Over the next couple weeks I wanted to reflect on my experiences covering the Cleveland Cavaliers this past season as a sports blogger with press credentials. My aim is to explore the “role” of a sports blogger with “access” to the team they write about and follow, as opposed to my experiences as a “credentialed media member” this past season covering the Cavs. While I was that, and did that - in some senses - my goal is to work towards answering the question: if you are a sports blogger who is granted media access, what are you supposed to do when you’re there?
Press conferences, asking questions, and my arm hurting from holding a voice recorder for so long
Asking a question at a press conference is much harder than I ever thought it looked, and I’m not even talking about asking a good question either. I didn’t fully realize this until after a few games, and I quickly found a new respect for journalists and bloggers alike who do ask quality questions of the coaches and players they cover while standing amongst their peers. That is a developed skill, especially for those who ask the proverbial “tough questions”. I spent a car ride home after the first or second game marveling in my mind at people who I’ve seen on television invoke tearful responses to the questions they ask. I have no idea how they do that.
What I learned quickly, though, is that it is one thing to sit in your living room and tell your buddies that I would have definetely asked so-and-so this or that (as I did for years) while you’re watching that person stand there and answer a question somebody else asked them on television. It’s an entirely different thing to be the person who asks that question and generates the conversation while you’re standing directly in front of them. I should have known and appreciated this going in, but I didn’t.
As a result, the specific issues I had with asking questions during press conferences at first were two-fold:
The first was the thrill of being right there in the mix with all the beat writers, tv personalities, and radio hosts that I’d read, watched, and listened too overwhelming me to a point where it drowned out the person who those same people were actually talking to at the time. I basically spent the first couple pressers just looking around thinking to myself, oh hey that’s Bob Finnan; there’s Fred McLeod; Sam Amico’s standing right next to me, this is awesome. Which in turn led to no productive questions from this guy, because half-way through I wasn’t even sure what had been talked about up to that point.
The second issue was overcoming the fear that everybody was going to look over at me and laugh at how stupid my question was if I went and made the critical mistake of calling the crowd’s direct attention to myself by opening my mouth and making noise. Which is what I feared my first question would sound like, an inaudible noise.
So yeah, you’re right. I felt like a big pussy once I realized what the initial issues were that kept me standing there in silence for the first few games holding out an audio recorder, because everybody else was, that I never once uploaded. Time to make a move, I thought. This is getting pathetic. Now if only all the other people would stop asking the obvious, relevant, questions it would be a lot easier for me to chime in with my debut remarks.
Getting the first question out of the way, and going frome there: After the intial realization that I was in fact a card-carrying member of the media went from being cool in my mind to embarrassing that I was so pumped about it in the first place, I thought it time for me to ask a question. I made my mind up during the Atlanta Hawks game early on in the season that I was going to most definetely bring the noise post-game. I was asking a question.
That was the first step for me; actually making the decision that I was going to in fact ask a question. Didn’t know what yet, but I wasn’t leaving the Q that night until I asked somebody something. And in the same spirit of the brave 8-year old who’s learning how to ride a bike, I decided that I wouldn’t care if I fell on my face and everybody laughed at me. Fact is, nobody really knows who I am anyways, so who cares?
The Question – So, coach, can you talk about JJ Hickson’s night tonight: Truly riveting journalism, I know. JJ Hickson went for a career high against the Atlanta Hawks, and about three questions into the presser nobody asked Byron Scott about that yet. Here we go, I thought. I started up once and got cut off by somebody else on the other side of the room. “Coach, can you talk ab–” is as much as I got out.
No worries, I thought, gotta just go with it now. A couple questions later I found my opening and fired away.
Byron Scott in response on Hickson:
“He did a good job, he did a good job. Offensively he scored the ball, he got the basket, made his jump-shots. He did a real good job, he deserved to have one of those type of games tonight.”
And there it was, first question asked and answered.
My point in referencing this example: If you are a blogger with press credentials you owe it to yourself to become actively engaged while you’re covering a game through asking a question or two at the press conferences. Oh and nobody will laugh at you either so don’t be the huge pussy I found myself being at first. After I got my first question out of the way it wasn’t really a big deal at all anymore, and I’m sure others would say the same thing. Sure my question was about as obvious as it gets, and Byron didn’t really offer much in response, but I could not have cared less.
My buddy Todd was driving around and heard the audio on WTAM and called me because he recognized my voice. That was funny and cool, plus a couple people I know texted me when they heard it on FSO. I’m a dork, so that made it fun. It also made me comfortable to ask more questions as the season went on. I’m still trying to bring tears to somebody’s eyes though, maybe that will be next season.
A few notes on where I’m trying to go with this here: Part Four focuses on 1-on-1 Player Interviews, and that’s scheduled for Monday. I’m thinking there will be between Five to Seven Parts to this series too if you’re wondering about that, but in any event it will conclude by the end of next week. Thanks for reading along with me too if you are, I appreciate that.