Saturday, March 12, 2011

Duke-UNC III, and the Truth About "Sports Writing"

(Ladies and gents: I'm leaving the post below intact, but I'd like to direct everyone's attention to an apology I wrote the Tuesday after this was posted.)

Tomorrow at 1pm, Duke and North Carolina will play for the ACC championship in Greensboro. It's the culmination of a battle for supremacy that's raged all season- a battle that would lack a true winner without this rubber match. As a Duke fan of dubious mental stability, it's what I've needed and feared since the tournament began. For this conference and these circumstances, it's the perfect game. And lucky me, I have a free ticket. First four rows, courtside.

I'm not going to use it. That's what I want to tell you about.

*

But first, a story. For those who've missed my incessant bragging, I've been covering the ACC Tournament in Greensboro since Thursday. Yesterday, before the Duke-Virginia Tech game, when Carolina was slowly creeping back on a resilient but outmatched Clemson team, I got booted from my seat in press row. My low status makes me vulnerable to this kind of thing, and I accepted without protest. It was no big deal, except that the press area was crowded and it seemed doubtful that I'd find another perch. I finally saw a spot near halfcourt in the last row. I asked the men if it was open, and one of them indicated 'yes' with a reluctant wave. I'm not going to mention his name, except that it was Bob Heymann. He looks a little like Jim Boeheim and a little like David Stern, and he works in radio.

Bob and I chatted very briefly. It was clear from the way he watched the game that he was a Carolina fan. When I asked him point blank, it turned out he was not only a fan, but an alumnus. Bob and I had a decent time watching the end of the game. I was in awe of Kendall Marshall's passes and Barnes' shooting, and Bob echoed my praise. A shrill female Clemson fan behind us kept whistling and shouting obnoxiously at the referee. When Bob turned around, she whistled right in his face and said, "look at me again. Please."

We both hated her, and it gave us some common ground. We even laughed together when the guy to my left, an older curmudgeonly type, shook his head and said, "I could be married to that." Then Carolina won in overtime, Duke took the court, and Bob came to understand through my comments that I was a Duke fan.

"Who are you here with?" he asked.

I already noticed that the friendly tone disappeared. "Reese news," I said, "from UNC. But I went to undergrad at Duke."

A calculated look of incredulity flashed across his face. "What," he said, "you couldn't get into Carolina?"

Ha! Oh, ha, Bob! Well done! No big deal. It was the kind of lame jest you get used to ignoring while living down here. I'm sure Carolina people hear the same thing in reverse. Still, there was something a little too intense in his words. I felt unsettled by something that, on paper, reads like no more than a light-hearted dig. But I wasn't about to act on my suspicions. I did what I tend to do in those situations, which is to ignore the underlying emotion and talk right through it.

"I actually applied there," I told him. "I had to withdraw my application because I did early decision at Duke."

"Where are you from?" he asked.

"Upstate New York."

"Why would you want to go to Duke from upstate New York?"

Again, the tone of the question rang my warning bells. Things were getting tense. I resorted to a common defense, which was to laugh as though he'd said something really witty. "Yeah, well," I said. "I liked it."

"You know, it's harder to get into UNC out of state than to get into Duke," he told me.

I've talked in this space before about the self-conscious feeling Duke alumni can get about their school and its stereotypes. We know we're all supposed to be status-obsessed and arrogant, not to mention disdainful of anyone outside the northeast. The question felt like a trap, or a challenge, or something. The entire interaction began to feel like a subtle but perceptible attempt at intimidation.

"Out-of-state UNC students get better SAT scores, too," he continued.

Lucky for me, I could not care less about acceptance rates or academic standing or anything resembling that kind of comparison. I muttered something about both schools being good.

"Well, at least you corrected your error," he said, referring to my current graduate career.

"Yup," I said, making sure to avoid eye contact. The mild bonhomie of ten minutes earlier had vanished, and the conversation had turned on what should have been an innocent fact- my undergraduate university.

*

In some ways, Bob Heymann has nothing to do with why I'm not going to Greensboro tomorrow. In other ways, it couldn't be more relevant.

