by Bryan Crawford / @_BryanCrawford
It was Saturday afternoon on July 16 when I got an email that said this:
Hey. Here’s what I’m trying to do: I’m trying to have a small intimate symposium for writers/journalists/entrapren’s/hustlers/etc.
One day/night where I can get everyone I’m kind of connected to (for various reasons) together and build.
Answer questions/Ask questions. A couple of hours. Edutainment.
Most def wanted to include you. You down?
Lemme know. I’m working on date and place now. Hopefully sometime this month.
My reply was short and to the point: I’m in.
Before I go any further, I want to say this: Scoop Jackson is the reason why I write.
And not just about basketball either, although that’s obviously a huge part of what I do, but the reason I even decided to try my hand at expressing myself for the all the world to see, in the first place.
From the first time I ever saw his byline in SLAM Magazine – before I even knew that he was from Chicago – it was something about his name and his style of writing that captured my attention and empowered me to feel like I could do what he did. Maybe not to the degree that he could or even at the same level, but good enough to gain acceptance and respect for my ability.
Writing for SLAM was my goal because Scoop Jackson wrote for SLAM. Anything less than that would’ve amounted to failure in my eyes.
I remember blindly sending him an email once from one of his posts on ESPN’s Page 2 back in January of ’09 and he actually hit me back! I was shocked that he would even bother to take the time to not only read, but answer a random email from a complete stranger. But he answered all of my questions and whenever I would shoot him an email after that, he would always write back.
I met him for the first time at a Bulls/Wizards preseason game in October of that same year. It was at least 2 hours before the game, the lights were still off over the arena floor and Gilbert Arenas was the only player on the court working out. I remember sheepishly walking over and introducing myself and not surprisingly, just like he is on TV, he was super cool. We talked for like 45 minutes and it’s been all love ever since.
The last time I saw Scoop was during Game 5 of Bulls/Pacers series and he and I basically talked through the whole game and he recounted this story and told everyone in attendance that this is where the idea for the symposium came from. The conversations that he would have with this writer at games as well as with another writer from Chicago who primarily writes for the Examiner but who has also had his work appear on SLAMonline, Chris Cason (who was also there), served as the inspiration for this event.
He said that when he would see Chris and I at games, he thought back to the time when he was first starting out and there were no other young, black writers with media access who were dressed in jeans and t-shirts. He was the only one.
And because of the success that he’s achieved in his career, he feels that it’s his responsibility to give back to those who look up to him or who have reached out to him for advice. Which brings us to this past Sunday.
8 days after receiving that email, Scoop’s symposium took place at Park 52, an upscale restaurant located in Hyde Park on the South side of Chicago. About 12 people showed up (including SLAMonline’s own, Quinn Peterson) and Scoop held court for over 4 hours! The event started at 5pm and we shut the place down to where they were basically giving us the “it’s time to go” signal.
Between answering questions and speaking freely, Scoop touched on everything from the bag of rejection letters that he still has from jobs that he’s applied for, to his early days of teaching GED and English classes at Chicago City colleges.
He talked about how he got on at SLAM and what it was like during the early days of the magazine. He also spoke on life at his current gig, ESPN. He answered questions – for those who wanted to know – about what Skip Bayless is really like behind the scenes, and he gave us the actual premise behind the show 1st and 10.
He touched on why he thinks there aren’t very many black writers out there and he spoke, albeit briefly, on the Jason Whitlock beef and gave his feelings on different scribes in the game. He also talked about the distinct differences between being a journalist and a columnist and challenged us all to think about which category we fall into as writers (even though it is possible to be able to exist in both spaces).
But mostly he spoke about the way this business/industry works and how to navigate your way through it, and he gave some very good career advice for those looking to grow professionally and for those who are frustrated enough to contemplate quitting.
It was for the ones on the verge of boxing up their pens and their journals or shutting down their laptops forever that he shared the three philosophies which serve as his personal motivation and inspiration to this day. If applied and/or kept in the back of one’s mind whenever adversity arises, these three philosophies are absolute gold: Faith and patience, lose a million to make a million and Morgan Freeman.
“Faith and patience” is pretty much self-explanatory. You have to have those two things in any endeavor that you choose to embark on, not just writing. “Lose a million to make a million” speaks to being accepting of the fact that a lot of times as a writer, you’re going to have to sacrifice and do things for free, but it’ll eventually pay off for you in the end. And “Morgan Freeman,” is all about the power of perseverance. Freeman struggled throughout his entire career as an actor but didn’t quit – even though he had every reason to – and toughed it out until his first big break came at 50-years-old!
Scoop gave these philosophies in reference to his own life and how they helped him through the tough times in the beginning of his career. And now, being in the position that he’s in to go along with the impact and the reach that he has (something he says he never imagined), he embraces the responsibility that comes with that.
For example, he says that he knows that he could never just “wild out” even if he had a legitimate reason to do so. He feels that’s what people are almost waiting for him to do just so they could say, “Ha! I knew it!”
He also knows that if he ever does go there, it would make it damn near impossible for another black writer to have a shot, especially one from Chicago. Imagine the pressure that comes from knowing that and having the ability to always be mindful of it and having the wherewithal to behave accordingly.
Scoop knows that it’s not just about him and he always keeps his mind on the bigger picture.
Of course there were other topics of discussion, but these were just some of the main highlights of the symposium. And I don’t care what you did this past Sunday, there was no 4-hour block of your time better spent than sitting down with one of the best and most influential writers of our era.
“God put you all in my life for a reason,” Scoop would go on to say as the symposium came to a close. “If I didn’t take the time out to do this, then I’m not doing the job that he or she gave me to do.”
Those words truly resonated with everyone there. It left us all with the feeling that not only is Scoop Jackson important to us, but we’re all just as important to him. There really is no better feeling than that.