Summer internships, paid or unpaid, are the initiators of potential jobs following secondary education and/or the number one reason Tylenol is sold over the counter at Rite-Aids everywhere.
Working at the Philadelphia Inquirer for a summer is one of the best ideas any young journalist could have during their college career. Let's face it, it's one of the best broadsheet newspapers in the country, holds one of the best sports departments on the east coast and grooms the best talent in the area.
The only unseen disclaimer upon accepting this glamorous internship are the events one may encounter in twelve weeks in downtown Philadelphia.
As an intern in the sports department, the youngest of all my colleagues, I was given the task to travel to the NBA Draft and give live coverage of the event as well as meeting a deadline for an article, to be thought of on my own. For a journalist, whose specialty came in navigating the basketball world, it was as if my editors knew my birthday (November 18th for those wondering) was too far away. So instead they gave me my gift a few months in advance.
I was enthralled with the news.
I broke out story ideas, called sources and sports agents alike, and found every angle possible to take my reporting to the next level. This could be the biggest event I would cover all summer, I couldn't let it go wrong.
Being the youngest and the only city-dweller of all the interns in the sports department this summer, I didn't own a car or have my license. I didn't think it would be a problem since I had already covered big events using my wit and understanding of the city, this event should be no different.
Rookie mistake number one.
On the morning of July 27th, I left my bed, put on my suit and new tie I bought specifically for the Draft and left my house two hours before my bus was scheduled to arrive. I wanted to be on time, bright and early.
I got on public transportation two blocks from my house and was traveling to City Hall to pick up some extra cash for a full day in New York City from my uncle. Five blocks before my destination, the bus broke down and I was made to walk through the humid downtown region.
"It's only five blocks," I said reassuringly. "Nothing too bad will happen."
Rookie mistake number two.
On a scorching 95 degree day, I paced past the steel skyscrapers overlooking my destination. The sweltering heat quickly began destroying my eggplant-colored dress shirt, my high-top fade started to melt, my optimism slowly decreasing with every step I took.
I reached City Hall completely soaked. Embarrassed, I covered myself with my suit jacket and experienced that difficult moment when you become so ashamed you think everyone suddenly is looking at you. I grabbed the money from my uncle and immediately began panicking.
It was eight hours before the event started, four before I was scheduled to be in the Big Apple, and I was out of a shirt.
"Nice Job Tyler," I thought sarcastically.
In a rush, I found my way to a small tourism shop next to a 7-eleven convenient store on the other side of a Marriott hotel. I bought a white t-shirt reading "Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love" laced with sparkles and navy glitter material. After changing in the hotel, I sprinted three blocks to 12th street and purchased another violet dress shirt to complement my outfit (because at that time the only thing on my mind was looking nice instead of getting out of the sun).
Now running from 12th street, I caught the subway over to 30th street station to catch my bus scheduled at noon. Arriving at the station, the bus pulled away as I came from underground. Next, I attempted to catch a train to Trenton and transfer over to New York, a longer and more expensive route. I would also miss the first train from the station.
Forty minutes later, the train connecting me to Trenton had arrived. With nerves dwindling down, and my spirits soaring back to a climax, I had finally felt at ease.
Rookie Mistake number 3.
I arrived at Penn Station on 34th street and 8th avenue in Manhattan at 3:40 p.m. EST, the media bus taking all media members to the Barclay's Center in Brooklyn was leaving in twenty minutes.
Here we go again.
Rushing from the station I sprinted through Manhattan and scurried into Times Square as fast as I could, resembling a chicken with it's head cut off, with minutes before the bus left the Westin hotel at 43rd street. I walked on the bus, in a pool of sweat, exhausted, and out of breath. Every other basketball beat writer, broadcaster, and spokesperson in the country watched me walk to the back of the bus.
After the bus driver got lost in Brooklyn, we arrived at the stadium thirty minutes behind schedule. I raced to the bathroom to put my suit on, got dressed and prayed that this experience didn't get any worse.
"It's now or never," I thought to myself in the spacious one-person bathroom, speckled with grey light fixtures and a single full-body mirror.
I looked over my outfit, grasped the metallic-coated handle, straightened my bow-tie, and traveled into the unknown hoping that no one would notice my blunders, my rookie mistakes.
I hurried to the end of the media dinner and got a plate. Before I could sit down, one of my colleagues told me my zipper was down.
"God has got to be having a field day with me at this point," I thought. "There's no way this gets any better."
Somehow, my luck increased.
I looked in the media section and found my seat. I was sandwiched between writers from the New York Daily News, NBA photographers, and the Associated Press.
I ended up meeting Shane Battier from the Miami Heat, Bill Simmons and Jalen Rose from ESPN, and shook hands with Anthony Bennett, the number one pick from this year's draft.
I tweeted my eyes out, checked sources, texted scouts and chased news. It seemed like everything was working out. It seemed like I was finally coping with my new reality.
After a day full of state-hopping, train-catching, shirt-sweating, and semi-anxiety attacks, I left Brooklyn an hour after midnight with a friend from college. While going to meet my friend in the stands of the now-emptied arena someone walked up to me. Another writer.
"Hey man. You're Tyler aren't you?"
"Yeah,' I replied in an exhausted voice.
"You should probably check you're twitter."
I quickly grabbed my smoke-colored HP Pavilion, entered the password, and looked at my Twitter page. I almost dropped my computer and shed a tear.
Compliments. Love. People from all over the country who had been reading my coverage started thanking me one-by-one for bringing them this service for a five-hour span. I could barely believe it.
We left the arena, and I gushed from Brooklyn to Hillsborough, New Jersey, a total of almost two hours. I went to sleep, tired, but fulfilled. If this is what it meant to be a journalist, an intern, or whatever, in a big moment, on the biggest stage, then I think I picked the right job.
Some people don't always like their summer job or internship. Others complain when work is too hard or unpaid. Sometimes you just have to buckle up and prepare yourself for the ride.
As bad as people and other students had always said summer internships were, this one didn't seem to be like the others.
Life couldn't be sweeter than July 27th.
*Alarm Clock buzzes at 9:30 a.m. July 28th*
"Damn. I have to get back to Philadelphia again don't I?...Let me get my bag."