You're not supposed to cheer in press row, and for the most part over the past two days, I respected that. I couldn't help the odd whispered curse or the rare tight-lipped grunt of admiration, but I thought I restrained myself quite nicely. In the first half against Virginia Tech, when Nolan Smith made his ridiculous, acrobatic lay-up, I put both hands on my head, said "wow!", and turned to look at the stands behind me. A couple Virginia Tech fans shook their heads in amazement, and the Dukies went wild.

This offended my new friend's sensibilities. "How about a little decorum?" Bob Heymann said. I looked at him and laughed, expecting it to be a joke. All I'd done was put my hands on my head and say a single word. I hadn't cheered for Duke. The reaction was about the grace and skill of the play, not some kind of partisan fervor. Yes, I'm a Duke fan, but you wouldn't know it from that one moment.

"I'm serious," he said. Then he fixed me with his most reproving look, a kind of quizzical number where he leaned back, crossed his arms, and gave a small laugh like he'd just witnessed the most crass act in the history of this or any other republic.

I can take my share of verbal combat. I'm fine with either going to war or just letting it slide off my back. But condescension like that raises my hackles. It activates a deep-seated anger I save especially for bullying authority figures. So my reaction, all too inevitable, was to stare at him for a moment, grin, and place my middle finger on the right side of my head.

"Don't fucking give me the finger!" he sputtered. In his tone, I heard exactly what I wanted, which was the uncertainty of a tyrant who didn't expect anything but a submissive reaction; the hesitation of the bully when you rattle his cage. It never gets any less sweet.

I defended myself, he countered, and then he closed by saying, "no, you behaved badly, but that's fine. But don't give me the fucking finger." When I wasn't suitably impressed, he threatened to have me thrown off press row. I raised both hands in a mock gesture to show how much the threat affected me, and then we both turned to the game.

Despite a reasonably auspicious beginning, Bob Heymann and I didn't exchange another word.

*

Which leads me to the culture as a whole. You can't cheer on press row, and I understand why. It's to preserve a supposed impartiality, to ensure our readers that they're getting the straight dope, untainted by allegiances or bias.

I get that, but I also get this: the world of the sports writer is not impartial.

Coaches and athletes aren't impartial. I sat through every possible postgame press conference over three days and 10 games, and in each one one, the attitude of the players and coaches to the press was, at best, mild annoyance. The media were lightly despised. At worst, they showed the superior petulance of an important luminary deigning to answer to a swarming horde of incompetents.

Which is unfortunate, but understandable. The modern mainstream sports media has become an impotent joke. They churn out lazy columns with half-baked insight and overwrought or rhythm-less prose. They have no influence. Except in one circumstance:

When something negative happens. When a coach or player says something controversial. When they get caught screwing up. When failure mounts on failure.

That's when the press wields power. And the coaches know it. The players mostly know it too, and the ones who don't tend to learn very quickly. To them, the press can only have very limited positive impact; the positives come from their performance, or from their PR people. But what the press can do is bring punishment.

Which is why athletes and coaches are cautious. They don't say a word out of place. They speak in platitudes and cliches. They repeat themselves in worn formulations that add nothing to the discourse. I recently spoke with a sports information officer from an ACC school that isn't Duke or UNC, and he actually said he encourages players to make it through interviews without saying one thing that would give the interviewer something new to report.

How sad is that? How sad is it that they're perpetually on the defensive? It's hard to blame them, though. I just endured three days of dumb, leading, and boring questions. "Coach, talk about how you feel." "Kyle, what was the key to the game out there?" In yesterday's post, I detailed an incredibly ill-conceived line of questioning from a New York Times reporter. Thursday, as Gary Williams was ready to leave the press conference, a writer from the Washington Post begged for one more question. When it was granted, the reporter asked Willimas if he'd been concerned that his team wouldn't have enough legs that day. Again, this was Thursday; the first day of the tournament. These are just two examples, but they're from the Washington Post and the New York Times. Would that kind of ignorant journalism be tolerated in any other section of those excellent newspapers?

The worst, though, are the leading questions. Such as: "Coach, can you talk about how proud you are of Seth Curry's leadership late in the season?" Close your eyes, breathe deeply, and take a wild guess at the content of that reporter's eventual story. Still thinking? I'll player spoiler: it'll be about how proud Coach K is of Seth Curry. In fact, it's already written. It just needed a quote from Coach K. He's a helpful puppet in the sportswriter's script. Because why write about real life when you can make up your own version?

