So yesterday I get into my car and as I'm flipping through the channels, I hear Andy Pollin make a comment to Steve Czaban about SB Nation. That is all I heard. True story. Andy rattled off the number for the show and I dialed. I have never called their show before. I resisted the urge to say, "first-time caller, long-time listener" mostly because I am not really a faithful listener these days. My commute home at night is about 10-15 minutes long, giving me just enough time to listen to Guns N Roses cover "Sympathy For the Devil" and "Mama Kin". Sports radio can't compete with Slash most days.
The phone rings and I get through. I say, "I am not sure if they still want to talk about SB Nation, but I write over there on a few SB Nation sites." The guy asks me who I am, and I say my name, prompting an enthusiastic, "Yeah, absolutely...hang on." Right about then my phone starts blowing up. I am getting calls from everyone. I obviously don't answer since I don't want to be the idiot that they go to on the radio who isn't on the phone when it's his turn. So I do a whole segment with Pollin and Czaban without even knowing that in the last 15 minutes, they have actually been talking about ME. I did not find that out until after I hung up and started returning all the calls I had missed. Apparently, my Author Bio over at SB Nation is missing the PhD in Journalism that Czaban was expecting to see. Hell, maybe he read my article and he was so moved by my words and thoughts that he just assumed I was a polished reporter with a degree in the journalistic arts in my back pocket. But I doubt it.
I am glad that I wasn't calling to defend myself, because maybe that conversation would have gone worse. My point came across pretty clearly though on the air. I am a fan, and that is my perspective. I am 100% biased and I make no apologies for that. I don't sit in the press box--I sit in my seat in the stands. I don't walk the field before games gathering tidbits to report on--I am in the parking lot with my fellow fans getting ready for the game. I have been offered credentials for plenty of Redskins games, but I don't go to Redskins games to cover them, I go to root for the home team. I get how that separates me from the "traditional journalist" and I can live with it. But those guys really seemed to be poking around for something...anything that might possibly suggest I am qualified to write about sports and be taken seriously.
What's the big deal gentlemen? For the most part, the same people who are listening to your show are reading what I write, or what Kevin writes, or what Brian Murphy writes, or what Ben Folsom writes, or what Rich Tandler writes (to name but a few). We might not break news, but people actually care about our opinions and analysis. Interestingly enough, Kevin and I take regular calls from out-of-town radio shows getting our opinions on the D.C. sports scene. I always wonder why am I doing all this out-of-town radio and not getting a single call from The Sports Reporters? I guess I simply don't have the appropriate degree to have a voice on a show called "The Sports Reporters".
Maybe I would not be as good at hanging up on someone who disagrees with me as Andy can be some days (cheap shot, I know...Andy is a made man so I better watch it). But Andy, do you even go to games? I see radio folks at FedEx and I can't remember the last time I saw you there. I have been at every home game except for one since 2000. That is a perspective you can't go to school for.
Czaban still blows me away with some of his stuff. I am a huge Czaban fan. Always have been, always will be, even if he doesn't quite grasp how a "fan" gets a seat at the table.
Aren't you guys as much "entertainers" as you are reporters? Do you think people find themselves in their car at 5 PM desperately looking for the reincarnation of Edward R. Murrow? No...they just want to talk sports. They want to leave their jobs behind and take a break from the serious world. If people could surf the web while they drove, you would not even have a show, because that is how people are getting their news and entertainment these days.
You can't get a Bachelor's in Point of View, you can't get a Master's in Opinion and you can't get a PhD in Perspective. I have been writing for a long time, but only in the last year have I gained the kind of audience that Hogs Haven and SB Nation attracts. To suggest I haven't paid some dues just to get to this point would be wrong, since both Kevin and I (as well as countless others) started from scratch. It is fair to say we would do it for free, because we have done it for free, but opportunities have a funny way of revealing themselves when people dig what you do. I think that is happening to a lot of folks on the SB Nation sites lately, and it is well-deserved.
Andy and Steve--I think you guys do great work, and I wish you the best. But I caution you against dismissing me or my colleagues at SB Nation because we might not have the same pedigree as you. In many cases, we are working as hard or harder than you because we are working day jobs to keep the lights on while we sharpen our abilities to write and cover our teams. Our journey to get to doing what we love is as honest and hard-fought as yours. To ignore or discount my perspective because "all I am is a fan" only identifies you as someone who has never read anything I have written. I am proud to say that group is shrinking rapidly.
P.S. I interviewed Tom Tupa's dad. Have you? Didn't think so.
Image via espn980.com