Monthly Archives: November 2009

Making God Laugh

How do you make God laugh? Tell him your plans. How do you make pitchingtheworld’s older, better, but just as screwed up brother laugh? Same answer.

Yes, you should have seen me the other day as I told him that I was fast becoming a “Malcolm Gladwell-type figure”, a man who, yes, makes money through his writing, but also trousers up to $40,000 per time for public speaking. I had, you see, lined up a gig at Brighton and Hove’s City College to talk to the journalism students there about the pitching process. “This,” I told my brother “is the way to make money. Not books. You won’t make much money from a book anymore [for the record, I didn’t really know what I was talking about here]. This. Talks. Doing this.”

Doing “this” though, isn’t quite as lucrative as I had imagined. I was offered £25.00 for my talk. Out of this, I have to pay my own expenses and travel, including a return ticket from London to Brighton, though the course leader told me that if I “booked early enough” I could get a single for £3.00. I told her I’d think about it.

Yesterday I celebrated pitchingtheworld’s two month anniversary (I say celebrated, but it passed by without me noticing). If, two months ago, you had told me I would be writing for the Daily Mail, have trials lined up for a professional football club and be keeping this blog going with tens, sometimes hundreds of daily readers, I would have fallen over.

If, on the other hand, you had told me that I would be making roll-ups out of cigarette ends, eating beetroot (and only beetroot) for my lunch, grinding my teeth down to nubs over late payments and generally not pitching as much as I would like because the Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook gives me the fear just looking at the fucking thing, then I probably would have said “Yeah, that sounds about right.”

Exotic meals

Lunch today was a bit of beetroot and a roll-up. Don’t you dare say I’m not living the dream. Tomorrow’s lunch may not be so spectacular: no-one is paying me, despite my persistence and far-from-threatening threats. The trick here, of course, is to borrow money, but most of my friends are either in a similar boat, wary of my paying back skills, or would simply be too shocked at a borderline professional footballer/successful writer coming to them asking for cash. I could ask my parents, but one is a janitor living in a bedsit and the other is on a state pension, so I would feel wrong asking them to borrow money, a feeling intensified by me always borrowing money from them and never paying it back.

So I’m in a bit of a hole, a beetroot shaped hole. It’s one I’ll climb out of – I’m forever climbing out of holes – but I’ve had to put the experiment on hold for a day or two before I can summon up the energy to plough back into it. In the meantime I have three features to write, one of which has to be in this afternoon and is about Antigua, a place I visited in June earlier this year when I was earning a thousand pounds a week and having lunches that might have included beetroot as an accompaniment, but was never the main – only – focus of the meal.

Thanks to everyone who keeps reading. You’re all a bit nuts, but thanks. 



The End?

Could the pitching the world experiment (if you could call it that) be coming to a premature, unsatisfactory end? Yes, yes it could be. On Friday I was offered a trial at Colchester United and was so overcome with emotion that I spent the rest of the weekend with a drink glued to my hand. Now, I’m suffering from a three day hangover that is more of a breakdown and I’m flat broke and I’ve realised that it just won’t do. 

So, I’m giving up. Giving up the drink, and, once I sign my professional contract quite possibly giving up Pitching the World.

Below is the letter I sent to Colchester (and 91 other clubs) and below that is their reply. 

There isn’t really a roundabout way of saying this, so I’ll be blunt: I’d like to put myself forward for trials at your football club. Ridiculous, I know, but just hear me out. 

The traditional methods of getting picked up by a professional club weren’t really open to me when I was younger as I was too small and used to smoke a lot. I had considerable skill though and still do; until three years ago I used to regularly play Saturday league (sometimes both in the morning and afternoon) and several times a week in 5 and 7-aside matches. 

I’ve had a break from football over the last few years as I’ve wanted to “save my legs” for a twilight football career. It was said that Teddy Sheringham who played professionally until he was 40, had “an extra yard of pace in his head”, a sentiment I can relate to. I might even have two yards up there.

So when do you think I might be able to have a trial? I promise I’m a decent player and can work on my fitness beforehand. Although I’m 34 and make a reasonably successful living as I freelance journalist, I’m willing to put my career on ice for the next four to five years so that I can fulfil my dream to become a professional footballer.

Do please let me know when those trials might be.



And Colchester’s response…

Dear Steve


Thank you for your email. 


