October 11, 2006
Life Lessons Thanks to Patsfans.com
BY: Kevin Rousseau
Stick with me on this one. You'll be glad that you did. You might even pick up a thing or two.
With nothing really to add this week about the Patriots that hasn't been said already, I figured that this was the perfect time for this column. Every now and then, people will ask me how I got into writing (both for Patsfans.com and elsewhere). The journey I have taken since I accidentally discovered my life's passion four years ago is filled with life lessons.
It all started innocently enough, really. I was surfing on the web one night when I came acrossPatsfans.com. I was impressed with the site and saw a request for fan writers and thought I would give it a whirl. With the encouragement of the site's founder, Ian Logue, I started writing a weekly column that instantly struck a creative nerve inside of me. Up until this point, my writing experience had been an underwhelming body of work including memos, college term papers, and drunken love letters.
Life lesson #1: Appreciate people like Ian when they unexpectedly pop up into your life and hand you an opportunity. I wish all of you could be his friend. Besides keeping the Patsfans.com fire stoked all these years, he's an excellent father and husband. On our tombstones, no one will give a damn about this silly website but I hope that they write that we both excelled in the latter two categories.
About a year later in the fall of 2003, I ran into an outstanding mystery writer named Gerry Boyle at one of his book signings in Damariscotta, Maine. We had kept in touch off and on over the years and I sheepishly sent him some of my early columns looking for advice. "You know, you can really write. Maybe I should have you do a story for the magazine I edit (Colby Magazine)," he said to me. My guess is that every person who takes up a craft and starts to get something going has a moment like this. This wasn't my mom or wife praising me. It was an Honest-to-God real craftsman who was reaching out. It was a defining moment at a time when I was beginning to wonder if I should spend my free time doing something else.
This lead to my first leap of faith as a writer. I culled a list of weekly Maine newspapers and sent out about 100 packages with Patsfans.com columns and a generic query letter (Serious money out-of-pocket, too!). Only one paper, the Lakes Region Suburban Weekly, replied and offered $10 a week to run the column. I couldn't believe that someone wanted to pay me for something that I wrote.
Since then, I have pulled in a helluva lot more than $10 from writing freelance work in other genres; but I doubt that I'll ever have the same excitement I felt the day that first check showed up in the mail. Life Lesson #2: It only takes one person out of 100 to believe in you to succeed.
Soon after that, a few guys (Steve Stantial and Peter Steele) at the Twin City Times in Lewiston, Maine caught wind of my column and began publishing it in their paper. Their positive vibe led to them asking me to cover the new junior hockey team in town, the Maineiacs. Life lesson #3: When a door opens for you, walk through it. It will lead to other doors.
Over the next few years, I obtained football analyst gigs on both radio and television based solely on Life lesson #4: If you think you know a thing or two about something, don't be afraid to have some confidence in your ability. Was I scared? You better believe it. Live radio and television is a high wire. And there I was teetering on it ready to fall off with the first mispronunciation of "Faulk" or "spit."
As I stood on a 40-foot riser with Alltell Stadium behind me on the eve of Super XXXIX about to go live back on Channel 8 in Maine, Life lesson #5 came to me: Don't forget to enjoy the remarkable moments in life. Embrace them because they will still make you smile years later when you're an old man and you silently ask yourself one day: "OK, Rousseau. Just how in the hell did you pawn yourself off back in 2005 as some kind of football expert and get a week-of-game press pass to the Super Bowl?"
In the media center at that Super Bowl, I was fortunate enough to have an enlightening lunch with the Boston Globe's Kevin Paul Dupont. If you live in these parts, you know he's the best hockey writer this side of Fran Rosa. Back when I was starting to write in 2002, I spotted him waiting for a flight at Logan. I debated back and forth in mind as to whether I should go up and talk to him. Finally, I said "What the hell. What's the worst he can say? Get lost kid?" Well, Mr. Dupont did just the opposite. Here was someone whose writing I had enjoyed for years who was gracious, encouraging and fun to chat with. He was visibly tired that night but his sincerity put a whole bottle of lighter fluid on my writing bonfire. Life Lesson #6: Often times, the more established someone is, the more gracious and down-to-Earth they often are.
They're are plenty of other people who have been gracious and encouraging over the years. They know who they are. I wish I could pay them back for bringing this unexpected joy to my life.
But there's one little short brunette that I'll mention above all others. My wife Christy has been everything a life partner should be. At first, she was a cute girlfriend. Then she became someone I thought I should commit my life to. Then through fertility highs and lows, she became an incredible mother to my two beautiful children Jacob and Evelyn. Mix in the fact that she's my best friend and number one supporter through the highs and lows of a writing career …and well, I'm a very lucky guy.
People sometimes ask me if I have a favorite story. That's an easy one to answer. It's this story: Think You Had A Better Week Than Me? from October 2004. It was so easy to write because it was just raw emotion. A typical Patsfans column will take two to three hours for me to write. That one took only twenty minutes. As I read a draft to my wife, I just broke down crying unconditionally. Well, one thing lead to another thanks to Gerry and it landed on the front page of the Kennebec Journal on October 27, 2004. You remember the significance of that day, don't you?
About a year later, I was trolling through that same bookstore in Damariscotta and picked up a newly-released copy of the "Best American Sports Writing 2005." I hope that you have at least one moment in your life that compares with the shock of seeing my name mentioned in the back of the book for "Notable Sports Writing of 2004." If I do nothing else in this writing life, I'll be satisfied that this timid kid from Norfolk, Massachusetts had his name alongside Jackie MacMullan, Charlie Pierce and Bill Simmons just once. Given that the subject matter was my son Jacob (as opposed to a benign team or individual) gives the honor extra meaning.
Let me finish with this:
I have no idea where this writing thing is going. I've done some freelance for the travel section of the Globe, golf writing for some cool magazines and some other non-football endeavors. All I know is that I'm excited to see where it's going over the coming years.
So here's Life Lesson #7 of my writing career: Follow your heart.
It's a blast.
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