Tom Boswell: “I wondered why I remained fascinated by sports and writing about them.”

Tom Boswell, the great Washington Post sports columnist, looks at his daily habits now that there are no games to cover:

My father’s only advice to me was, “You are your habits.” He sometimes said this while lighting one of the 50 unfiltered Pall Malls a day that he had smoked since 15, noting, unsentimentally and correctly, that they eventually would kill him because that’s just how it works. Your habits repay you, one way or another.

Life seldom slows down long enough for us to think systematically about our habits, except maybe to acknowledge, as my dad did, “I have enough bad ones.”. . .

One of the few uses of a pandemic may be the time it provides to rummage through ourselves. “For years, I wondered why I remained fascinated by sports and writing about them.” A habit? Of course, and not a bad one. But what else was it?

What would I miss? Excitement, press box foolishness, the narrative drama of a season or talking with players about work that matters so much to them? Yes. The games themselves? I have watched fewer “classics” each week. What I miss most is assembling the daily puzzle. And doing it amid constantly fresh material.

Underneath the interviewing, reporting, observing, reflecting, writing and rewriting, there is a search for a picture — of something, of anything (I’m not picky) — that wasn’t there until you found it in the process of piecing it together. What matters, with no other measuring stick available, is that it’s fresh to me, so it’s probably new to you. And on the good days, the whole final product is a surprise.

The best part, the part I miss the most, is the writing itself because (as in this story in the past few minutes) you find out what you really think and feel in the process of writing. Some large part of you engages that was idle until called upon.

Puzzling out your own insights, limited as they may be, is also a kind of habit.

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