And so the writers produce drab copy that nobody reads. You can see why they live for the negative. The negative is never drab; it's always exciting. The negative makes them relevant.

But it's important to consider the other side. How would you feel if you were a coach or player and these people asking questions were just dying for you to screw up so they had something exciting to print? You'd feel like they were snakes. You'd understand their power, and the fact that they really can't do anything good for you, and you'd be resentful.

And if you want to put a name on the annoyance universally expressed by the athletes and coaches, that's it: resentment. They look out on a sea of writers, many of them slovenly, many of them burned out, many of them incurious about the very thing these men have devoted their lives to mastering, and they see people unworthy of covering the sport.

It leads to disrespect and a lack of trust. It poisons the atmosphere. It creates a dysfunctional relationship of mutual disdain.

*

Believe me, I haven't forgotten that we're hours away from the ACC title game. This is supposed to be a sports blog, and maybe this space would be better used for a game preview, or a discussion of what's happened in Greensboro to date. I'm itching to talk about the unbelievable thuggery of Jeff Allen, or the miserable refereeing, or Nolan's brilliance with a deteriorating elbow and hurt toe or Seth's redemption or the lingering question mark that is Kyle Singler. And I want to let you know that those things will return.

I guess this is something I had to get off my chest, and SCSD! is the only forum I have. As you see, I'm also speaking very broadly here. It wouldn't be fair if I didn't mention the exceptions. Some beat writers do great work, and the last thing I want to do is chastise the mainstream media as a whole. You've all heard me praise Luke Winn and Seth Davis and others like him who have risen to the top of their profession by virtue of great wisdom, drive, and ability. I would never question people like that, and there are a healthy number of them active in the sports world. I hold them all in high esteem. I admire and envy their station.

I had occasion to see Dan Wiederer in action this weekend. He's the writer for the Fayetteville Observer who wrote the great 3-part piece on Coach K earlier this season. He's been published in the Best American Sports Writing books, and he genuinely seems like a hard-working, whip-smart guy. When I watched him write in the press room the past few days, I couldn't help but notice an intense, almost maniacal look on his face as he stared at the computer. He wrote in a sort of quiet fury, and you got the sense that a gun fight wouldn't have distracted him from his task. Even if I hadn't know Dan Wiederer from Adam, I would have been struck by that look. It's the rare and unmistakable face of passion. That look isn't why he's great, but it's a product of the fact.

He's surely not alone. There are others doing excellent work against the odds for newspapers; overcoming the limits of the form and the built-in incentives tempting them to concede the fight and churn out garbage. They deserve a tip of the cap.

Interestingly enough, in all the postgame press conferences we attended, I never once saw Dan Wiederer ask a question. Maybe it's coincidence. Or maybe his narratives are organic creations that don't have the taint of prefabrication.

*

But exceptions are exceptions for a reason. They don't represent the whole. It was not, suffice it to say, an impressive world. And for anyone who's been there, I know I'm not breaking new ground. These are old complaints I've heard a million times before, but seeing them firsthand is a little staggering.

You can't cheer on press row. You can look at your computer, and back at the court, and back at your computer. You can share tired jokes in an attempt to sound gruff. You can hammer out your two-bit tale in the moments after, trying like hell to beat a deadline. You can gobble up the free food they give you at every venue, augmenting your complacence. You can slowly grow bitter and tired of the thing that brought you here in the first place. You can focus on baskets and touchdowns and home runs and forget why you came. You can forget the people, and the inner human drama that these games actually represent.

You can't cheer on press row. But it's also hard to love the game.

*

This diatribe aside, I actually don't believe every sports story has to be an earth-shattering masterpiece of heartbreaking clarity. Those who read my blog will see that the overwhelming majority of posts are some variation of me photoshopping Ryan Kelly's head onto a bird. I am not a standard-bearer, nor would I want to be. I know there's a place for game stories and quick sidebars and the all more mundane aspects of sports journalism.

