Landing a job as a sports journalist is extremely competitive in the United States. It is often perceived as a glamorous life - just hanging out with, and interviewing, athletes and coaches. But for one sports journalist - who has spent more than 10 years working in the field - it is less about the glamorous life than about just being able to do what he loves.
Sports lovers follow their teams intensely, and dream of meeting their favorite players. For most it remains only a dream. But Iranian American Arash Markazi, 31, has fulfilled his dream, working as a sports writer for the prestigious sports television network, ESPN.
"I love writing. I always loved to write. And when I was younger I loved to play sports too and then obviously at a certain point of time I realized I wasn't going to be much taller than 5'6" (1.7 meters). And then I realized I wasn't going to play sports, I could write about sports," said Markazi.
But the road has been bumpy for Markazi. More than 10 years ago, while working for his college newspaper, he was given the worst news possible.
"I had done a story about a basketball player that had Hodgkin's. I didn't even know what it was. I had to do research. The parents were crying and I said, 'this is exactly why I got into sports journalism so I wouldn't have to cover stories like this.' I didn't want to talk about kids getting cancer or anything like that. And then lo and behold, like a year later I get the same kind of cancer," Markazi recalled.
Cancer did not deter him. After a strong recovery, Markazi landed his dream job with Sports Illustrated magazine in New York City. Then, his cancer came back. He spent his recovery time making plans.
"When I was in the hospital I made a list of the games I wanted to go to and the events that I wanted to cover because I couldn't just think about my current situation," Markazi added.
And he did just that. Now, he has checked off all the events on his list. When he is not traveling the world, he covers the local teams in Los Angeles. But at this point in his career and after recovering from cancer twice, he looks at his job from a different perspective.
"I remember when I was younger I would cry when my team lost. But now, it really doesn't matter to me who wins the game. I just want a good story. When I'm at a game I'm rooting for the guy who never played to get in the game and to write about him," Markazi explained.
As much as Markazi enjoys his job and the friends he has made, cancer has put things in perspective for him. After two grueling recoveries, he says he lives with a constant reminder of how precious life is.
"It made me appreciate life a lot more. I think the one thing when people meet me, they say 'You are really happy. Why are you always so happy?' And I say, 'Because I woke up this morning. And I'm living and I'm breathing and I'm talking to you right now.' It's odd for someone in their 20s to be happy because they woke up in the morning and they're alive," Markazi said.
Being courageous enough to pursue a passion, strong enough to fight cancer twice, and just happy about breathing may be odd for a man so young. But Arash Markazi's humble outlook on life and contagious smile are exactly what has helped him overcome life's challenges.