November 14, 2002

Covering a C.U. Sports Team

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Let me make something crystal clear for all the athletes out there. Sports writers hate losing just as much as you do, maybe even more.

When the final bell sounds and the game ends, the losing team feels bad, but several hours later, recovers and looks on to the next game. For the reporter covering this loss, however, the misery does not end when the last whistle is blown.

First, she has to talk to the coach and players, and face the grim prospect of scowls, snippy responses, and just plain anger. The writer does not hold any of these outbursts against the team because she understands the frustration of losing. Nor does she refer to these unpleasant run-ins while composing the story.

After gathering quotations, the journalist returns to her computer to sort through them, review the stats, and finally write the article. While the team is recovering from the contest, she chokes back tears and tries to make the best out of the defeat. Although she regrets having to include the negative side of the game in her article, the reporter makes a point of including the positive aspects at the end, to ensure that the reader will remember the good things about the game.

Finally, when her article is completed, she rereads it several times and edits it to guarantee that the finished product is up to her lofty standards.

To someone unfamiliar with the procedure involved in reporting, this account would seem over the top. Usually, however, the whole process takes two to three hours.

For all the work involved in producing just one story, a reporter always hopes that the team she is covering wins. Of course, she would rather write about how a team won in the final minute, scored a ridiculous number of goals in a row, or demolished Harvard rather than a Cornell slaughtering. Writers take pride in their teams, often bragging to fellow composers about phenomenal players or records and standing taller after covering an Ivy-League champ or a team that has improved immensely from the previous season.

For all these reasons, reporters hate losing.

There is one thing that reporters hate more than defeat, however. It is a crushing blow to our confidence. We feel disconcerted and wander around like lost souls.

We hate to be cut off by our own teams. This severance can take several forms from refusing to talk to us to blaming us for losses.

The ultimate consequence of team anger is that reporters will not be able to get quotes, and this doesn’t benefit any team.

Without quotes, the articles are shorter. As a result, the reporter and the fans are less informed of the team’s opinion of individual games and its season. When the editors decide where to put the story in the paper, it will not appear on the back page. Stories with quotes get priority and are printed in the most visible space. Tucked inside the paper, the story is less likely to be read, and the team is less likely to increase its fan base no matter how well it is performing at the time of publication.

There is absolutely nothing positive that can come of this resentment. It is not only bad for the current season, but also seasons to come because reporters will not want to cover the team for fear that they will experience the same wrath if the team takes another dive.

It is ridiculous that losing teams inflict this punishment on their faithful reporters. And it is the losing teams that need the writers the most for it is the writer who looks beyond the defeats and reminds the readers that losing is not everything.

However, journalists are the most convenient scapegoats, as they are the ones who tell the world about the team. I suppose teams think that if we would stop dwelling on losses and let them play, they could start winning.

Perhaps when they are out of answers, the blame game seems like a better card to play.

So, to the athletes and coaches of the ’02-’03 season, think about the consequences of your attitude towards reporters. We are trying our best to make you look good, no matter what’s happening on the diamond, court, or field. We never try to sabotage your chances at an Ivy title, and the mere suggestion is insulting.

Reporters celebrate your wins and suffer your losses.

We just hope we get to write about the former more than the latter.


Archived article by Katherine Granish