That's fine. But the old world is dying while the old order persists. Except for pieces of local interest, sports sections of newspapers go unread. Especially by young people. I honestly can't think of one friend who starts his or her mornings by opening a newspaper to read the latest Duke or UNC story. And I realize economic and internet realities play a huge role in the decline. I'm not stupid. But I can't help but think that the agonizing culture of underachievement I witnessed over the past few days, along with the mediocre product we've all stopped reading and the castrated desire to achieve more, are the torpedoes that ruptured the ship in the first place.

I don't think anybody older than twelve believes that the world of sports writing is glamorous. But I'm here to tell you it's downright depressing.

*

I don't know if Bob Heymann is a good journalist. I've never listened to him on the radio, and I probably never will. But if I go back to Greensboro tomorrow, I know there will be someone like him to pounce on me if I show the slightest hint of emotion. It may be a dying order, but the dinosaurs don't want to be extinct. There's a ferocity to their incompetence; ingrained in the drivel is an entrenched bureaucracy that doesn't want to become obsolete.

So I'm not going back. That's not how I want to experience sports. I want to watch Duke take on North Carolina for the ACC title tomorrow, and I want to be a fan. When Harrison Barnes his first three, I want to swear, and I want to know that a few miles away, my friend Justin is flapping his arms in his best black falcon impression and shouting "Caw! Caw!" I want to rant. I want to rave. I want my girlfriend to question her life choices. I want to be an absolute goddamn mess of a human being for forty minutes. I want to experience the rhythm and emotion of the game in the pit of my stomach. I want the chemicals flowing in slightly-less-than-dangerous volumes. I want to live, and I want to die, over and over and over again.

And then I want to write about it from the place of love I discovered in a startling fever when I was five years old.

Fans are the heart of sports. The athletes and the coaches are the soul. The people who tell the story are the brain. When things are at their best, all three elements combine into a fleeting, unified whole. We're in it for the moments- the sweet ephemera that keeps you high, that keeps you coming back.

But the sneaky, waddling, frantic lackeys I witnessed this weekend are not the heart, the soul, or the brain. They're the fleshy tire around the midsection, weighing the body down. They're dead weight, and they need to be shed.

Here's my point: I don't want to march in lockstep with the drones of inadequacy. I can already tell it'll swallow me whole. My place is with the fans in the crowd. Failing that, it's in front of a television. And I don't have $150 to spend on a scalped ticket, so I'm not going.

*

In the end, though, the stale bitterness in Greensboro doesn't need me to sustain itself. It'll subsist in a decaying state until the dying breath. They can tout their lack of bias all day, but it won't save them. In fact, it's a handicap. It disconnects them from the bloodstream of the game. In the meantime, I'll be here at home, miles from the action, alone in my living room, wearing a Nolan Smith jersey and maybe a blue head piece with little devil horns.

And the truth is, I'll be less isolated than those writers. While they covet their limited access and race to scribble the latest banalities en route to filing their own, I'll be hanging out with the readers of this site and a thousand others across the internet. I'll have the voices of other lunatic fans within reach of a cell phone. We'll feel the throbbing pulse of the game in a way they've forgotten on press row. That emptiness can't touch us.

There's no deadline in our world. When we say 'Go Duke!', we mean it forever.

73 comments:

  1. As a UNC fan, I love your blog and share your sentiments on everything from the rivalry to the media to the need to remember why we love this game. Congrats on a fantastic blog.

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  2. Fantastic. Just fantastic. You're an excellent writer, that made me happy to be a fan. Go Duke!

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  3. Is this the guy?

    http://www.mediaservicesgroup.com/location.cfm?id=14

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  4. Probably not the smartest post to make if you have any thoughts of working in non-Deadspin/Big Lead-esque sports journalism when you graduate.

    From your own account, it sounds clearly like you were rooting for Duke on press row. There's no cheering on press row. Period.

    Those who can't contain themselves make the job harder on the professionals.

    Your insight into the ails of sports journalism is that of a neophyte with no experience working a beat.

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    1. It's been almost a year since this comment. I wonder if the Dinosaur who posted it has died since then.

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  5. I guess the slovenly comment hurts.

