So what’s it like to be a beat writer?

23 Comments

A great story from Eno Sarris, writing at The Hardball Times, about the life of baseball’s beat writers. He interviewed a handful of really good ones, including Nick Piecoro, C. Trent Rosecrans and Hank Shulman about their jobs. A nice summary at the end:

Maybe Piecoro sums it up best: “I love sitting in press box in San Francisco during day games. I love walking across the Clemente Bridge in Pittsburgh. I love putting on a jacket during night games in San Diego. I love looking out over the city from up high in the Wrigley Field press box.

“But, you know, there are annoying parts of the job, too. Deadlines. Transcribing interviews. Boring games, or games that last too long. Trying to create a storyline where there isn’t one.”

A lot of you will probably jump to the “how dare they complain! They have awesome jobs!” If you read this, though — and if you’ve had the privilege of talking to a lot of beat writers like I have — you know that most of them aren’t complaining when they talk about the hard parts of their job. They’re just stating facts. It’s a great job sometimes, it’s a pain in the butt sometimes. It’s like most jobs that way. I’ve really only ever heard a couple really complain in a serious way and those guys are not, surprise surprise, considered among the best at their jobs. And they don’t last too long either.

But I also can’t help but think that so much of what is a pain about the beat writers’ job is a function of a media paradigm that is antiquated at this point.  The deadlines and having to come up with storylines on the quick are a function of print media and print deadlines. In an increasingly online world those, one hopes, will go away eventually. The early flights and transcribing are likewise functions of a certain mindset in media. One that may be harder to shake than the existence of actual printing presses, but one which may be worth shaking all the same.

We’ve talked about this a lot over the years, but I feel like the model of beat writers doing game stories and getting player quotes is not the best way to deploy journalistic resources. If you had one guy doing deeper dives and more interesting stories that required player-reporter interaction, and someone else doing game analysis without relying on conventional game stories with (often empty and meaningless) player quotes, reporters wouldn’t have to stay up late to watch the game and then catch that early flight. The guy doing the transcribing wouldn’t have to rush to the press box to think about that night’s game. And, in the end, we’d have two great products from two people doing distinct jobs — or one guy doing both on less-crammed schedules — instead of a product often compromised by the nature of access and reporting.

Obviously it wouldn’t be an easy transition and many who are paid to think about this stuff for media companies have spent a long time trying to figure it out. But I remain fascinated with what sports reporting can be if we think less and less of the old newspaper model and move more and more to a form which follows the function of today’s technology and fan/consumer tastes rather than last century’s.

CC Sabathia won’t visit the White House if the Yankees win the World Series

Getty Images
7 Comments

Over the past couple of days the subject of athlete activism, always present to some degree in American sports, but recently revived by Colin Kaepernick and a few other football players in the form of silent protests during the National Anthem, exploded into a headline dominating news story. Lighting the fuse: President Trump directly inserting himself into the controversy.

He did so during a speech on Friday night and during a series of tweets Saturday and continuing into this morning in which he urged NFL owners to “fire” or suspend players who do not stand for the national anthem. He also attempted to disinvite the NBA champion Golden State Warriors from their traditional White House visit because of their star player Stephen Curry’s public opposition to him, though Curry had already said he wouldn’t go.

As Ashley wrote last night, the silent anthem protests have now come to baseball, with A’s catcher Bruce Maxwell becoming the fist player to kneel during the National Anthem. Before that, at least one baseball executive, Orioles Vice President John P. Angelos, came out strongly on the side of players and against Trump. Joe Maddon said some less-than-enlightened words on the matter. Major League Baseball issued a statement on the matter. It was, not surprisingly, somewhat empty, taking something of a both-sides-have-good-points tack. It’s understandable, I suppose. I suspect Major League Baseball and its owners would prefer to not have to comment on this at all. The league does not do this sort of controversy well.

Ballplayers, however, will likely continue to speak up. The latest: Yankees starter CC Sabathia, who was asked yesterday whether he would visit the White House if the playoff-bound Yankees won the World Series. From the Daily News:

“Never. I just don’t believe in anything that is Trump. So there wouldn’t be any reason for me to go at all. I just think it’s stupid. I just think it’s dumb that he’s addressing players and stuff that he shouldn’t be. But it is what it is, and that’s the country we live in these days . . . I’m proud of the way that everybody has Steph’s back and just athletes in general these days, the way everybody has been stepping up has been great.”

Baseball players, as we’ve noted many times over the years, tend to be a more conservative bunch than football or basketball players. There are a lot more white players and a lot more players from southern, suburban and exurban areas. A significant number of racial-ethnic minority players were not born in the United States, so U.S. politics may not necessarily preoccupy them the way it may players from the United States. As such, political protest like we’ve seen in the NFL and NBA was never going to start in baseball in 2017.

But that does not mean that it was not going to come to baseball. Contrary to what so many fans seem to think, sports do not exist inside some bubble into which the real world does not intrude. Athletes are citizens just like you and me with social, political and personal concerns just like you and me. And, at the moment, a government official is demanding that they lose their jobs because he does not agree with their political views and the manner in which they are expressed. I suspect most of us would get upset by that if it happened to us. Certainly a lot of people I know on the conservative side of the political expression worried about government overreach and freedom of speech. At least before January of this year.

So I am not at all surprised that baseball players like Sabathia are beginning to speak out. He will not be the last. Others will join him. Others, as is their right, will push back and say they disagree with him. If and when people feel inspired to tell them to “stick to sports,” or “stay in their lane,” perhaps they should ask why the President of the United States decided not to do so himself. And ask why he thinks it’s appropriate for athletes to lose their jobs for their political views and why private entities like the NFL should be patriotic institutions rather than businesses which put on sporting events.

 

Bruce Maxwell first MLB player to kneel during National Anthem

Getty Images
71 Comments

Athletics’ rookie catcher Bruce Maxwell did not stand for the National Anthem on Saturday night. He’s the first MLB player to do so and, like other professional athletes before him, used the moment to send a message — not just to shed light on the lack of racial equality in the United States, but to specifically protest President Donald Trump’s suggestion that NFL owners fire any of their players who elect to protest the anthem by sitting or kneeling.

“Bruce’s father is a proud military lifer. Anyone who knows Bruce or his parents is well aware that the Maxwells’ love and appreciation for our country is indisputable,” Maxwell’s agent, Matt Sosnick, relayed to the San Francisco Chronicle’s Susan Slusser on Friday. He continued:

Bruce has made it clear that he is taking a stand about what he perceives as racial injustices in this country, and his personal disappointment with President Trump’s response to a number of professional athletes’ totally peaceful, non-violent protests.

Bruce has shared with both me and his teammates that his feelings have nothing to do with a lack of patriotism or a hatred of any man, but rather everything to do with equality for men, women and children regardless of race or religion.

While Maxwell didn’t make his own statement to the media, he took to Instagram earlier in the day to express his frustration against the recent opposition to the protests, criticizing the President for endorsing “division of man and rights.”

Despite Trump’s profanity-laced directive to NFL owners on Friday, however, it’s clear the Athletics don’t share his sentiments. “The Oakland A’s pride ourselves on being inclusive,” the team said in a statement released after Maxwell’s demonstration. “We respect and support all of our players’ constitutional rights and freedom of expression.”

Whatever the fallout, kudos to Maxwell for taking a stand. He may be the first to do so in this particular arena, but he likely won’t be the last.