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Sportswriters who are friends with the players

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by FantasyAlliance.cm, Nov 21, 2006.

  1. Kaylee

    Kaylee Member

    I think we'd all agree that being friendly, or at least cordial, is a lot more helpful when it comes to breaking news and developing sources than channeling a DMV worker.

    But players and scribes both need to understand that there is, ideally, a degree of separation.

    I remember a juco basketball player I did a feature on. Nice kid, real emotional, overcame a lot to play ball. A week later, he leads his team to a post-season win over the No. 3 ranked team in the nation. After the initial celebration - BOOM - dude runs over and grabs me in a bear hug as I'm getting up from the media table.

    It was a little awkward, not to mention the fact that I nearly soiled myself. You may think you know how armpits smell after 40 minutes of basketball, but trust me, you don't.
  2. friend of the friendless

    friend of the friendless Active Member

    Sirs, Madames,

    A couple of interesting cases:

    Two of my friends from childhood became prominent in the perspiring arts.

    One, who was 115 pencil-necked pounds in Grade 10, became a starting quarterback in NCAA Div 3 and a long-time CFL player (runner-up in the Schenleys). Wrote one thing about him ... took offence to a couple of lines, very frosty for a year, but got over it.

    Another is a coach in major junior, has been for years.

    Both were my friends before. Both remain friends and will do so. I never gave either special consideration. I never asked for anything special from them ... they both volunteered stuff without me prompting.

    A couple of past players became good friends while I worked the beat.

    One ex-Leaf had daughters the same age as mine, they met at a practice at the Gardens and we did father's day-out with them. He called me out of the blue one day--he got my home number out of the media guide and said he wanted to catch a junior game, later dragged me to a NHLPA golf tournament. He wanted to get into the media when he was through (and did precisely that). A smart guy who was bored by most of his blockheaded team-mates. (I learned more about the game sitting next to him than I would from reading the collected works of Al Strachan.)

    Another guy was on the Sens--oldest guy on the team, knew he was playing out the string. On the last road trip of the season (NY, thank god) he didn't want to hang out with the Euros so we grabbed a few beers. Yup, he wanted to talk about working in the media even though he was planning on going to teachers' college. Now he does a bit of media as a sideline.

    It's tough to manage ... sorta like a cop being friends with criminals ... if you don't ask them to rat, you're more likely to get something useful.

    YHS, etc
  3. Double J

    Double J Active Member

    Blasphemy! You dare to disparage the man "whose insider hockey connections are second to none"?
  4. Vic Mackey

    Vic Mackey Member

    I had a great relationship with the (since-fired) general manager of the NBA team in my market. (We still keep in contact even though he is with another organization.) I will never forget when the team won its first playoff series under his stewardship. We're sitting there waiting for the room to open, when he pops out with a huge grin on his face. He sees me and raises his hand for a high-five.

    In that moment, I have a decision to make. Embarrass him by leaving him hanging, or embarrass myself by high-fiving. I put out my arm in a handshake grip. He accepted that without complaint. But I do remember how awkward I felt at that instant.
  5. skippy05

    skippy05 Member

    I would say you see it even more in NASCAR. Granted, there are fewer full-time writers/reporters who cover the sport full-time, but those who do are at the track with these drivers almost nine months a year. You would almost HAVE to become friendly with one another at some point. Granted, I don't cover the sport full-time, but I do have two drivers I'm fairly friendly with. Not necessarily "Hey, let's go hang out and party" but the kind of friendly that ensures I get the one-on-one whenever I need it and a decent meal at their hauler when the media center food sucks...

    I can, however, definitely see the objectivity issue being a problem. Of the two drivers I mentioned above, one is a pretty big name and still encourages me to call his cell whenever I need an interview. The other is sorta big (just got a pretty good deal at the end of the season) and I've worked with his family for a couple years, starting as the publicist for a family member, then helping said driver with some well-placed "leaks" to get him a better deal. Have I compromised my integrity with these drivers? Probably and I regret it to a point, but it has also allowed me access to information I wouldn't have gotten anywhere else and allows my work, whether print or broadcast, to be better.

    The other problem as far as drivers are concerned is when they die. I was a friend of Paul Dana's. You don't know what misery is until you've watched a good friend die over and over on television. I absolutely could not be objective about how he died. Again, maybe I lost some journalistic integrity by doing so, but I can also say in that case, I was a friend of Paul's before he started racing in the big-time and before I started covering motorsports.

    At the end of the day, you have to weigh your options. If my one job were to cover the St. Louis Rams and I became beer buddies with Scott Linehan, that would be inappropriate. My being friends with a couple NASCAR drivers may proclude me from being completely objective about two guys, but I feel I can still cover the sport effectively.
  6. RedSmithClone

    RedSmithClone Active Member

    Not saying it's a good thing, because it actually makes me a little sick about what went on to get the info. But without befriending players, including No. 4, Russ Conway never would have gotten enough good info to bring down Alan Eagleson.
  7. kingcreole

    kingcreole Active Member

    I get along with almost every coach/player at my current beat. The women's basketball coach and I have had a few beers a couple times and I drove him home when he was drunk once. He's a good guy, but I will never, ever, compromise my writing style just because he and I have hung out a couple of times. If his team has a bad game (like last night), I'm writing about it. Luckily, he's the kind of guy who understands that, like him, I have a job to do too.

    The former football coach at the school I cover got along great with me. Even after I got him suspended for a game for quoting him on blasting the referees. Guess I've been lucky.
  8. ronalong

    ronalong Guest

    I know of a writer; who was just two years out of J-school, who befriended a hot-shot baseball prospect at a private school in his papers coverage area. He wrote some pretty glowing stuff about the kid, but the players numbers were amazing, unbeaten pitching record, less than half-a-run ERA, ect. Anyway, I was told by the writer the kid was pretty cool and they hung out and talked on the phone quite a bit.
    Just weeks after the kid graduates, the writer gets a call from the kid's dad, who just happens to be the publisher of a larger newspaper just across town. He's offered a job on the phone without an interview. He takes it, it was a raise of 60 bucks a week. The writer told me the kid never told him who is old man was. The old man liked what my buddy wrote and wanted to offer him a job before, but waited until the kid was done with school. I nicknamed my buddy, "Suck-up." He laughs when I call him that because he really didn't know who the kid's dad was.
    I try not to get too friendly with players since that happened. Several other writers and SE in our part of the state know the story and most of them think he knew who the kids dad was and befriended him on purpose. I don't agree, but I can see why they might feel that way.
  9. Smasher_Sloan

    Smasher_Sloan Active Member

    It usually winds up about being about things bigger than a bad game.
  10. Boobie Miles

    Boobie Miles Active Member

    I can't imagine many athletes are interested in being friends with a writer who has a bigger ego than theirs.
  11. Twoback

    Twoback Active Member

    I am friendly/friends with a lot of people who are far wealthier than me. If you draw the line regarding whom you will befriend at whether or not the two of you share the same tax bracket, you are a sad individual.
  12. Scribbling

    Scribbling New Member

    I've become friends with plenty of the players that I've covered (college), but I didn't become very close with any of them for professional purposes while they are playing.

    I've become better friends with a handful after they moved on, either graduated or to the pros. I don't cover them anymore, so why shouldn't I be friends with them.
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