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The glamorous life of a sportswriter, Part a trillion

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by Della9250, Dec 4, 2017.

  1. Jake_Taylor

    Jake_Taylor Well-Known Member

    About a decade ago I worked at a 30K paper with a minor league team and a NASCAR track in the coverage area. They would send somebody to Florida for a few weeks every February to cover spring training and Daytona.

    On the VA/NC border, we would staff six different ACC teams pretty regularly and go to bowl games and the NCAA Tournament.

    It's hard to even fathom now. I think that paper has one sports person left.
     
  2. Michael_ Gee

    Michael_ Gee Well-Known Member

    Nobody was cheaper than the Herald. After pinky swear promising we'd have two rooms, me and colleague Steve Harris had one in Sydney. That's three weeks sharing a space for one (they'd paid for a single). Was I happy? No. Did I care? Fuck no. I was in Sydney for the Olympics. Harris and I worked it out. He lived on Boston time and I lived on Sydney time. I wrote one I hope funny column about how weird the time difference was before the Games actually began and then it was life as usual. Never complain, never explain -- especially when you have a legit complaint or explanation.
     
    stix likes this.
  3. stix

    stix Active Member

    No shit. Good on you for your work, but that's how it should be done. ESPECIALLY now, if you want papers to even spring for an $80 hotel that has a decent work space for a night or two and isn't a total shithole, you'd better show them you can produce.

    I remember covering a state baseball tourney early in my tenure as a reporter out of college. We had teams in 3 different divisions there, and I was writing gamers, sidebars and previews for the next day's proceedings each night, plus a couple of A1 stories for teams that won the title. I think I must've filed like 10-12 stories in 3 days, but I didn't mind. One team lost its first game, but the other 2 won their respective titles. One featured a perfect game in the semis by a local kid, and the next day the other team won the title in an extra-innings marathon that's one of the craziest games I've covered to this day.

    AND, each night after I was done filing, I went out drinking pretty hard, because it was in a college town with a good bar scene. Cannot imagine doing that today, the body is very resilient at 22.

    I hear what you're saying about travel. I prefer to be closer to the office these days, too. Although I have a 4-year-old who I'm usually watching during weekdays before work because my wife works a full-time 9 to 5, so the occasional overnight trip to cover a game and the accompanying peace and quiet when I'm done working isn't too bad!

    I do some stringing for NFL games a handful of times per year as part of a side gig I got awhile ago. It's in TV and pays extremely well, so I love it, but it's easily a 12-hour day when you factor the driving. Those are long ones.
     
    cjericho likes this.
  4. stix

    stix Active Member

    It's crazy, isn't it?

    We used to staff every home game for the state NFL team, every home game for football and men's basketball for the large state university. That stopped awhile ago, but with all the wire services available and the fact that fans of those sports obviously aren't waiting for the next day's paper for their info, it would be suicide to cover those expenses.

    In the 2015 NFL Draft, we had 2 players who are close friends and both starred at one of our local high schools picked in the first round. It was one of those once-in-a-lifetime events, something we'll almost surely never see again. Fortunately, that was the first time the draft was held in Chicago, which is easy driving distance for us, so the one-night stay was fine.

    But had it been in NY, I often wonder what we would've done. It would've been almost criminal not to cover that. I did a massive oral history on how those guys (plus another kid, who was a late-round draft prospect that year from another local school but didn't get picked) grew up playing sports here, did just tons of interviews.

    I'm so glad the draft was in Chicago, or I fear we would've sat it out.
     
  5. wicked

    wicked Well-Known Member

    If it's the paper I'm thinking about, that was one of the perks -- that you got to do that stuff and network/work toward Step 2. If I were 23 or 24 now and didn't have an amazing gig or one in the works I'd be done.
     
  6. albert777

    albert777 Active Member

    The only time I ever felt like complaining about travel was in 2014 at the state high school football state championships. That was the first year Mississippi moved the finals out of Jackson to one of the universities, in this case at MSU, a 3-hour drive from home. We had three teams playing in three different finals, two on Friday (at 3 and 7) and one on Saturday at 11. Because we had back-to-back games on Friday, there were two of us who drove up there. One of us would do the gamer and the other the sidebar from the 2A game at 3, then we'd flip roles for the 6A game at 7 (which involved the biggest school in our area). And, because we had the first game on Saturday, we needed to get a room in Columbus (about 20 miles from Starkville) for Friday night.

    First game went off OK; my partner went down to get his quotes for the gamer while I stayed in the press box and wrote the sidebar. About 6:30, we noted the large, ominous bank of really dark clouds moving in from the northwest. Might get wet, we thought. The 7 o'clock game kicked off on time, and the receiving team went right down the field for an easy touchdown drive. As they were lined up to kick off, a lightning strike nearby knocked the power out to the entire campus, plunging the stadium into complete darkness, followed almost immediately by an absolute deluge, which was, in turn, followed by more lightning strikes in the area. An hour passed, then two, without a decision on when the game might be restarted. I finally went down to the field -- with it still raining hard, but without the lightning -- to find out what I could from the powers-that-be for the school I was covering.

    Finally, at 10:30, the decision was made to postpone the game until Sunday at 3. We discussed our options among ourselves and with the ME, whether to get another night at the motel we were at or drive back Saturday afternoon and return on Sunday. Honestly, there was really no decision to be made. We'd only packed enough clothes for one night, and there was no way we could wear the same clothes Sunday we'd had on Friday, because everything had gotten soaking-wet. So we drove 3 hours back home after the 11 o'clock game Saturday and rode back up there Sunday, covered the rest of the 6A game, wrote our stories and drove back Sunday night. If it hadn't been our biggest school, we might have just taken the story off the wire, but there was no way we could have gotten away with a wire story for that team. So we sucked it up and did what we had to do.

