Why I stopped covering baseball—a true story

Seven years ago, I was living the dream. My dream.

As a boy, all I had wanted to do with my life was work for Sports Illustrated. And there I was, barely 30-years old and doing exactly that. I was a baseball writer—contributing cover stories, reporting from the infield of Dodger Stadium, traveling from one exciting place to another with the singular task of profiling the game’s elite players. One week it would be J.D. Drew. The next, Gary Sheffield. The next, Mike Sweeney. It was everything I ever wanted.

And yet …

I couldn’t take it. I could. Not. Take. It.

I enjoyed the games and dug the travel and loved the banter with my fellow sports writers. But after roughly five years on the beat, I could not stomach any more cliches and meaningless blather. Literally, I would hear such nonsense coming from players and managers (“Well, you just have to play hard and hope for the best.”) and exit the clubhouse in disgust. I was especially annoyed by many of my peers (mostly those in TV and radio), who fed into the mind numbings by tossing out unambiguously lame questions, then nodding along to the equally lame answers. For most of my colleagues, a love for the sport was enough to keep the car running. Tom Verducci, SI’s unparalleled baseball scribe, lived for the intricacies of the action. So did guys like Ty Kepner, Bob Nightengale, Ken Rosenthal, etc.

But not me.

I love baseball, but my passion is reporting and writing. So I left—never to return to the magazine pages.

I’m only bringing this up, by the way, because I was just watching a bit of Joe Girardi’s post-game press conference on ESPN News, thinking, “Thank goodness I’m not there.”

Thank goodness.

4 thoughts on “Why I stopped covering baseball—a true story”

  1. Jeff,

    I can SO relate to this post (from a college and minor league standpoint).

    For the last eight years I’ve been a freelance sportswriter for the newspaper in my town (Kalamazoo, MI). I covered the Frontier League baseball team for five seasons, but after last year — the games, the grind, the quotes; hell, even the feature stories are the same in a way, just the names change — I told the paper to pass the beat along to someone (an intern, a younger staffer) who could probably get more out of it (I’m 29).

    I love hockey and was fortunate enough to cover Western Michigan and the CCHA for three seasons until now, but the team sucks, the coach is an asshole and the experience took every ounce of creativity and patience I had.

    This is the first year I’ve covered neither, instead offering up my services to a great new local sports magazine (in addition to corporate work to pay the bills).

    I guess I’m spewing (sorry), but my point is, uh, I’m with you on the quotes and the lack of depth that sports seems to have. I love sports, but when you get such a behind-the-curtain look day after day after day, it really wears you down (I also worked in the front office of the local minor league hockey team).

    I’ve thought it would be cool to make it to The Show in some capacity, but I can imagine — and your post sort of confirms it — that the only things that change are the names, the teams, the cities and the money.

    Anyway, great post.

  2. I realize that the chicken came before the egg here–athletes were dull before sportswriters–but couldn’t we change the situation somehow.

    As you say, the reporters toss off the stupidest nothing questions and then actually write down the answer! Why? Well, obviously I guess they can’t say that Girardi was really hoping they would win that game unless Girardi actually says it, so they have to prime him to say it in order to fill in the mad-libs sports column on their laptop. But come on, we know he wanted them to win! Can’t we assume?!

    So that’s what I’m wondering. Can we begin assuming what athletes want, collectively, and go from there. So that we can say, without a quote to source, that Kobe was hoping to get an opportunity to win, and move on from there. It would make press conferences shorter and locker room tape recorders fewer, and that would be a good thing.

    Plus, the beat writers would have to turn their brains back on, and that would be good as well.

  3. It is mind numbing and you are of way better use to your fans where you are now.

    Being a basbeall beat writer is as Admiral Ackbar might say, “a trap”.

  4. Jeff, you have to learn how to cowboy up. Just come out, take them one at a time, stay within yourself, don’t think too much and trust your writing. You can’t write tomorrow’s story today, you just have to do what Jeff can do.

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