Fear and Loathing at Winter Meetings: Part 1

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Photo by Thomas Wolf via Wikimedia Commons

By: Max Wolpoff

INTRODUCTION

What you will read in this multi-part series is a rolling blog of my time at the 2018 Baseball Winter Meetings and the accompanying job fair. It is not a synthesized version written weeks after the fact. Each word that follows was written as the week of events unfolded, and I did not hold back.

I wanted to write an honest look at one of the largest sports job fairs. To do that, I eschewed any chances to rewrite the sections that may be cringe-worthy as the New Year approaches and after some time to reflect. If you are a potential job seeker looking to attend Winter Meetings in the future, you deserve to know how the entire weekend operates. Not just the rose-colored glasses view of the successful weekend and learning experience, but a raw look at how each hour in the convention hall will pass as your phone continues to sit silent.

I want to thank the friends I made as we waited for the calls we all hoped for, and few of us got. To my editors at WTBU Sports, thank you for allowing me the chance to experiment with a style I loved to read but never got the chance to write until now. And to the people I saw, met, and connected with through the weekend, thank you for being part of this story even if you did not realize it.

PACKING TO GO

BOSTON – Admittedly, I pondered the prospect of writing about my attendance at the annual conference of Major and Minor League Baseball this winter. When one of the other writers on this staff, Chad Jones, floated it before and during the most recent episode of “Scarlet and White,” I figured it was worth a try in capturing the essence of the weekend.

Let me be very clear with my mission this weekend: I am going to Las Vegas, Nevada to find work. The gambling tables and bars will be enticing side quests, but this is a business-first trip.

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A look inside an enticing Las Vegas Casino. Photo by Nadavspi via Wikimedia Commons

Having attended a few job fairs in the past – none of them positive experiences – I am unsure what to expect from this one. The last job fair I attended, I boarded a plane to Philadelphia after an early morning class in Boston, took a taxi to Wells Fargo Center, and proceeded to be extremely disappointed by the difference between what I was told the job fair would be and what it ended up being. I then got into an Uber and went back to the Philadelphia airport four hours ahead of my flight, did some school work, and listened to my latest audiobook at the time, A Higher Loyalty by James Comey.

Following classes on Thursday, it was time to decompress. This semester, from Sept. 1 to today, has felt like a marathon run at the speed of the 100-meter dash. Usain Bolt is not meant to do what Mo Farah can do, even if the former is trying to transition into soccer following a successful sprint career.

Andrew Mason, Chad, and myself recorded what might end up being the last episode of “Scarlet and White” after our last class ended. The three of us saw a lot of each other thanks to our final project for our Presidency and Media class. We did a 31-minute podcast (instead of writing another boring paper) about the history and politicization of the White House visit by championship sports teams. You can hear about our research on “Scarlet and White” if you are so inclined.

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From left to right: Max Wolpoff, Andrew Mason, Chad Jones

If this is how the show ends, I will be upset, but that was a good show to go out on.

Ay caramba! Look at the time. It is past noon on the Friday before Winter Meetings and I just expounded a few hundred words on a podcast from yesterday instead of saying much of a word about why I am travelling to Las Vegas. Perhaps now would be a good time.

These annual meetings, held in a different city from year to year from what I can gather, usually make headlines for the trades and signings at the Major League level. While that is part of the weekend, I am not going to the Mandalay Bay conference center to break the latest news on where Bryce Harper is going. That job is reserved for the paid professionals who already have a job in baseball. I, along with thousands of others from what I have read about this weekend, are going for an entirely different purpose: to find employment in an ever-tougher market.

Since I arrived at BU and got on the track to a journalism degree, “Winter Meetings” was tossed around like a code phrase among the sports crowd. So and so went last year and landed a job in X league. Whatsername is going this year. Our old friend came back with nothing, but loved being there. For me, “Winter Meetings” had no pre-attached meaning.

As I oscillate between worrying about what to pack and how to fit three references on my resume, writing these notes will be a challenge to keep up with the whole weekend. Maybe this will be the only transmission anybody receives from me and readers will be left to wonder whether a scene out of their favorite Vegas movie – be it comedic like Vegas Vacation or tragic like Casino – happened to a 22-year-old hopeful. Or, if I get lucky, I can write about the weekend as it goes and provide regular updates.

I will keep most other people and their personal details out of this piece, unless they allow me to do otherwise. Not only is this my trip and my column, it doesn’t feel right for me to use the information other people tell me thinking I am only there to shake hands and interview for work.

While Dr. Hunter S. Thompson’s books were influential on my writing style, the way he wrote is not my style. I will not reveal any salacious accounts of myself the way Thompson so frequently did in his Fear and Loathing series.

This series is meant to be an honest look at the job-seeking process. The preview articles I managed to read on top of regular school work this week all seemed to provide a “nothing is wrong here, everything is rosy” type of feeling.

Life as a journalist, to me, is seeing these sorts of accounts and asking “oh, yeah?” before buying plane tickets to find out on my own.

An email came early today regarding the official event app, that you could also download if you feel inclined to have a map of the Mandalay Bay and a schedule of events and speakers on your phone. The app says over 3,000 people are expected at Winter Meetings this year.

