For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a very visual person. Yet, while there certainly isn’t anything wrong with that, it has provided me with one major setback.
Due to my speech impediment, if I were speaking with someone in person, I would need their visual attention. So, if whoever I’m speaking to is looking at a computer screen, looking through cupboards or sitting in the front seat of a car while I’m sitting in the backseat, my stuttering became more evident. As a result, speaking became more difficult as getting even just a few words out was a daunting task. As you can imagine, since I can’t see who I’m speaking to on the phone, it makes said experience excruciating difficult.
“By perseverance, the snail reached the ark.” -Charles Spurgeon
Unfortunately, podcasts worked the same way. So, while I wanted to take part, the thought of participating in one was daunting. Nevertheless, I faced my fear back in late 2011 when I was asked to discuss the Los Angeles Kings who, at that juncture, were just a few months away from capturing their first Stanley Cup crown. Yet, while speaking on podcasts appeared daunting, it was, according to a few people, “where it’s at”.
So, along with my patience for cliched colloquialisms, I threw my fears out of the window and agreed to take part in the podcast.
Prior to my appearance, I decided against forewarning the hosts about my speech impediment out of fear that they’d have a change of heart. So, I went ahead and unfortunately, it did not go well.
Perhaps this is more my self-conscious side taking over but I was sure as anything that I dropped the proverbial ball with this experience. Then again, my rational side thought that maybe, just maybe, it wasn’t as bad as I thought.
I got my answer mere minutes after the podcast finished when the host took it upon himself to email me to say, “Wow, that was bad!”
As if I didn’t feel bad enough already.
Okay, in fairness, it would have been better had I let the hosts know of my speech impediment. I had understandably caught them off-guard, after all. With that said, though, I felt that reiterating how bad things went took quite a bit of gall. I was so bothered by the overall experience that I swore I would never participate in a podcast again.
That vow lasted close to six years.
“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” -Winston Churchill
In late 2015, I had started talking to a fellow Kings fan/writer, Jeff Duarte (aka: JD Stylz), who also happened to live very close to me. We had been following each other on Twitter but never really conversed with each other.
However, when Kings longtime broadcaster Nick Nickson was chosen as an inductee for the Hockey Hall of Fame, I jumped at the chance to cover the event. As a sidenote, the Hall of Fame brass, if you will, was impressed that I was trying to apply four months before the application process was even open. Nonetheless, when I did apply, I had announced it on Facebook (not that there’s much accomplishment in applying but I was nonetheless excited), Jeff emailed me to ask how to apply. I sent him everything and a few weeks later, both of us enjoyed one of the greatest weekends a pair of hockey writers could ever have, covering the shrine’s coveted Induction Weekend.
That led to us covering the AHL All-Star Classic a couple of months later. Never before had a road trip to Syracuse been so exciting — or exciting, period. The experience even led to Jeff covering his first Stanley Cup Final in Pittsburgh just a few months later.
Since 2015, Jeff and I have built on our friendship as, in addition to the Kings, we found common ground on our love for movies and old-school wrestling. However, the greatest display of Jeff’s character came later on — early 2017 to be precise.
“Surround yourself with people who support you. Find champions.” -Sarah Gavron
Around this time, Jeff had begun co-hosting a podcast called “LA Kings Road Talk”.
Despite being aware of my issue with podcasts, Jeff had asked me if I’d like to call in and give my Kings-related insights. Naturally, due to my stutter, I was reluctant.
Jeff asked again later and suggested that I use my “headphones method”, and thought I’d give it a try. After all, knowing Jeff, I knew that if I had a bad experience, he would understand and, most of all, not make me feel bad about it.
So, in February of 2017, I called in to an episode and, lo and behold, said method worked. I had some hiccups here and there and even talked a little faster at times (a personal habit in an attempt to avoid stuttering) but overall, it was a very positive experience. It was something I needed to boost my own confidence level.
Jeff even took it upon himself to send me reassuring texts saying that I was doing a good job or to keep it up.
While positive reinforcement isn’t always necessary, I couldn’t have appreciated it any more in this case. It only made me feel more comfortable as I continued the episode.
While it did help that I knew those who hosted the podcast, my confidence was nonetheless restored.
“Accept the challenges so that you can feel the exhilaration of victory.” -George S. Patton
I did this during my quest, if you will, of interviewing 50 former Kings and it probably couldn’t have happened at a better time. Additionally, while I always knew he was a reliable colleague and a great guy overall, Jeff’s help was nonetheless appreciated and, in the risk of sounding sappy, he is a great friend to have.
I have since called in to “LA Kings Road Talk” a few times and have enjoyed each experience. There were some episodes where my speech wasn’t as fluent as I had hoped but no one minded — and if no one minds, neither do I.
I’d be lying if I said that I’m comfortable enough to start my own podcast but that’s not to suggest that it’ll never happen. After all, whether it’s tomorrow, a few months from now or even next year, I will get there. For now, though, I just want to thank Jeff and the rest of the “LA Kings Road Talk” family — Scott Cahill, Augie Loya, Meghan Presson and Larry Jensen — for not only welcoming me but accepting me for my charming personality, witty sense of humour and my hockey knowledge.
Each of the aforementioned qualities trumps any sort of impediment, much less a stutter.
While it’s important enough that I know that, it is always great when others know it as well.
Thank you, guys!