cover more games from the press box and I took them on their offer. Friendly here, MLS game here, US Open Cup game there. But it was just more than just watch the game from there. I got to start chatting with some of the players about the game, whether as a reporter or just casually afterwards. Eventually, all this led to that opportunity to cover the Timbers’ MLS Cup run.
It was the words of my friend that really spoke to me: “Just do it. Don’t regret not going.”
He told me this as I was thinking about whether or not to fly down to Dallas to cover the Western Conference Final. I could not go, but what if they won it? I could regret not being able to cover them making club history. And given the fact that they were giving me credentials to go to the game for free, why not take advantage of the opportunity? What’s the worst thing that could happen?
Timbers make it to the MLS Cup Final.
December 6th comes around. The game ended. I was sitting in the make-shift press box tent that they had given to the no-name writers. I’m still wondering if this was a reality or not that the team that I had followed for so long had actually won it all. I eventually found my way to the Timbers locker room area. There, I give my editor a hug because she was down there and couldn’t believe it either. I shook hands with Merritt Paulson, congratulating him on the win. And then I saw the entire team in front of all the cameras; singing, smiling, celebrating.
That’s when I took that photo.
All this wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for me saying “Sure, why not?” to that opportunity with that podcast. That’s where it started: accepting the invite to a simple podcast recording.
That’s the thing about life. Sometimes, there’s that opportunity that comes up that’s pretty small and seemingly insignificant. And that’s what’s weird about our generation. Sometimes, we feel like we’re too entitled to take on these “weird” or unusual opportunities because we think we’re too good for them. But the reality of it is that we’re not. What’s the worst thing that could happen? Maybe nothing gets accomplished and it’s a complete waste of a night. Or maybe it turns into an opportunity of a lifetime where you get to cover your favorite MLS club and see them celebrate winning the league title.
Again, what’s the worst that can happen?