Early in my sportswriting career, a St. Louis Cardinals baseball player was so appalled by my presence in the Dodger Stadium visitors clubhouse that he got in my face and told me so. Seconds later, something sailed through the air and, defying all laws of physics, landed squarely on my clavicle.

It was a jockstrap.

That moment was symbolic of a career path that would also challenge the properties of matter and energy, and would deliver constant reminders of a responsibility I shouldered:

To treat journalism with the respect it deserves.

A war is being waged against the Fourth Estate, which is not a reference to one of LeBron James’ multiple residences but to a profession that has taken down dirty politicians, exposed government corruption and given a voice to the underprivileged. On other days it moves you, preserving fun and games by humanizing them, or by simply describing the sights, sounds and smells of a ballpark.

There is nothing fake about news that informs, educates, inspires.

Don’t believe the hype.

This is not a political rant but a genuflection for a profession that is noble and important.

“I truly believe that the stories around the game are what make basketball so interesting. The media is responsible for making those stories come to life. The media is extremely important to me not just as an NBA player, but as a fan of the game.” – Portland Trail Blazers guard C.J. McCollum

Sportswriting has shaped me. It helped me overcome shyness during adolescence, power through challenges during early adulthood and bond with my father before his too-early passing.

READ MORE: Paola Boivin’s columns

I started writing sports for my high school paper at 16 and never stopped. I loved it more than anything but it wasn’t always easy, and it wasn’t just the errant jockstrap or the occasional condescension. It can be lonely on the frontlines because so few can relate to your challenges, while a chorus of critics behind the security blankets of phones and computer screens provide a soundtrack of derision.

And then just like that, something shifted.

My voicemails used to say, “You’re an idiot and a woman who knows nothing about sports!”

Then they became “You’re an idiot!”

Yes!

I had arrived.

The great times far outweighed the bad.

For many years, there was no better place to hang out than the sports department of a newsroom. It fostered thoughtful debate, ridiculous banter and endless games of paper football.

And the majority of athletes I covered were decent, thoughtful and sometimes even supportive.

The great pitcher Orel Hershiser once pulled me aside in the Dodgers clubhouse. He noticed every time I walked through, I would stare at my shoes. It was the…