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  6. Anon, two things:

    1) I don't have those thoughts in the future, but I disagree with the implication that this kind of thing prevents me from working in a sports-related capacity. I admitted that certain writers do great work in their capacity as mainstream sports journalists, and my point is that everyone should strive for that kind of work. If anything, I think that shows that I'm MORE suited, not less, to that kind of career. If I had that kind of job, I don't know what I'd be, but it wouldn't be a stick in the mud biding his time until retirement.

    2) I wasn't cheering on press row. Not a bit. I was rooting for Duke because that's in my blood, but I was doing so silently. My reactions, if any, were WAY more muted than many others I witnessed.

    To the others, thanks.

    -Shane

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  7. That brave Anonymous commenter needs to read the post again--this time objectively. It does NOT sound like he was "from (his) own account... rooting for Duke on press row" It sounds to me like, from his own account, he was responding to an amazing feat of athleticism (which hypocricital Heymann himself commented on in the previous game regarding athletes Marshall and Barnes). Mr. Ryan's insight into sports journalism is one of truthful reality. Print media and its ways are dying with the Babyboomers. Athletes and coaches all respond to post-game press conference questions with superficial rote answers designed to mask their true feelings to avoid being vilified in the media for, god forbid, honesty. "Probably not the smartest post to make if you have any thoughts" of being paid for banality. The previous commenter's insight into Mr. Ryan's insight into the ails of sports journalism is that of a dinosaur with no experience working outisde his bureaucracy with the heart of the living, breathing organism of today's digital demands. The heart of sports news isn't simply a game summary with a few quotes from important people. Readers want to experience real emotional insight from the few people who are fortunate enough to get to experience it in person. Writing something people actually connect to and care about requires more talent and intellectual ability than robotically becoming just another non-Deadspin/Big Lead-esque sports journalist. Passion is required now for success, and Mr. Ryan displays that in spades.

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  8. (Shane feel free to delete that last comment. Hypocracy and superficiality often bring out the pre-lawyer in me. I didn't mean for that to read like an opening statement in your defense. Know that your writing does not go unappreciated. Go Duke and GTHC!)

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  9. This was a really well composed and moving piece of writing. Thank you so much for taking the time to compose it.

    -Grateful reader since the "Go f*** yourself" post.

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  10. Shane, great article. I remember when I first started really getting into Duke basketball my freshman year and started reading the game recaps (mostly AP) with some regularity. After a little while I couldn't help but try to guess before I started reading exactly what the article was going to say. These days I almost never read them.

    I think what you're talking about resonates with a lot of people. After all, there's a reason Bill Simmons is the probably the most read sportswriter. Like most people I have my grumblings about the sports guy, but I always read his columns because he's passionate. Even though he's passionate about teams I mostly hate, I respect his writing because he's not afraid to reflect the weird and intense side of sports. Even when I think he's wrong, I never feel like he hasn't done his homework. And he's very open about the fact that he doesn't get his insight from press conferences, he gets it from reading team-specific blogs.

    Anyway, great piece. - Nick E

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  11. This is probably late, but you should go, then cheer and heckle openly and as loudly as possible and finger to anyone that says anything. If you get kicked off press row just go into a tirade about how they are all trolls. Worth it.

    -GB

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  12. Laura, I'm grateful, thanks! Believe me, I won't delete that. GB, it's tempting. The go-out-with-a-bang approach would, if nothing else, be hilarious.

    -Shane

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  13. Shane, you make glad I'm a Duke fan, more. GO DUKE!!

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  14. BAWHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHA Duke beats UNC+the referee conspiracy. The refs hosed us so fucking bad and if they hadn't Duke would have won by 30. Duke defense was like a fucking shark tank. Shane you lost a huge opportunity to troll the UNC-grad student section (press row). I WANT TO SEE ROY TEARS. QQ!QQ!.

    I loved Dawkin's at the end before the commercial break yelling WHAT HAPPENED TO THAT 2 SEED NONSENSE!?

    This shit needs to be rubbed in their faces MERCILESSLY especially after that game in CH.

    1 seed bitch!

    -GB

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  15. It seems like Bob irritated you.

