So this morning I was a guest-speaker in my 3-year-old son's daycare class, which is spending the week talking about jobs. Parents were invited to come in to talk about their job.
Let's start here: Which job am I describing? Sports columnist? Media-industry consultant? Sports blogger?
As you can imagine, I simplified it for the audience: I am a writer. I write stories. I write stories about sports. ("Can any of you name any sports?")
I really wanted to say: "I specialize in shallow punditry. Can you say 'sha-low pun-dih-tree?'"
But "write stories about sports" was about as complicated as I could make it.
I was looking for a gimmick to present to them. Should I bring my computer and show them how I research and type (and watch YouTube clips and Tweet and check my RSS reader?)
Instead, I had them help me write a story -- they picked the subject (themselves), where it took place (the local park), what they were doing (playing with every type of ball imaginable... they had fun yelling out different names of balls -- given the enthusiasm for soccer balls, MLS has a future yet!)
Finally, I picked one of the kids to provide me with a quote about how she thought the playing went. Frankly, it wasn't too far off from your standard sideline reporter's question for a coach -- or a coach's platitudinous answer. (When a 4-year-old offers a standard sports cliche, it's much cuter than when Bill Belichick does it.)
We put the components together and -- voila -- the class had produced their very own sports story. You might even call it a column. All it was missing was the commenters to say, "Come on! Here's why you're wrong!"
Everyone should have to go through the exercise of trying to simplify what they do for 3- and 4-year-olds.