At first, I thought he was trying to tell me something. Did he catch me cheering for the Seguin High School Matadors or the Texas Lutheran University Bulldogs? I had thought I was trying to stay neutral, even though I was “quietly” rooting for both teams.
Those of us who write sports know that you’re not supposed to be cheering in the press box. But I took his advice and checked out the book at the Seguin library.
Holtzman, a Chicago sports writer, interviewed 44 fellow sports writers and asked each of them to recount their days covering sports. My rival friend just wanted me to read a good baseball book.
Holtzman’s book is a wonderful account of how sports writers plied their trade back in the day. It was much different then.
As late as the 1950s, Major League Baseball teams were still traveling by train. So that meant that teams sometimes would be on the train for more than a day, traveling between New York and St. Louis, for instance.
Sports writers traveled with the players, and that meant they had plenty of time to interact with the players. In fact, writers often became friends with the players.
Ford Frick, who covered baseball for a New York newspaper, socialized with Babe Ruth.
When Frick became baseball commissioner, he made the decision to put an asterisk on Roger Maris’ record of 61 home runs in a season, because it took Maris 161 games to break Ruth’s record of 60 home runs in a 154-game season. Baseball pundits believed that Frick made the ruling because of his friendship with Ruth.
Covering sports is much different these days. With the advent of television and the Internet, sports reporters' relationships with athletes have changed dramatically. Sometimes, they are even confrontational.
I remember upsetting the Texas Lutheran volleyball coach with a column I wrote. I took issue with her behavior. She argued with officials and yelled at her players, I wrote in my column.
Someone even wrote a letter to my boss and made accusations about me that weren’t true. Fortunately, my boss stood up for me.
I’ve always taken pride in being objective as possible. But no matter how hard I tried, there were readers who believed that I was not very objective.
Many sports writers have had similar experiences.
Tribune Sports Editor Matt DeYoung recently wrote a thought-provoking column about how Michigan State football coach Mark Dantonio poorly handled a press conference with reporters following the Spartans’ less-than-inspiring victory over Eastern Michigan.
Dantonio, obviously upset with his team’s performance, was abrupt with the reporters asking questions. His answers were short and followed with the phrase: “Next question” — a tactic often used by athletes who are irritated with reporters’ questions.
I felt DeYoung’s column was a good one. Criticizing Dantonio’s behavior with the media was appropriate. Coaches have an obligation to answer questions, no matter how he or she feels about them.
The reporters are trying to offer their readers and viewers an accurate account of the game as possible. They ask questions they feel readers would ask. Yes, sometimes they are lame, but they should be answered.
DeYoung’s column, of course, generated quite a few comments on the Tribune’s website. Some wondered why DeYoung hasn’t been as critical with the Michigan football program. U-M and MSU fans exchanged insults with each other.
I do believe that DeYoung tries to be objective as possible. I don’t believe he would shy away from criticizing the Michigan football team.
Yes, covering sports isn’t the same as it was decades ago. But we all still believe in “No Cheering in the Press Box.”