Imagine that as part of your job, you got to -- had to -- talk to basketball star Michael Jordan or Redskins Coach Steve Spurrier every day. That's the job of the sports reporter. (How cool is that?)
But it's also the job of the sports reporter to write about the Baltimore Orioles every day, even if they're having a very long and very miserable 162-game season. Or to write about Michael Jordan when he has scored only two points, the worst performance of his career. Good sports reporters don't go to just the glory games, they go to the practices as well. They don't talk to just the star players, they have to track down the team doctors.
And sports reporters don't just go the games, they write about them, often under some of the most intense deadline pressure in the news business. Good sports reporters can write about a game, whether it's the NBA Finals or a mid-season matchup against Toronto, in a way that highlights the special moment that makes the story, and the game, special.
Steve Wyche is the sports reporter for The Washington Post who covers the Washington Wizards. He answered some questions about his job.
Getting paid to watch basketball must be the best job in the world. What's the best thing about the job and the worst?
I do have the coolest job in the world. The best part of my job is working with the players and coaches of the Wizards and the NBA.
I also work with a tremendous group of editors and fellow writers who understand the deadline pressure I'm constantly under.
But I never lose sight of the fact that hundreds of thousands of people would pay money to even have the chance to shake the hands of some of the people I'm constantly around -- Michael Jordan, Wes Unseld and Jerry Stackhouse, among others. That's why I try to never complain about what I do for a living.
The worst part of my job is having to be away from my wife and three kids so much because the job requires a lot of travel.
How do you write your story? Do you wait for the game to be over before you start writing?
I begin writing my game story after the first quarter. We have several deadlines I have to meet, and I typically have to finish my first story right after the game ends. I usually write a paragraph or two about what happened after each quarter. If there is an injury or something out of the ordinary, I'll write more during the game itself. I try to watch and write at the same time, which isn't easy.
My first story for the paper usually doesn't have any quotes. For my second story, or as we call it in the business, a rewrite or sub, I'll go to the locker room, do my interviews with players and coaches, come back and rewrite my story. I usually have about 45 minutes to an hour to do all that.
What's it like in the locker room after a game? Is it hard to ask questions if the team has lost and the players and coach are really mad?
The locker room is very businesslike. Players are getting dressed and getting set to go about their business. Sometimes after a big win, music is blaring -- 50 Cent is a favorite, as is Jay-Z -- and the players are much more likely to stick around and talk.
When they lose, the music usually isn't on and players are more somber. But players know that somebody has to lose, even though they aren't happy about it when they do.
In my four years covering the Wizards, I've had to deal with a lot more unhappy locker rooms. Even if the players are mad, you have to ask them questions. If they don't feel like talking, they'll let you know -- nicely or not so nicely. Most NBA players or coaches answer our questions because they know the next night I could be talking to them about a victory.
Your stories include lots of statistics about rebounds, points, fouls. Do you keep track of them yourself?
I keep some of the statistics myself, like the score and what player scored. However, some of the more detailed statistics, like turnovers, fouls or assists are kept by an official scorer who updates them on a television monitor on the scorer's table. After the game, we actually get printed statistics, which are a wonderful reference guide.
During the game I sit right near the Wizards' bench at the scorer's table. Did I mention I have one of the best seats in the house?
If your job as a reporter is to cover the president, you're not supposed to let your readers know how you feel about him. Can you be a fan as well as a reporter?
It's not difficult covering the home team. My job is to convey the news and provide perspective. Fortunately, I have a very good group of players and coaches to report on. They are all very professional and understand my job.
I do like most of the people I cover, so there are feelings involved. At the same time, the people I cover know that if they are not doing their jobs or are misbehaving, I must report that to the people who pay a lot of money to watch them play, coach or manage basketball for a living.
Besides covering games, what other kinds of stories do you write?
I write a lot of news stories, about trades, the draft, free-agent signings or coaching changes. I also write feature stories, which can be about a certain player or coach or a trend in the game.