John Ward brought your email to the Managers attention who was euphoric that we had caught you in the twilight of your playing days.  Do you think you could put your freelance journalistic career on hold for a while, brush up on your fitness and attend a trial over the Christmas period at Colchester United FC.


Andy King, our Football Operations Manager, although initially surprised at such a request from the Manager would be delighted to liaise with you and arrange a date mutually convenient for you to come to the club.  [Perhaps in the 1st instance you would like to give me a call/email].


I look forward to seeing you in the not too distant future.


With kind regards

Football pitch

Snappy title, no? No? Anyway, no time to write my usual, half-cooked “look at me I’ve had loads to drink” schtick, but the football thing was commissioned this afternoon so I thought I’d stick the pitch up. 

More pitches to follow. Suspect more of my schtick to follow too. 

His Name

At the dog-end of last week I emailed each of the 92 clubs in the football league asking for a trial, pointing out that I had been ‘deliberately saving my legs for a twilight career’. So far, 21 have replied but I’m waiting until a few more trickle in before I go through them all. I did have a peek at one reply yesterday, from Ron Bone at Middlesborough, who said they had to give me credit for my approach but that there was ‘no way’ they would give a trial to a 34 year old.
So far, so predictable. Or perhaps not: I thought the replies would be generic and negative, and just seeing that one personal email has given me hope. If just one club offers me a trial, or the possibility of one, I think it would make a great feature. Even if not, it still might, allowing me to write about the scouting system, the relationships between clubs and fans (and potential trialists), and how, despite many of us thinking otherwise, there’s little hope of a man in his 30’s being picked up by a professional club.
Might be an idea to illustrate with examples of footballers who have been spotted late on – Ian Wright immediately springs to mind.
Reckon this has – wait for it; actually don’t – legs? 



Raw Deal 2: Rawer Deal

Passing through Stamford Hill a minute ago on the way to my local supermarket I saw a Hasidic Jew crouched down on the pavement smoking a cigarette in the dark. He looked pretty old and messed up and my first thought was: freelance journalist. My second thought was: me in 20 years time, no 10 years time, no tomorrow. My third thought was: ask him if he’s okay and he said that he was and for a second I thought he was going to offer me a cigarette (all I want to do these days is smoke), but he didn’t.

Yes, me in 10 years time, me tomorrow, all fucked up smoking cigarettes and curled up in a ball on the pavement. Two weeks ago I was earning 80p a word, but it feels like a lifetime ago. Scrap that: it feels like another person in another lifetime. 

I’m surprised that my football pitch hasn’t got anywhere. To my mind, it’s the best idea that I’ve ever come up with, but that’s not saying much. My most pleasing response so far was from Steve Gritt (wish I was called Steve Gritt) at Charlton, who has passed on my enquiry to their chief scout. He ended the email saying: “Good luck in the future with your ‘new’ career, but I would keep the pencil sharp just in case.” This probably makes little sense to new (or for that matter regular) readers and I can’t really be bothered going into it all again, but to briefly sum up I’ve asked for trials at every football club in the football league with a view to writing about the scouting process.

Ah, well that’s it for today. I’m off to curl up on the pavement and chain smoke.

Raw Deal

Payments are late. Emails are ignored. Budgets are being slashed. I’m pissing non-piss coloured piss and going mad. And yet – check me out – I’m as enthusiastic as I’ve ever been. Today saw the most weighty and time-consuming pitch to date. I’m a second or two away from emailing FourFourTwo and World Soccer with an idea that, quite frankly, is a reasonable indication of my mental state.

Check me out. This afternoon I emailed each of the 92 football league clubs asking for trials. The writing and research took four solid hours and nine cigarettes. So far, eleven clubs have replied. What they’ve replied is firmly in the shadows as I’m too brittle to read them. I’ll wait and see if some of the rest reply before I (check me out) tackle them.

I’d like to say something about the state of football and the relationship between clubs and fans. I’d also like so say something about me having trials for a club and becoming a footballer in my twilight years. I’d like to say a bunch of other stuff too, but I don’t really know what yet (check me out) and even if I did, I’m too drunk to articulate it.

How do you think the pitching the world experiment is going so far by the way? It’s poor, I know. But it could well get better, especially if I can summon up the strength to put the effort into each subsequent pitch that I put in today. 