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  16. Now this was reporting in the most professional standard. The one question I did want to ask Shane about his experience in Greensboro was, "so what did you learn about journalism from time spent among sport journalists?". Guess I got my answer without asking. Tremendous job of learning and analysis from this real life academic experience! Well done, sir.

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  17. I think that good writing and journalism should be opinionated and straight. In my experience, too many people don't say what they believe and it still comes out. I believe that your Carolina fan "friend" wouldn't have said anything if it would have been Carolina. I can't imagine trying to watch a team that you love without cheering. Good article.

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  18. You move me to tears. Your love and passion for the ways of life that were meant to be is insightful and emotional. This was your best entry! Congratulations!

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  19. I love your normally hilarious post/pre game breakdowns, but THIS is the reason I read your blog. FANTASTIC post, I agree with all of it. Well done, sir.

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  20. Another killer post, Shane. Can't wait to read your thoughts on the postgame...

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  21. Bob was just trying to queen bee and throw weight around like he was some sort of boss. His wife probably wears the pants in the family and he has to take it out on someone.

    -GB

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  22. d00k sucks, as is well-known...but it does sound like you may have been held to an over-high standard by Mr. Heymann. Sounds--from hearing your side of the story, at any rate--like you were treated rather shabbily... Although, as I may have mentioned, d00k sucks, I do think that it's really, really stupid for fans to be mean to each other. I get my share of this from d00kies--who's team sucks, as I may have mentioned. It's a game--a very important game, a game we're all passionate about--but just a game. Although, to reiterate, d00k sucks, I hate to see a good-natured rivalry degenerate into something with a tinge of genuine nastiness in it. It's extremely stupid to turn what should be fun into something mean-spirited. Sorry to hear about this incident. Despite the fact that d00k sucks...

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  23. Probably the best thing I've read on my favorite blog. Congrats.

    By the way, there are definitely ways to sportswriting with an admitted bias, as I am sure you know. In fact, I find that kind of writing more interesting. Not sure if you've read David Foster Wallace's piece on Federer:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2006/08/20/sports/playmagazine/20federer.html?pagewanted=all

    There's also that fantastic long piece in the NY Times on Battier (which is not biased but is an example of the kind of true sports writing you're talking about.) Probably one of the best pieces of writing I've ever read.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/15/magazine/15Battier-t.html

    And yes, this idea of objectivity is a joke as any Duke fan reading the Charlotte Observer will tell you.

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  24. Er, 'whose'...dang phonetic indistinguishability...

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  25. I'm sure Bob Heymann was one of the many on press row who cheered when they heard Duke lost to VCU

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  26. You clearly don't understand how real journalism works.

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  27. GB, deleted the last comment with the phone number. You're one of my favorite commenters day in, day out, but the last thing I want is to harass the guy. Just wanted to let you know.

    -Shane

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  28. You matched the "go eff yourself" post, Shane. Congrats. How good is this blog? Your UNC fan readers are fans of the blog, and seem to "get" the rivalry. Even Winston was tongue in cheek, though the tough sell with the term "dookies" is that while not annoying, it's just not funny. Anyhow, I bet if you end up in sports journalism, you'll be one of the ones that make it relevant again. In the meantime, would love to hear from Bob, if we haven't already? Finally, I think there was a game today that went rather well, capping the pre-NCAA tourney in the most satisfying way. Thanks for the ride Duke, and UNC. I'll hope this was our last meeting this season.

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  29. What does Heymann know about media standards? Reading his bio, the guy is just a salesman. He was a business major and successful broker. How does that qualify him to be in charge of the Press Row ethics committee? The big question should be: Why was he even sitting in Press Row?

    I'm glad you stood your ground and I'm glad you are on our side. Bob seems like the type of guy that tries to throw his weight around and thinks he's way more important than he is. He's a Northwestern alumn - so that's typical. Double that with his UNC Undergrad and the inferiority complex to Duke fans that goes along with it. It's no wonder he couldn't keep to himself; that combination of smug purple pedigree and irrational baby blue blood would make anyone into a prick.

    Go Duke! Keep up the great work Shane!

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  30. Great post, as a j-school grad, i passed on a career in journalism specifically because of attitudes like this and the direction so called "news" was moving.

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  31. Looking forward to the post game blog. Don't pull the punches.

