How the Media Handles the New Guy

Breaking news at Red Sox spring training: A snake appears to have sneaked into the locker room. This is probably not the kind of news you would expect to hear about this Major League baseball team, but that is what Sports Illustrated reported this past Monday.

There are few things that are funnier than 200 pound professional athletes jumping on chairs or tables because of a reptile, but the true Red Sox fan would still wonder; What else happened at spring training on that day?

The author of the short SI piece was labeled as “Extra Mustard” to show that this was one of their many “bizarre and hilarious stories”. The sources of the news was the following tweet from Pete Abraham, the Red Sox beat writer for the Boston Globe.

While SI was “busy” covering the amusing stories, Abraham was in Fort Meyers covering every movement of the Sox, but more specifically baseball related movement: Joe Kelly’s sore muscles, the Red Sox losing to the Blue Jays, how well Mookie has been playing, and of course how the new guy from Arizona was holding up. From the starting rotation to the early season cuts, there are updates at least once a day. The articles range from analyzing an individual player to looking at the team as a unit.

On the first day of spring training Abraham reported the results of the Red Sox match-up versus the Minnesota Twins. This report was brief and included the score, strengths and weaknesses of the Sox, injured players, and the next game. A longer article followed in the same section and from that day on he has posted multiple articles from different perspectives. There are some days where there was no articles at all, but Abraham has been consistent with giving the general Red Sox fan all the information they need.

The wonderful thing about journalism in this age of digital media is that content can be distributed to anywhere; You can find Abraham on twitter in addition to his publications on the Globe site. His reporting is not limited to print, but can include social media, radio, and even television.

When someone searches for “Red Sox Spring Training” online they will most likely read the articles in the order of which publisher names sound familiar. For this most recent search those names might include: MLB.com, Sports Illustrated, CBS Boston, NESN, the Boston Globe,and maybe the Herald. All of these sources have some kind of coverage, but the Globe, Herald, and even NESN.com have individuals who primarily focus on the Red Sox.

My initial theory was that bigger companies like SI and ESPN would only cover the attention grabbing stories, but this is not the case. Even though SI did just write that 100 word post, ESPN does in fact, have a blogger that has been covering the Sox on a daily basis. The only other extensive coverage you can find on these teams will be from the local news outlets. Even though the team is currently in Florida, the only time another local outlets will pick up the story is if their local team is playing. Overall, smaller news outlets are able to give more material since their range of focus tends to be a little smaller.

I know you only read through this whole post to know what’s really going on at spring training so I won’t delay any further. According to Abraham, Wade Miley safely secure the reptile and transported it back to its natural habitat.

The new pitcher saved the day, but due to his performance at spring training the Red Sox fans are not yet impressed.

The Five Stages of Being a SuperFan 

I have often been told that I am the most loyal Boston College “Superfan” known to ever walk this earth; what I think they meant was, “the only person who believes in Boston College athletics even in the bad times.” (Yes, I predicted BC football would beat No.9 USC this past season. I had this whole theory about how the weather would mess with their brains.) Either way, it came as a surprise to most when this week I predicted that we would lose in the second round of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament to North Carolina — and I was right.

There comes a time in every most fan’s lives when reality hits them and they come to their senses. The voice of reason finds it’s way into their hearts and explains that, “True loyalty is remaining a fan even when you know they might–will– disappoint you–again.”

My freshman year, BC basketball consisted of a squad of nine freshman under the leadership of Junior guard, Matt Humphrey and a few others. Humphrey averaged 10.3 points per game, but what really stood out was that the rookie, Ryan Anderson, topped that with 11.2 ppg. Those numbers were not that great, but seeing that it was his freshman year there was only room for improvement, right?

The first stage.

Denial.

Ryan Anderson’s average increased to 14.9 ppg that next year. Olivier Hanlan, contributed his own 15.4 pg, and impressed the Atlantic Coast Conference, by earning the conference’s “Rookie of the Year” award that season. But don’t basketball teams usually have five players on the court? Of course not everyone can be –needs to be– in the spotlight, but there was not that much improvement in the second year. As a result the second stage was activated.

