The Washington Post’s Chico Harlan achieved a modest level of national celebrity last year, telling another publication “I don’t like sports. I am embarrassed that I cover them.” At the time, CSTB’s David Roth said of Harlan’s gig — beat reporter covering the hapless Washington Nationals — “it’s either an amazing job or something much shittier, depending on how you feel about interviewing Austin Kearns 190 times a year.” As he’s bolting Spring Training to become the WaPo’s Tokyo correspondent, Harlan admits he’s endured a grind of sorts (“in my tenure as the Nats writer, I’ve seen 205 losses, two GMs, two managers, one ‘deliberate, premeditated fraud,’and at least one pitcher released when the GM got ‘tired of watching him’”), but waves goodbye to his old job with equal parts contrition and gratitude.
The stuff I said last year, I deserved everything that followed. Covering baseball is a privilege; I learned that too late. Keeping your mouth shut and working hard is a duty; I learned that too late as well. Since the publication of those Washingtonian quotes, I’ve apologized to people, and I’ve asked the tough questions about why I got myself in trouble (ego? hubris?), and I’ve obviously taken another job that has nothing whatsoever to do with food writing, a venture that probably sounded good at the time only because it didn’t involve Daniel Cabrera. I learned this too late, also: A man should start talking only when he knows what to say.
It is for others to judge, eventually, but I hope I am leaving this job as a better, wiser person than the one who began it. This job, everything about it, has been worthwhile.