It is all Paul Shirley’s fault: The late nights and little sleep. The hours spent scouring basketball sites. The devotion of so much time to writing that my fantasy football team suffers (I know I’ve just struck a nerve with the majority of the male readers). All these things are due to Paul Shirley. Why? Because he caused me to think that an engineer can become a competent writer (in his case, commercially successful, if not critically acclaimed).
It started way back in 2005, when Paul was blogging during his time with the Phoenix Suns. Turned onto it by Bill Simmons, I read every post and was disappointed as it ended all too quickly (his blog, though I’m sure Paul felt more strongly about his time with the team). Before much time had passed though, Shirley had popped up on ESPN, writing columns and doing chats for them. Between the humor/sarcasm and music recommendations, I was impressed. Upon learning that he was a mechanical engineer major while at Iowa State (and graduated), I became even more so. That’s because I was an engineer in college, graduating from Duke with a double major in electrical engineering and computer science, so I’m familiar with the course load he endured. While I was in college, there were not many basketball players who were engineers: Only one for the men and one for the women: It was no coincidence that they were both among my favorite players, despite not being among the most talented. That’s kind of how I feel about Shirley’s writings: I know he’s not Pulitzer material, but I enjoy it, and I like it a little bit better knowing that it comes from someone who shares something in common with me.
Whenever Paul participated in a chat on ESPN, he would post the occasional question from a chatter along the lines of: “Who the heck are you?” The question was generally answered in a self-deprecating way, or possibly with a snarky reference to the bio at the top of the page: Either way, I got to laugh at someone, either Paul or the person who asked the question that he then verbally smacked down. That same anonymity may cause people to wonder about the opportunities he’s had; in addition to playing basketball around the globe (for money) and writing a book, he’s also been part of creating a pilot for a television show. Is he some kind of modern Renaissance man, or a product of a marketing machine? Some may think of him as the Paris Hilton of basketball – famous for being famous. Note the use of the word some – In his chats, there tended to be a fair amount of animosity directed towards Paul and how fate has seemed to smile on him. I do not share that sentiment. If I did, I would hardly be giving him the credit (or blame) for this blog. But because Paul Shirley, the engineer/athlete, was able to make the jump to writing, I decided this engineer/want-to-be-athlete would give it a try. So, thanks Paul Shirley.