The suckiness of being a sports writer: II

Was sorta shocked that a post I wrote two days ago about the lameness of most sports press conferences generated a modest amount of buzz. Sometimes you write things and everybody stirs. Other times you write things and nobody listens.

One never knows.

Anyhow, I wanted to elaborate a tad. The post-game press conferences are, sadly, necessary, and actually important to most print journalists. Not for the reason, however, that you might think. Generally speaking, those press conferences draw:

A. TV people needing quick soundbites.

B. Lazy/inexperienced print journalists with little interest in elaboration.

C. Radio boobs.

For writers, this can actually work out quite well, especially if the press conference takes place and the locker room/clubhouse is open simultaneously. It allows for a 10-minute window when writers can speak to players without getting slammed in the head with a TV camera or—100 times worse—having Biff Smith from KRST-Tulsa shove his mic in the middle of your one-on-one interview with Superstar Roy to ask, “Roy, what was the difference between the first and second half tonight?”

Man, that’s the worst—and I don’t know a print person who’d disagree on this one. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been doing an interview, only to have some schmuck barge in and peel off one useless, cliched question after another. Come to think of it, they’re rarely questions. It often goes like this:

• “Talk about that ninth inning …”

• “Santana really had his stuff working tonight …”

• “You guys seem to be on a good roll right now …”

When this happens, I actually enjoy watching the “reporters” (quotes intended) more than the athletes. Most TV and radio people have perfected the auto head-bob. Seriously, watch an ESPN halftime interview. Bruce Pearl could literally reply to “Coach, what separates the two teams?” with, “One night, when I was 7, I ate a dead emu then brushed my toe cheese with its bones,” and the interviewer would automatically nod and move on to Question 2. They don’t even listen to the responses. Like, never. Ever.

I’ve told this story before, and it’s 100 percent true. Back in 2001 I was a baseball writer at Sports Illustrated. I was covering Game 4 of the Diamondbacks-Yankees World Series in New York. The SI folk were stationed in the auxiliary right field press box—it was myself, Steve Cannella, Tom Verducci and, I think, Jamal Green. Anyhow, at some point in the second inning my stomach started doing the funky chicken, to the point where I had to leave (I wasn’t writing for that night, so it was no biggie). I took the subway back to the apartment I shared with my then-girlfriend (now known here as the wife) and watched the remained of the game on TV.

Even though it turned out to be a classic, classic, classic World Series contest (Yanks won on late homers by Tino Martinez and Derek Jeter), I was elated not to be there. Why? Because I so loathed the post-game rituals. The canned answers. Joe Torre at the podium. The swinging TV cameras. The crush. That was the moment, actually, when I first started thinking about leaving SI.

Because if you’re happy not being at Game 4 of the World Series, something’s wrong …

PS: Obviously, being a sports writer is far from sucky. And I love doing books. Love it.

1 thought on “The suckiness of being a sports writer: II”

  1. Keith Ryan Cartwright

    I was doing a one-on-one last season when some local stuck his recorder in for some sound. He didn’t ask anything. He just wanted to steal my quotes. I acted like I didn’t notice him standing to my right, grabbed my recorder my left hand and then flinched my left elbow, which — oops — “accidentally” knocked his recorder out of his hand and down on the dirt. Mean? I know. Inappropriate? Perhaps. But I wan’t to protect my interview.

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