Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Misconceptions of the job

Sportswriting might be the most misunderstood profession. In that vein, I'll try to address your most commonly asked questions and comments here:

1) Do you drink beer at the games?

No. Like most workplaces, the press box and media areas are alcohol free. Can you imagine being required to watch entire sporting events on a daily basis without so much as a taste of brew? Welcome to our world.

2) Does your wife/girlfriend/family member/friends go to the games with you?

No. Media credentials are non-transferable. Besides, I don't believe any of them would enjoy spending three hours watching me type.

3) I'm sorry your team lost.

Not to sound condescending, but we really don't care. Covering a winning team can make writing easier and the season pass more quickly, but it is largely irrelevant in our work. In fact, after a grueling 162-game schedule, a lot of writers would rather go on vacation than cover another three weeks of postseason games.

4) Your deadlines are at 4 a.m. so you can go home and write after a game.

Uh, try 10:30 to 11:00 p.m. Who do you think delivers the papers to your doorstep by 6 a.m. - Santa Claus? There are times when we have 15-20 minutes to finish, read-through and send a story before deadline. Sometimes less. It can be a harrowing experience, trust me.

5) Can you get me tickets to the big game?

Most reporters have no idea how/where to buy tickets. They attend games to work. Some may know who to contact within the organization regarding tickets but freebies are rare and often against the rules.

6) Are you friends with any of the players?

Some player/reporter relationships are better than others. But, journalism ethics requires us to be at arms-length. A print reporter would never want to endanger his/her objectivity by befriending athletes. The athletes/coaches are clients in a sense. They have information which is vital for us to perform our jobs effectively. It's a business relationship.

7) You get to watch games for free, awesome!

Yes, it's nice of them to not charge us admission to go to work. Keep in mind, we actually have to watch. No leaving early to beat the traffic. Whether it's 45-0 or in overtime, we have to stay until the end with responsibilities throughout. Depending upon the sport, we're usually at the stadium/ballpark hours before the game and heading home a couple of hours afterward.

8) You must know everything about the team(s) you cover.

Not even close. That's why we typically have a stack of media guides, game notes, rosters and stats piled high at all times. We're human. We look things up.

9) You must love what you do.

Yes, without question. It's like stealing money - most days.

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