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Photo by Tomas Del Coro via Wikimedia Commons

I also carry two final papers to the Pacific Standard Time Zone this weekend. Meeting with one of my professors about his assigned final this week, he said he respected my “journalistic gumption” in wanting to find the information before forming an argument. Gumption. That is a funny word I had not heard in months. I hope the ballrooms at the convention have plenty of power outlets, because I will need one to keep my computer humming at top speed to write my transmissions for this site and those final papers.

I must stop writing. The resume is still not done and the suitcase is nowhere close to packed. A quick look at the weather says it will hover around 50 degrees Fahrenheit in the desert this weekend. Even with the long flight planned, it will technically be mid-afternoon when I land in Nevada thanks to the time zone changes. Like everything else the last three months, I will find a way.

NIGHT

BOSTON – The suitcase is bursting at the zippered seams with just about every non-sports team affiliated piece of clothing I own. The trouble of growing up a sports fan in the United States then trying to get a job in sports later in life is when you wear a Boston Red Sox tie that someone gave you for Christmas one year to your interview with the AA-affiliate of the Philadelphia Phillies or whatever other team. All precaution has been taken to avoid any scenario like that.

I texted back-and-forth with a friend over dinner. He and I worked together for the last two summers, and had largely prepared for these meetings separately. There are a few others from the last two summers joining us, meaning we will have a built-in social group in a meeting of thousands.

In the archaic way of things, the Meetings function a little like this (according to everything I have read): jobs are posted in one room by all the teams at the Fair with bins for you to drop your pre-formatted resume. Each resume needs to have a white box in the upper-right corner – yes, the fair specifies the RIGHT-HAND corner – for the applicant to write down the position number on the resume so the teams can review it. Runners then take the bins from the posting room to their team representatives in a different room. Applicants now play the waiting game, making a group of friends all the more valuable to avoid the allure of the tables and slots.

The team may or may not call you in to set up a meeting for the weekend. Instead, there is an Interview Room with whiteboards where your name is written down on a big board that you need to check periodically to ensure you do not miss your 12:15 interview while distracted by the glowing lights and constant cacophony of the casino nearby. Again, I stress having friends at this event to allow you to watch out for each other.

This all may be the work of fiction cooked up by conspiracy theorists who have an urge to ruin young peoples’ lives for no adequately explored reason. I really want to believe this will be a fun weekend.

Four of my most conservative suits are packed for this weekend. I know that I built my social media brand and the #MaxWolpoffSuitOfTheGame with the whacky and flashy, but this weekend is not about garnering the most likes on Instagram.FALblades

What is this weekend about? I have made my name and my brand in the hockey world, both with the call that shall not be named (has it really been two years?) and with the Blades franchise. Why am I not waiting until the summer when the hockey world has their big meeting so I can start in hockey following graduation? Truth be told, I know I could make time for these meetings. This summer is much more uncertain.

A half-eaten cannoli from Modern Pastry in the North End sits to my left and it is past the 10 p.m. hour. I opted for one last dinner at a favorite spot, Benevento’s, before flying into the fertile ground for employment rooted in the desert this year. This was my first night out of my apartment in over two weeks. Every dinner was just a brief pause before resuming whatever was on the docket for the night to complete before collapsing into bed for another night of restlessness that I should definitely ask a doctor about.

There is also a playlist constructed just for this weekend on Spotify. Most of the songs are classic selections from my personal library of classic rock and Old Guard metal, combined with baseball themes, “I made it” type of rap songs, and WWE theme music. And “Viva Las Vegas” by Elvis Pressley, just because. 148 songs comprising 11 hours and 11 minutes will be the soundtrack of the Meetings while I pound away at my keyboard to fulfill my final obligations for the semester and record the day’s events for this site.

The cannoli is devoured now; I read over this piece while I ate the last of it. There is a really predictable re-run of CSI: Miami running on My Network TV right now. Why am I watching any sort of television show after months of watching only the news and late-night comedy? Great question; I think I needed a break from the podcasts and music playlists that I normally blast after dinner to get through the work. I am shouting out the next line before it is said, not because I know the episode, but because TV just is that predictable after so many years of watching these sorts of bad crime shows.

The sun is long set and I need to find my way into REM sleep in the next few minutes. Tomorrow will be a largely boring day – I hope – of sitting in an airplane seat and plotting the action plan for the Vegas strip. My web browser has 23 tabs open, 20 of which are regarding one final, another for email, one for this site, and one that I am unsure of how it was opened in the first place amid the relatively organized tabs.

I could easily plug in to my computer charger to keep working into the wee hours and expand on why I refuse to watch much television anymore, but the computer running low on battery serves as a good reminder that I need to recharge as well.

Viva Las Vegas!

 

Author: Max Wolpoff

Max is in his final undergraduate year, and prefers not to be remembered for his now-infamous viral goal call (https://russianmachineneverbreaks.com/2016/12/12/boston-university-hockey-announcer-channels-john-walton-to-deliver-viral-goal-call/). Between classes, applying for law school, and working for the Worcester Blades, he co-hosts “Scarlet and White” and writes the “This Morning in Sports” column. Max is from the Maryland suburbs of Washington, D.C. Follow Max on Twitter @Max_Wolpoff and on Instagram @maxwolpoff for the latest #MaxWolpoffSuitOfTheGame.

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