May 2 - Wanna Be a Reporter?
I have to say that I wasn't very surprised by the report that a New York man was arrested at Shea
Stadium on charges that he posed as a reporter. I have known a lot of people who impersonated
journalists, although most of them work at newspapers and in television.
This may sound sort of like the "I walked to school 10 miles in the snow when I was your age" kind of
lecture, but too many reporters today don't seem to have the background for the profession. They appear
to fall into journalism the way people fall in love - quickly and without explanation. I am reminded of the
time I covered a national championship football game, and the Orange Bowl Queen, a senior, was
asked what kind of job she would like to land upon graduation.
Skipping over reporter, editor, or even bureau chief, she figured she'd rather start right at the top.
"I'd like to be a news anchor on TV," she said.
The fact that she hadn't taken any courses in journalism didn't deter her ambition. These days, it seems
that to many young people, journalism requires about as much training as hedge-trimming and English
is something you put on a billiard ball. I am not suggesting, as one major leaguer once did, that
journalists be licensed, but it would be nice if some of them were better prepared and not stuck in
romantic notions that a big scoop on the mayor getting his traffic summons ripped up is going to result
in midnight meetings with "Deep Throat".
I'm continually astounded by the number of writers who don't know the difference between "less" and
"fewer". The fewer there are of those, the better off we will all be.
Yet, people are drawn to journalism and the opportunity to cover the rich, the powerful, and the famous.
When I was still on the daily beat, I was often asked how I got from city to city to cover the Mets. "Usually,
I go on the team charter," I'd explain.
"With the players?" would come the jealous reply. Obviously, these people never saw a peanut bag fight
between grown men at 30,000 feet. Yes, there is a lot of glamour in watching baseball players quietly
squirt a can of shaving cream on the head of a sleeping teammate.
The first time I ever traveled on a plane with a ballclub, I was kicked out of my row by the great Willie
Mays who, in no uncertain terms, told me he was playing cards, and that was his seat. Little did I know
that his characteristics for civility, kindness, and etiquette would one day be passed along to his
godson, Barry Bonds.
Attention to all aspiring sports reporters:
Locker rooms are smelly, owners are pompous, pitchers are condescending, quarterbacks are spoiled,
power forwards are arrogant, and clubhouse attendants are overworked and bitter. Tennis players are
impatient, although they're usually bilingual.
People would be shocked, I think, by the athletes who have such pristine public images but cuss like
sailors, and those are just the women. I've picked up cab fares for players earning in the millions, as
they fumbled in exaggerated fashion for a wallet that seemed to be glued to the inside of their trousers.
I've seen coaches needlessly embarrass young reporters, when a little patience was probably in order.
Know what a day in the office can be like? I remember once approaching Dave Kingman, the erratic
slugger, in the Cubs' clubhouse. I asked him something I've long since forgotten, but I easily recall the
"I don't want to talk baseball!" he snapped.
Well, I thought about asking his opinion of trade embargos and the evolution of capitalism in Colonial
America, but I stopped myself, since Kingman was a lot bigger than I was, and ill-tempered to boot. So I
made another attempt the next day, trying a different tack, and asked him about some off-the-field
"I only talk about baseball!" he said.
To be fair, I've met scores of athletes and coaches I remember fondly - big names and little. John
McEnroe, Clark Gillies, Keith Hernandez, John Davidson, Pam Shriver, Lorne Henning, Ed Giacomin,
Monica Seles, and on and on. But there are far too many Jim Rices, and not enough Al Arbours.
So I couldn't help noting that the man charged with impersonating a reporter could be sentenced up to
four years in prison, if convicted. If you really want to make an example of him, give him four hours with