With this column, I mark a milestone that is the writer equivalent of the 50-year wedding anniversary or the 100th birthday: I have been gainfully employed as a columnist for 10 years.

Of course, it depends on your definition of gainful.

"Tell me why I shouldn't reduce your pay," my editor opened a phone conversation recently.

It was her way of saying congratulations.

It also depends on your definition of employment.

When he was younger, my son might have wondered, upon returning from a hard day at elementary school, why his dad was padding around the house in his skivvies while all the other dads were at a place called work.

If I'm lying on the couch staring into space, a reasonable question might be, "Hey, Dad, wanna throw the football around?" To which a reasonable answer might be, "Can't you see Daddy's working?"

He can be forgiven for thinking layabout is a synonym for columnist.

I wanted to be a columnist since I was young enough to want to be something. Of course, last column I said I wanted to be a pilot all my life. Next column I'll say I always wanted to be a rock-and-roll star. As it happens, all of them are true.

But columnist is the truest.

I learned about this strange occupation by reading the sports pages. As a boy growing up in suburban Philadelphia back in the Sixties, I loved sports. The City of Brotherly Love was, and remains, legendary for its sports passion, although some might call it boorish, obnoxious, brutalizing hatefulness. Semantics. You say tomato. I say, "Hey, you wanna make somethin' of it?"

Fans in Philly have thrown batteries at players and hurled snowballs at Santa Claus. The city's sports franchises have responded to this tough-love approach to fandom with one colossal failure after another.