In late 2010, I spent an excruciating six weeks waiting for the phone to ring. Or for a letter to arrive. Or for an email to pop up in my inbox.
At that time, I felt as though my life was nearly perfect. An ordinary evening at that time, was spent with my two best girl friends in California rubbing elbows with celebrities at red carpet events. I lived by the beach. I was dating someone who, for lack of a better phrase, really lit my fire.
And in late 2010, my 25-year-old self thought that life was about to get even more perfect.
I was just one year out of law school and at the time, blessed to even have a job, as many of my law school cohorts were still struggling to find work after the economy tanked in 2008. Although I worked for a great firm, received solid benefits and spent days at the office with a group of people who would become my good friends, I was not satisfied practicing mortgage banking law. I went to law school with the intention of practicing entertainment or sports law. In law school, I worked at the Screen Actors Guild and Warner Brothers. However, those opportunities dried up when the economy crumbled. The irony of the economy’s tumble coinciding with my graduation from law school is found in the fact that after law school, I represented banks like SunTrust, Citi and Wells Fargo. Yes, I was working for the man.
I’ve always taken pride in my work and always felt blessed to have a job, but I knew I was in a rut in the fall of 2010 when I was called into my boss’ office. I had never been in trouble before, so I was obviously concerned. He told me that I did not appear to be interested in mortgage banking law. Well, that was a fact. In fact, I was surprised that it took him this long to recognize this; I’ve never had a good poker face. He told me that my work product was great and that I was highly intelligent, but that if I didn’t start showing more interest in mortgage banking law, that I would have trouble moving up in the law firm.
My boss was a former football player who used a lot of coaching strategies to motivate us. However, given my love for reading coach’s autobiographies, I recognized this pep talk for what it was. As such, his words had the opposite of a motivating effect on me. Upon leaving my boss’ office, I did everything but educate myself more about mortgage banking law. I knew God did not put me on this planet to be a mortgage banking attorney. So, instead of focusing my efforts to move up in a profession I had no interest in, I decided to turn my energy toward my passion. It was a risk, in that I could have lost my job. But in my eyes, the bigger risk was losing my passion.
Prior to applying for my job with the mortgage banking law firm in the summer of 2010, I saw that NASCAR was hiring an attorney. I figured it was a long shot, given that I had only been practicing for a year. However, I have never been one to shy away from a challenge, so I applied for it. For better or worse, I have always subscribed to the mantra of, “You don’t know unless you try.” Much to my surprise, I made it through two rounds of telephone interviews with NASCAR’s general counsel before I received the dreaded email that they had “chosen another candidate, even though I was highly qualified.”
At the time, I chalked it up and figured that my destiny was sealed and that I’d be a mortgage banking attorney for the rest of my life. Surprisingly, because of my social situation, my home by the beach, the guy I was dating and the nice people I worked alongside, this wasn’t too much of a blow in the summer of 2010. However, by fall, when I was being accosted for not reading mortgage banking journals, I knew that something had to give.
It was around that time, in October 2010, that I got a very surprising phone call. The gentleman calling was the general counsel of International Speedway Corporation–the corporation that owns the racetracks where NASCAR races. He had received my phone number from the NASCAR general counsel I interviewed with in the summer and wanted to tell me they had an attorney position open that he wanted to interview me for. I was thrilled.
We completed several phone interviews, and then in mid-October, I boarded a plane to Daytona Beach for an in-person interview. I was told that the search was narrowed down to two candidates: myself and a local candidate. I spent six hours at the very impressive NASCAR offices interviewing with nearly everyone in the NASCAR and International Speedway Corporation legal offices. I was so impressed with everyone I met and excited about the job opportunity, that I barely had time to think about leaving my red carpet lifestyle and that guy that I really liked. At least I would still have the beach.
At the end of the interview, the International Speedway Corporation general counsel walked me out to my rental car. He told me everyone loved me and that he believed I’d be a good fit for the position. He told me he would be in touch with me shortly. In my eyes, I all but had the job. On my drive to the airport, I made mental notes about neighborhoods that I passed, figuring that I would be moving to Daytona Beach in mere weeks.
And then I waited for six weeks. And finally, a phone call came telling me that I could expect an email, but that he was so sorry. It turns out, the local candidate was selected, for what my guess is, to save on moving expenses. I was told not to question my skills or knowledge–I was highly qualified. In that moment, my 25-year-old self thought that my dream of being a sports lawyer died.
I sulked for longer than I probably should have, and nearly accepted my fate as a mortgage banking attorney. However, by May 2011, my passion for sports law was burning too hot inside of me to turn it off. I knew I needed to do something. However, this time, I decided I was going to take a different approach than applying for pre-existing jobs. Rather, I decided I was going to create my own opportunity. This time, nobody was going to tell me “no.” This time, nobody was going to tell me, that even though I was the best candidate, because I lived on the other side of the country, I couldn’t have the job. This time, if there was going to be a reason as to why I couldn’t get to where I wanted to go, it was going to be me. And because I know of my own personal stubbornness, I knew I was going to get where I wanted to go.
Between May and July 1, 2011, I knew that I wanted to start a blog where I would discuss sports issues. For months, people–including strangers I knew from Twitter–told me that I needed to write about sports. I toyed around with a number of ideas. I actually bought a URL for a website whereon I intended to discuss California baseball. Much to the amusement of my friends, I actually went to several UCLA baseball games and scouted players. However, I quickly realized that didn’t fuel my fire. I continued to throw around ideas in my head. And then, it finally came to me: I was going to write about the intersection of law and sports. I was going to write about it in a way that non-lawyers could understand. I was going to tackle the issues that others weren’t tackling.