    And, yes, we did get overtime.
     
    Batman likes this.
  7. bumpy mcgee

    bumpy mcgee Well-Known Member

    My only issue with travel is that it takes about two months and multiple calls up the chain to get reimbursed for expenses.
     
  8. Batman

    Batman Well-Known Member

    I remember that well. It was pretty awesome seeing the fans light up the darkened stadium with their cellphones right after the power went out (which, as it always seems to, happened between plays; how come it never happens when the ball is in the air on a deep pass?)
    My co-worker and I were up there covering the 1A game that started at 11 a.m. Friday. I had to write my stories AND do layout from the pressbox because we had an early deadline that day and the ME that would've handled layout in that situation was tied up with news pages,. We worked right through the 3A game and had just finished about 10-15 minutes before the power went out during the 6A game. We got the hell out of Dodge as the storm was moving in and only got a couple of rain sprinkles on the windshield as we headed out of town.
    I remember a lot of people being understandably pissed that they didn't finish that game on Friday night, or at least Saturday morning, even though there was no way it was happening.
     
  9. Bamadog

    Bamadog Well-Known Member

    The worst trip I had to what was once called the Gator Bowl. My 12K (at least it was then) sent me to Jacksonville to cover Mississippi State and my wife and I rented an SUV and drove 10 hours. Had a great time. We get to game time, everything is great and a long-time friend advises me to avoid the chicken in the hospitality suite. I eat a hot dog instead. After the game wraps, I crank out four stories (three for that day's paper, one more as a folo) and then I feel a rumbling in my stomach. I'm not concerned at this point.

    My wife and I stay overnight since the game ends in the afternoon and I start feeling very sick, like a hydrogen bomb went off in my stomach. I get the worst diarrhea you could ever imagine. I end up sleeping on the bathroom floor at our hotel because I have to go every 5 minutes or so. We get on the road and my poor wife has to stop every 10 minutes so I can encamp upon the porcelain throne. The 10 hour drive takes nearly 12 hours, but my stomach finally recovers after we return home.

    I don't miss the travelling for work. I don't miss the 15 hour day that a trip to one of our state's three FBS programs entail, especially if it's a ESPN or CBS SEC game. I'm glad my travelling is strictly limited now and I don't have to worry about food poisoning from press box food.
     
    maumann likes this.
  10. playthrough

    playthrough Moderator Staff Member

    I had a part-time tourism gig for a while where I traveled around Florida to play golf and blog about it. Best job I've ever had or will have. But there was one trip to Panama City where I spent the entire time within arm's length of the toilet. Must have been something I ate the night before I left or en route, because I played a few holes on arrival and could barely stand up, then at dinner with an old high school friend I had to excuse myself to throw up and barely made it to the men's room. Rest of the trip was spent in my hotel room, and I'm not really sure how I made the long drive home.

    So yeah, glamorous life of the travel writers, too.
     
    maumann likes this.
  11. maumann

    maumann Well-Known Member

    I can commiserate completely, playthrough.

    While with NASCAR.com, I set up a trip to Denver and Furniture Row Racing for a longform piece on how they deal with loading and unloading their hauler after the Daytona 500. Was really looking forward to seeing friends while there and taking in the sights.

    Flew from Atlanta to Denver on that Sunday and while waiting for the rental car bus, started feeling queasy and feverish. Was lucky to make it to the hotel room before everything wanted out. I got uncontrollable shivers from the fever, so it seemed like hours before the Tylenol kicked in. There was nothing else I could do but sip water and drive the porcelain bus, and try to watch some of the race (that was the year Montoya took out the track dryer and started a huge fire). After ruining the bedsheet (poor housekeeping people), I spent the rest of the night napping on a skinny bath towel and dry heaving.

    I've not been that sick since getting the Hong Kong Flu in 1967 on a family trip to San Francisco. I promised myself I'd never throw up again after that, which is probably why I don't drink alcohol. Well, Denver ended that streak.

    So the next morning, I made it to the shop. I'm trying to conduct interviews with all these important people while alternately freezing and burning up and trying not to soil myself. I probably spent more time in their bathroom than watching the proceedings because of the nausea and diarrhea. They invited me out for lunch at a Chinese restaurant, where I politely ate about five bites and excused myself to ralf it up. Called my friends and cancelled. Instead, just went back to the hotel where I got room service to bring me crackers and unbuttered toast.

    I'm certain the guys at Furniture Row still think I'm some strange kook with bulimia issues. But I got through it and wrote the story.

    Postscript: Found out later that the plane I got on in Atlanta had come from Caracas, where cruise ship passengers infected with the norovirus had flown back to the U.S., and I was lucky enough to sit in a seat where I picked up the bug on the way to Denver. Had I been more coherent, I would have gone to the local emergency room for an examination and fluids because I was so dehydrated by then. Even as much as 12 months later, any kind of dairy product would set it off again. Got sick in Las Vegas at the NASCAR banquet in November and realized the chef had put cream and butter in the mashed potatoes.

    And no, I didn't whine on social media.

    For travel expenses, Concur is the devil incarnate. (If you don't know what Concur is, you're fortunate.)
     
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