Anger.

Year three was rough. BC fell to No.14 in the ACC with their 4-14 season record. Hanlan’s scoring average improved to 18.5 ppg, while Anderson’s dropped to 14.3 ppg. But there was barely anyone else that could be relied on. It must also be noted that these numbers are in no way reflective of the way BC played.

Thus the bargaining stage. I must mention that we did beat No.1 Syracuse 62-59 in overtime, which proved we were getting better. So even though we lost 14 games, that specific win proved that we had value.

I cannot say that I suffered from severe depression, as most do in stage four, but I can say I became sad. Apparently a lot of other people were sad too — or maybe still in the “anger” stage — because that was the end of Donahue’s career as head coach. *I’m sure he was sad as well*

And so began the era of Jim Christian.

As you can probably tell by now, this story doesn’t get much better. The graduate students, Aaron Brown, and Dimitri Batten made a positive impact on BC’s game, but they along with Hanlan’s ever-improving 19.5 record, still were not enough.  The change of energy and style from the Eagles was evident, but it was only enough to land us at No.13 in a 15 team conference.

There are many factors to explain why four years could not create the team that a fan would hope for and sometimes that’s just how college sports work: Players transfer, others get injured, the recruits do not fulfill the program’s needs, coaching changes confuse the players, the team does not have the athleticism needed to compete, the lack of a viable bench limits the team during games, and the list goes on.

It took me four years, but the biggest lesson that can be learned from college sports is to accept the team you will root, flaws and all, and hope for the future. When you come to that final stage of acceptance, that is when you have become a true super-fan.

When this happens you will also have the clarity of mind to know that Virginia will, without a doubt, beat Duke in the ACC tournament. You will then proceed to secretly cheer for UVA– because it’s the right thing to do.

The Many Roads to Success

There is no conventional path to a successful career in sports writing.The parody of a journalist’s life is that just like the stories they write, their career paths cannot compare to any other. Oftentimes younger journalists look to the advice of the experienced to guide them along the way, but there is only so much that one can be taught. Indeed there are technicalities that must be learned, but journalism is how one communicates to the world in a unique fashion.

One example is the journey of the now retired sports journalist, Steven Krasner. Krasner’s 33 year long career began in 1986 at the Providence Journal, spending 22 of those years covering the Red Sox.

Though there is no template for the life of a writer, it should be realized that a lot can be learned from those who have had successes in the field.  When interacting with athletes, managers and coaches on a daily basis, Krasner pointed out that “everyone has a personality”. Despite the pedestal these individuals may be mounted on, it is often forgotten that these celebrities have personalities just like us.

During his time as a beat journalist, Krasner realized that it was beneficial to cultivate relationships with the people he would be interviewing in a daily basis. After building a trust with them, he was not only “treated like a regular”, but he was able to “get a more in depth answer” at times when he needed it most.One of the greatest affirmation a beat writer can receive is “you belong.” It took some time, but after writing with a team for as long as Krasner did, if the job is done right, the writer becomes a part of that family.

Though no two journalists are alike there are tips that every writer should abide by and Kranser emphasized the importance of fact checking. Though it may appear self-explanatory, it is very important that one checks their facts with multiple sources before publishing. In this age of social media it is easy for people to spread rumors in 140 characters or less. By the time it is confirmed that the President is in fact, NOT dead, the nation is already in mourning and the funeral has commenced. Though a little dramatic, social media and other forms of communication are very powerful so for the sake of one’s credibility it is VERY important that everything that is printed is undoubtedly true.

Style cannot be taught, but as a writer it is necessary that the audience is able to understand the message being portrayed. Krasner’s advice, “don’t have the reader make ‘the face’.”  Every word that is written must have a purpose, and the message should be clear the first time it is read.

There are many areas of journalism, and within those areas many things to talk about but as Kranser put it, “you as the writer have to decide” what is most important. Editors want to publish what they think the people want to read, but journalists are responsible for writing what they believe the audience needs to know. There are many roads to a career in journalism, but it appears that the most successful journalists find the paths that work best for them