On the night of June 30, I forced my roommate, Alex, to stay up with me and listen to the titles I had for my blog. Most of them were absolutely awful. A lot of them rhymed. She vetoed 99 percent of them. Surprisingly, the naming process was the hardest obstacle I faced in launching RulingSports.com. Almost ready to give up, it finally came to me. I hesitated before I told her, figuring she’d say, “No, that sounds dumb.” But I told her anyway. “Ruling Sports. I think that’s it.” “I LOVE IT!” she said.
So, that was that. I logged on to WordPress and bought the domain. I registered a Gmail account. I signed up for Twitter. And, I was given a big dose of help, when the NBA locked out its players the next day, when RulingSports.com was up and running for the first time. Thank you for that one, David Stern. Thinking about it, I probably should send him a fruit basket.
Admittedly, I wasn’t quite sure who was going to read my blog. Most of my friends aren’t big sports fans, hence the reason for an outlet like RulingSports.com for me to discuss my ideas about sports. I knew my Dad would read my blog, so he was one of the first people I called. I don’t think he or my Mom thought much about it at the time, other than probably, “Alicia has found another way to waste time.”
I knew that if RulingSports.com was going to become anything, that I was going to have the help of others behind me. At Chapman University School of Law, where I attended, I was taught for three years about the power of networking and the importance of making meaningful relationships. I hope that my professors and the career services staff at Chapman realize that the success of RulingSports.com is due in large part to those lessons.
One of the first tweets I sent on July 1, 2011, was to Kristi Dosh. I had been reading Kristi’s work on BusinessofCollegeSports.com for a while, and was impressed by what she was doing on the website while also practicing law. In Kristi, I saw a mentor and a person like myself, who likely believed she could do anything she set her mind to. So, I sent Kristi a short tweet, essentially saying that she was an inspiration for my launch of RulingSports.com. I wasn’t expecting a response, let alone a friendship. Or to take over BusinessofCollegeSports.com when Kristi received her position at ESPN.
Many people have asked me how I have “risen” so quickly. First of all, I do not look at it like that. Rather, I know that I have much further to go on this journey. Yet, if there is one piece of advice I will give, it is to build meaningful relationships. Reach out to people, introduce yourself, let them know what you’re about. Ask them what they’re about. Learn from their experiences. Support each other as you both try to do what everyone on this planet is put here to do: Live out dreams.
Everything I have achieved in the last year has come as a result of the help of others. I would have never taped a radio show segment if a radio show host hadn’t reached out to me. I would have never taped a television segment if I didn’t have lunch with a TV producer. I would have never interviewed sports figures if they didn’t respond to my emails or telephone calls. I would have never signed with an agent if my friend Rachel Baribeau did not tell him about me. I would have never covered the Albert Pujols press conference if I did not make friends employed by the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim organization (this is a story for another blog, which will be called “Be bold”). I would have never begun writing for Forbes.com if Kristi Dosh didn’t give me the opportunity to take over for her on BusinessofCollegeSports.com.
While the number of hits RulingSports.com has received in the last year shocks me, as it is more than the two-per-day my parents provide, it is not the viewership of the website that I am the most proud of. Rather, it is the number of new friends I have gained in the last 365 days. I have been blessed on this journey, in that every person I have met along my path has shown me the utmost kindness. They have leant me their hands and their skills, so that in turn, I could learn from them and improve my craft. I will tell you this: The people in the sports media industry are the most giving, kind and unselfish people when it comes to sharing their talents and ideas.
For those of you seeking a job in sports, there are two pieces of interrelated advice that I will give you:
1. Don’t quit
In October 2010, I was all but ready to quit chasing my dream. I was satisfied enough with life, that I didn’t think I needed a career in the sports industry. Luckily, I woke up from that haze after several months. If I quit chasing my dream in October 2010, I would have never experienced the greatness that came this last year. I would have settled for something less than deep inside of me, I knew was possible. Don’t settle. Don’t quit. If you can dream it, you can do it.
2. Keep dreaming
And on that note, keep dreaming. Dreams are formidable. They are not stagnant. Because someone told you “no,” do not accept it as the answer to your life. Create your own “yes.” Be creative. Do things that others are not doing to set yourself apart from the pack. Reach out to people who you believe have achieved their dreams to learn about their journeys. Perhaps they can provide you a roadmap for your own. Ultimately though, your dreams are personal. Do not let anyone ever tell you what is, or is not, possible for your own life. If you can dream it, you can do it. But if you don’t try, you will never capture your dreams.
When I talk about the last year of my life, the word I like to use is “magical.” One thing I don’t talk about much on this space, is my faith. I credit my faith in God the most for everything that has happened to me in the last year. In fall 2010, I thought I knew the path my life would follow. However, much to my surprise, God had bigger ideas for me. The neat thing about hindsight–and faith–is that after enough time has passed, you can see why things did not work out the way you wanted them to at the time. Many times, it is because something better for you is waiting around the corner. And for that, I’m grateful. I wake up every morning and pinch myself, wondering if everything that has happened this last year is true. When my agent tells me that he’s pitching me for projects and shows that a year ago I couldn’t even imagine were within my reach, I get goosebumps. And yesterday, my friend Alex who spent hours helping me name my blog, sent me the following, “I can’t believe how much has changed in just one year!”
Neither can I.
Thank you to everyone who has made this most magical year possible. I hope that I can continue to share these stories with you. More importantly, though, I hope I can motivate at least a few of you to never quit on your dreams.