Ace reporter Chico Harlan has returned from hiking the Appalachian Trail to make official what we all found out yesterday: that he's through with the Nats beat. Is he getting reassigned? No. So, what is it then? Chico quit on us. But he only made it official in the last few days. Those of us who have followed the ups and downs of Chico and the Nats beat know that he really quit on us almost from the first day he took the job.
Let's take a look at Chico's MacArthur-like promise to return, just to someplace better suited to his genteel, writerly soul than the icky sports pages.
The status of the Nats beat, going forward
Typical, that I'd get scooped on the news of my own departure.
Aren't you used to it by now? I mean, Zuckerman and Goessling over at the Times were always scooping you on Nats news. You know what's a good tool for breaking news? Twitter. Too bad you couldn't be bothered to ever use your Twitter account to enhance your coverage of the Nats. You know who does a really good job of using Twitter to give Nats fans more news about their favorite baseball team? Zuckerman and Goessling over at the Times.
According to a tweet from the Sports Bog's Dan Steinberg -- and OK, let's make it official, according to me as well -- the WaPo will soon be looking for a new Nats beat writer, and I will soon be heading for new pastures.
I don't think Chico and Steinberg will be going out for beers and veggie burgers anytime soon.
(And certainly they'll be less green in the literal sense.)
The Post's internal e-mail went out yesterday, and it explains the basics. For the last two seasons, I've covered, or at least tried to cover, the Washington Nationals.
Wait, Chico was trying? He could have been even less enthusiastic about covering the Nats?
It's a demanding job, both rewarding and unrelenting like a marathon.
If Chico's going to scale the writerly heights, he's going to have to do better than cliche similes like this.
Some do it for years, with a grace and vigor that makes me envious.
But sometimes for me, it felt more like a test of endurance than journalism. I started to miss the journalism.
Every sports writer who ever had to write on deadline should be lining up to kick Chico's ass. A modest person would have noted that plenty of people have been able to produce good writing on a deadline.
No doubt you've got a few questions. Such as, "What happens now to the Nats beat?"
It can't get any worse.
And, "What will you be doing next?"
Answer: Polishing my resume.
And, "Won't you regret the opportunity to cover Stephen Strasburg, and watch Ryan Zimmerman, and learn how Rizzo et al rehabilitate the organization, and be there to witness it once Nats Park is packed and the team (and maybe even Teddy) is winning?"
Translation: Buh-bye, loser Nats fans.
All good questions, and I'll take 'em in order.
First, the beat itself. For now, it's still mine. I don't yet have a new job, and the Post doesn't yet have a replacement.
Is this guy aware of the Post's money problems and the job market for journalists? Does Chico really think that, despite all the unemployed journalists out there, he'll find a job even if the Post cuts him loose? I suppose it's possible that David Remnick will see Chico's resume and say "Degree from Syracuse, some time writing about Aussie rules football, less than two years covering the worst baseball team in the big leagues, and wants to write about food -- Doris, get this Chico Harlan on the phone! We've found the next Calvin Trillin!"
So, the successor to Beat Writer Chico is Interim Beat Writer Chico. Somehow that seems fitting.
Yes, Chico, we get it. The Nats are dysfunctional.
Once I'm back from vacation,
What!? You're still on vacation? Goessling worked deeper into the postseason than you did, went on vacation to the other side of the fucking planet, and he's already back and posting Nats news.
I'll reassume the day-to-day duties, posting here, hopefully with a mix of news and insight and comedy, and covering the offseason developments.
I can't wait to see what news Shecky Harlan will post that Zuckerman and Goessling will have already posted.
I'll be at the winter meetings. Hopefully I can craft a few good feature stories, too.
You know, for the clip file.
Meantime, the Post will be looking for the next beat writer, and to borrow the Kastenian phraseology, the search will presumably be comprehensive and diligent and absolutely confidential. Unless Steinberg tweets about it.
Translation: The Post has no idea who's going to replace me. Oh, and fuck you again, Steinberg.
I'll be looking for a new job, too, somewhere inside the Post.
Maybe Katharine Weymouth has stables that need mucking.
I know it sounds weird, officially leaving an old job for something totally undetermined, and maybe it's a bit reckless, too.
It takes a real rebel like Chico Harlan to be such a brazen opportunist. Only a crazy nonconformist like Chico Harlan would use a job he openly disdained as a way to get his foot in the door of a respected newspaper like the Washington Post in the hopes that he could use the experience to get something more befitting his sensitive, writerly soul. Only someone as weird and reckless as Chico Harlan would insult his readers and employers by openly admitting that he couldn't wait to get out of sports and that he was only doing it to burnish his credentials.
It takes a real revolutionary to come right out and say "I don't like sports -- I am embarrassed that I cover them. I can't wait to stop. It is a means to an end and a paycheck."
Step aside, Malcolm X.
I simply hope the next job can provide the grounds to grow as a writer and reporter.
Right, because no one ever became a great writer and reporter writing about sports. The list of people who should be lining up to kick Chico's ass starts here.
I'm a big believer that improvement can sometimes come from a new (and even frightening) challenge, a step away from your comfort zone.
But I thought sports wasn't your comfort zone. "I don't like sports -- I am embarrassed that I cover them."
So we'll see what happens. I'm ready to learn, even if it means learning the hard way.
Oh, just cut the crap already.
Life as a baseball writer is a strange gig, balanced by obvious downsides (I've spent 185 nights in Marriotts this year)
But think of all the Marriott points you have.
and perverse pleasures.
(I can rent a car in any NL city and tell the Avis rep, "No map necessary; I know where I'm going.")
I'll miss plenty about this job
Chico's Inner Monologue: Not really.
and at some later point, in the Svrluga tradition, I can compile a longer list.
Chico, nothing you did was in the Svrluga tradition.
Mostly, I'll miss the daily fix of adrenaline and results -- extra innings, a crazy twist, some breaking news, a firing, a story to write, three stories to write.
I'm going to need a bigger shovel for this bullshit after you've already described the Nats beat as "unrelenting like a marathon."
I'll miss the passion on the Journal, because not many reporters get such personal, or intelligent, interaction.
That's right, people care about this team. And you let them all down with the cynicism and open dislike with which you approached this job. I'm no dummy. I understand that being a sports beat writer is all too often a shitty proposition. But you're no grizzled middle-aged burnout with a wife and kids you never get to see. You came to this job at 25 and did it for less than two years while bitching the whole time.
I'll also miss many of the good people at Nats Park, those with whom I've spent the last two seasons.
Clint? Screech? Name names!
It'll be tough to watch from the distance, no matter what happens next.
Chico's Inner Monologue: It won't be tough at all.