How the SI kid reminded us why we cover sports

There’s a stereotype among sports beat writers. Cranky curmudgeons. Some fit the bill, some don’t. I can understand how it happens. When you watch games day after day, sports don’t have the same joy they used to. But if your lack of joy in his profession causes you to criticize a kid in a press conference, you need to rethink why you’re doing the job in the first place.

Last night, Sports Illustrated had a kid reporter ask some questions in the Florida and South Carolina postgame press conferences. His name was Max, and I’m sure he spent all day coming up with his questions. And they were good! Definitely Sawatsky-approved. (ESPNers will get the reference). Here’s his question to South Carolina coach Frank Martin:

Q. Your team clearly won the defensive battle tonight. When you coach and teach your team defense, what’s more important, technique or attitude?

FRANK MARTIN: First of all, a lot of respect to you. That’s a heck of a question. I’ve been doing this a long time and that’s the first time anyone’s ever asked me that. That’s a heck of a question.

 

Later that night during Florida’s presser, he asked these questions to Kevaughn Allen:

Q. Congratulations on an outstanding OT win and a career night. I know you have a strong relationship with your momI believe she was here tonight. How much did that mean to you?

KEVAUGHN ALLEN: It means a lot when she comes to the game, just knowing that she can’t get to all the games when we’re in Gainesville. And her coming tonight means a lot.

Q. How much credit do you give her for your career night?

KEVAUGHN ALLEN: She raised me the right way, so I give her all the credit for the night, just the way that she raised me and just the young man that I grew up to be.

A great day for Max! Until some beat writer for South Carolina decided that this wasn’t the place or time for that kind of question.

David Caraviello of the Charleston Post and Courier tweeted:

SI for KIds reporter is cute and all, but not a fan of an off-topic question at 1 am when beat writers are trying to pull gamers together.

I take issue with this for several reasons:
1. It’s 1 am. Your game story has already been printed. You’re just updating for the web.
2. Max’s question cost you 60 seconds on your deadline. I’m sure you can explain that to your editor.
3.  Why is it off topic? Because everyone in the room wanted to write about Chiozza’s last second shot?  Maybe if we listened more, instead of just plugging in quotes to fill stories, we’d find better stories. Too often those postgame pressers are used to fill 25 seconds on a nightly newscast or plug into a game story because you feel like you needed a quote. I’ve got no idea what Chiozza said last night about the shot. I don’t know what Mike White or his teammates said about it. I could probably guess, and get half the quote right. But because of Max’s question, I want to know about Allen’s relationship with his mom.
4. That question is better than half the ones asked in a normal presser. It wasn’t a “yes-no” question, and it didn’t start with “talk about….”
5. Really? You’re that angry about the kid’s question that you’re going to complain about it to your 13,000 followers?
I get it. You’re on deadline. You’re tired, you’ve been on the road for a few days, and the lasagna in the press room tastes like cardboard. You want your quote, and you don’t want to hear some feature-y question. But if your frustration and lack of joy in this job makes you tweet about a 10-year-old living out his dream of being a sports writer, you need to find a new profession. Or just take a long vacation.  David probably never got the chance to sit in a presser when he was a kid, and get to ask some of the best coaches in the country about their defense. If he did, it probably would have made his year.
I don’t mean to just criticize David. There were a few writers out there with the same comments. And I’m not meaning to be on some high-horse. I’ve definitely been the curmudgeon at times. I’ve been that anchor trying to fit the 25 second sot I already produced into my show.
It’s a nice a reminder that this job should still be fun. There are kids who dream about having our kind of jobs.
So don’t poop on that kid’s joy, because you’ve lost yours.

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