Friday, July 21, 2006

Cool jobs, huh?

Those who know me - or those who cared to look the very first entry on here - know that I'm a sports writer. Since this doesn't really travel beyond friends and family, most know that my wife works on Capitol Hill for Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.).

Sounds like a couple of decent gigs, right? Get paid to watch games. Play a central role in the power base of the United States.

If only it were so easy.

The problem with being a sportswriter is that your job is a hobby for everyone else. When the rest of the world wants to get away from their job, many watch a game; when I want to get away from my job ...

Well, that's where I run into problems. I'm constantly in search of another place to spend my time when I'm not at the office (besides spending it with my wonderful wife, of course).

It's to the point that save for a few things - the Super Bowl, the NCAA men's basketball title game and perhaps the Daytona 500 - I can't watch a sporting event from start to finish. I just don't care that much. That's why you're just as likely to see me watching the History Channel, Discovery or the Science Channel as ESPNews.

At softball today, I was talking with one of our newer members who didn't know what I did for a living. After explaining it to him, he said, "Wow, that's not too bad of a job."

And he's right. It's far, far, far away from the worst job. But as I told him, it gets old quicker than one might think.

Everyone associates going to a game with relaxation. To us, it's work. I obviously can't have a beer during the game; I certainly can't cheer; and I head to the bathroom during the game at my own peril (what if the game-deciding play happens while I'm taking a whiz?). I can't really be bullshitting with friends, you know?

Again, I do realize I have a job that makes others envious. And I can't possibly say it's a miserable job; but - like any other - it's just a job.

For my wife, working on the Hill seems less like a job and more like a lifestyle choice.

On Monday night, she got home at 10 p.m. - after starting her day at 7 a.m. By her count, she's already got 51 hours in this week - with a full workday left. I asked her how she would characterize the week, compared to others.

"Bad," she said in a measured tone, adding to the emphasis.

Off-the-charts bad?

"No," she said, "because there were two nights I simply had to leave [because of other commitments]."

The novelty of where she works wears off quickly (sound familiar?). Visiting colleagues on the House side requires a trip through the Capitol. The building that so many visitors come to see is, for her, a thoroughfare and some office space.

In a few of those 51 hours, she spent time in a meeting with other staff, her boss and five other Senators, including Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.). During one late night, she and others were the beneficiaries of a dinner bought by Pennsylvania's Rick Santorum in the Senate cafeteria.

That's the cool part of it - going to the game, so to speak. But there's a tricky balance too: She must do what's best for Nevadans in policy terms, while understanding there is a certain political nuance to her entire job. What other Senators will want the same policy as her boss? Who won't? etc.

And the long hours of it all should be pretty plain, too.

But these are the jobs we've chosen. It's hard to be particularly bitter about them; at the same time, it's sometimes hard to convince others that they're nowhere as glamorous as they may seem.

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