Thanks you’re welcome goodnight.

The one that didn’t get away

Below is a pitch that worked and is one of my better ones. What this says about me, I’m not sure. The feature should run this week (and the content should be familiar to regular readers/Alan) but unfortunately not in one of the 642 magazines in the W&A Yearbook. I don’t need to point out that this experiment is on the verge of going very wrong:

I’ve got a lot going on at the moment. I’m pitching each of the 642 magazines listed in the Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook as some sort of certain-to-fail experiment. I’m writing a play for Radio 4 about a pair of Arctic explorers. I have my regular writing gigs to keep up with. And a blog. I’ve also, ridiculously, just set myself up as a painter and decorator.

On top of this my wife wants me to start going swing dancing with her on Monday nights. Tuesdays and Thursdays I play football. I’m hoping next week to start mixed martial arts on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Frankly, and as hackneyed as it sounds, there really aren’t enough hours in the day.

So I’ve decided to create a few more of them. In a sense, at least. From this weekend I’m going to try out the superman sleep cycle to see if it can get me through this unusually productive period of my life. For (initially) two weeks I’m going to sleep for 20 minutes every four hours, giving me 22 hours a day to write, play football, paint, dance, fight or whatever the hell else I need to do.

I’ll visit a doctor before and during the experiment and keep a diary of my experiences. Will I be more creative and efficient or will the lack of sleep be counterproductive? Will my weight balloon because I spend all my time eating or will I burn off loads more calories? Will I become depressed? Go mad? Hallucinate? Or will it be the best thing I’ve ever stumbled upon?

Do you think this could work somewhere? As well as diary entries I think it might be an idea to pepper the whole account of instances where this or similar experiments have worked (in the military, for example) and look into the 24 hour culture/lifestyle that we are on the verge of creating in this country.

I’ve written a reasonable amount of health-based stuff (and first person stuff) before and will gladly send clippings if you’re interested.

Stealing from Ted Hughes

It’s been a while. The weekend saw me convalescing after my grim superman sleep cycle ordeal and I’ve barely pitched a thing. Right about here, regular readers (Alan) would expect another tale of woe, and over the next few hundred words some half-baked polemic about the state of journalism propped up by some not-as-funny-as-I-think-it-is tale about getting drunk and splitting some part of my body open. 

And that’s exactly what you’re going to get. Not really. No, today I can’t really be bothered to repeat myself again and come up with promises about putting up my pitches, promises that I rarely deliver on. 

All I’ll say is this: The only thing people regret is is that they didn’t live boldly enough, didn’t love enough. Nothing else really counts at all.

Impressive, isn’t it? All my words too, not Ted Hughes’s words that I nicked out of the paper at the weekend, and they should provide inspiration to fellow pitchers who may be a little timid in their approaches to editors. 

I’ll endeavour to put up some pitches real soon. I’ll also get spectacularly drunk and write about the fall out.

Ribs, ham, toilets etc.

Last day of my superman sleep cycle. Frankly, it’s been a bit of a waste of time. All I’ve done is stare at walls and feel as if the world is one big, bleak ball of shit. The play isn’t quite finished. The pitching frenzy was nothing of the sort. I’ve lost a lot of weight and could play a little tune on my ribs, if I wanted to.

Yes, a bit of a waste of time. You’ll be able to read more about it all when the feature runs next week. Actually, if it runs: apparently the paper only  publishes 25% of the freelance material it commissions. I’ve never had anything spiked before, but part of me wouldn’t mind if this one didn’t work out: it’s for a paper I’m not keen on and I still get two thirds of the agreed fee if it isn’t published. Further, I spent much of yesterday morning with a photographer and had to ham up my tiredness (not necessary, I was creamed) and generally mug to the camera. With each mug, a little part of me died. However, if it is published, I get more money and an opportunity to drum up some exposure for one or two of my certain-to-fail projects, including this one, the one where I’m ridiculously pitching 642 magazines; and the play, which remains half written.

Whatever the newspaper gods decide, the outcome will be in some way detrimental I’m sure. My luck’s in the toilet right now. All the editors in the country have ganged up and decided not to reply to my pitches, emails, or demands that they please try to pay me roughly on time. I’ve been through this before of course, so I know I can get through a bad patch, but, jesus, just look at how I’ve turned out.