Covering Athletes & Coaches Vs. Being Wined & Dined On FAM Trips in Places Like Switzerland
I was doing a Twitter chat on travel when I happened to mention on it that I was once a sportswriter.
“That must have been exciting,” someone quickly responded to my post.
“Well, yes and no,” I replied, and then I started thinking about the pros and cons of being a sportswriter and how it compared to being a travel writer. So I’m doing this post in case you are contemplating a writing career or starting a blog in either field, or are just curious about one or the other.
First, being a sportswriter is a lot more challenging than being a travel writer.
There are several reasons for this but the first – as any sportswriter will quickly tell you – is the deadlines. A lot of sportswriting involves covering events and events require quick turnarounds, right after the games.
Sometimes, you file a story immediately after the event, then rush to the locker room to get quotes from players and coaches. You then add those to the original story, which usually involves rewriting a basic lead into something of a more entertaining or introspective nature.
Sports events also occur at night and on weekends and holidays. So you are working when others are relaxing (or partying).
Travel writing occurs at a much more leisurely pace. If you’re big enough or fortunate enough to be on a press trip, your stories are due when you can get around to it if it’s your own blog, or an editor’s deadline if you’re writing for someone else’s publication or website. But even that is, at best, a week after your return. That’s a lifetime to a sportswriter.
And ahhh, those press trips. They don’t have those in sports! They are a writer’s dream. A tourism board or some other travel entity sends you to a location, all expenses paid, and gives you 5-star treatment.
They do everything for you: arrange your transportation to the destination, put you up in a really nice hotel, take you on tours (either personal or as part of a group of journalists), sometimes drive you around in limos and the part I love the most, wine and dine you at both lunch and dinner.
Sports does have the compensating virtue of being at events where other people pay – sometimes big bucks – to attend. It’s cool to be in a press box covering a football game yet my biggest thrill is being on the sidelines of a tight college football game as one team is driving for the potential game-winning touchdown.
No travel writer has likely experienced 85,000 or so people all around you cheering for one outcome or the other. That is a great thrill that only sports can provide to a writer.
Of course, then we have to go to the locker room and deal with the coaches and players. This is not always easy.
First of all, a lot of the professional athletes and coaches are difficult, especially in the three main sports of basketball, baseball and football. In fact, many of them are jerks. In travel, people are falling all over you to talk with you but go in a locker room – especially a losing locker room – and you’ve got to try and interview people who do not want you there and do not want to talk to you.
They often linger in the shower, then stand nearly naked by their locker dialing up potential dates for the night, then give you a nod that it’s okay to finally approach them. Then they often mumble answers, causing you to contort your body in order to reach your smart phone recorder close enough to hopefully pick up what they are saying, which usually involves a lot of “ya know man” phrases.
Frankly, I would very much rather be casually hiking down a hill in the Swiss Alps and arriving at some little hut in the middle of a meadow and being served a fantastic lunch accompanied with near endless Swiss wine.
That really happened and it’s a moment from a FAM trip that’s forever etched in my memory.
Sure beats trying to get an “ahem” from Demarcus Cousins of the New Orleans Pelicans, having to chase down former Houston Rockets Coach Kevin McHale after he ducked under the media to escape a basic press conference or point-blank ask a volatile minor league baseball pitcher about the ball he threw that resulted in a three-run homer that lost the game.
In conclusion, sportswriters have it hard. Travel writers have it MADE!