    -GB

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  32. As a sportscaster on the opposite coast for going on 25 years, I have dealt with old school guys like Bob Heymann. Fortunately, he is the exception rather than the rule. I have found the sports fraternity on this side of the country to be more friendly as a rule and encouraging rather than disparaging. There are huge egos out there... and in most cases, the ego far out strips the talent. I enjoyed your blog. Best of luck in the future.

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  33. I just watched the game today with a UNC fan and it went well with no mean-spirited rubs either way. What I see in Bob however, is what I often see in many UNC grads who are marginally more successful (Bob) than their UNC classmates, and that is a desire to rationalize why they are not only better than their fellow classmates, but why they are as good as, if not better than Duke undergrads. I hope Robert can let whatever inferiority complex exists go; it doesn't matter now that he is doing well. He got where he wanted to be without needing to be a Dukie. He should focus on the present and let go of the past.

    Shane, you are an awesome writer. You are witty, insightful and write well. As much as I like your posts about sports, I loved this one for your voice. Also, what I like about this one is that it shows you are not constrained by other conventions. If someone gives you crap like this, and you see a bigger theme, let the blogosphere know! Keep it up! I expect a full analysis on our beatdown of UNC.

    -Fan since the Duke: Morning! The Champions

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  34. Any chance of a teaser for the post game post going up tonight? I am Jonesing for more commentary about that whoopin'.

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  35. Fans sit in the stands. You can enjoy all the emotion you like, just pay for your ticket.

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  36. Just came across this blog. Phenomenal read.

    I hate UNC. But I am fine to treat UNC fans with a degree of respect.

    This Bob Heymann guy knows how to represent, doesn't he? Please.

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  37. If bias isn't supposed to exist on press row, why are major columnists allowed to constantly degrade the team with "dookie" in their columns? (See CBS sports: Dennis Dodd)

    I guess bias is allowed if everyone agrees it should all happen against one team, coach, etc.

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  38. Bob Heymann,

    I'm sure you are reading these comments. How do I know this? Well, because you have proven yourself to be very status conscious. Not only through the SCSD blog, but through your Media Services Group Bio. This bio focuses on the amount of money you have been responsible for no less than three times (they were record setting oh) while only 3 others out of the 13 directors and professionals mention their money dealing once. Additionally your bio is 2 paragraphs while all of the other 13 are one (got to make sure everyone knows what you've done!).
    How this relates is to your inferiority complex follows like this: you recognize Duke is an amazing school you couldn't be a part of, or at the very least you recognize other think it is an amazing school and you subconsciously realize you were not a part of it. This inferiority complex may manifest itself in an ego-centric view of value and status in life, but you have also allowed this world view to take over how you treat people fairly.

    Shane best of luck with your columns!

    ReplyDelete
  39. Bobby Boy Go DukeMarch 14, 2011 at 1:03 AM

    Shane, you delete my comment that had a great analysis of Bob's inferiority complex. I am sad. I did research just like a journalist should. I looked up external sources, noticed a trend in how he represents himself, and I took those results to make a sound conclusion. Why Shane why?

    ReplyDelete
  40. I hated this post. Shane please have more exquisite visuals of white ravens and icabod drains instead of lamenting over the sad situation of UNC peoples.

    -a long time fan

    ReplyDelete
  41. Sorry Bobby Boy, I promise it wasn't deleted on purpose. This seems to be a blogger glitch of late.

    -Shane

    ReplyDelete
  42. This whole culture of college athlete worship is disgusting and counter productive. We spend $50k a year to send our best and brightest to be lackeys for a bunch of meatheads. What a waste. http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2011/01/the-hazards-of-duke/8328/

    ReplyDelete
  43. You're there to do a job just like anyone who has credentials to do a job. They should be allowed to do it without distractions. Shut up and do it or buy a ticket, sit in the stands and cheer your ass off.

    ReplyDelete
  44. While Bob may have overreacted, it's also clear you were out of your element.

    As a professional journalist myself who weaseled his way into professional settings as a young amateur, I know firsthand you have to be extra careful of how you behave in those settings because you are the guest. Yes. You are the guest.

    The old "rules" of press rows and press boxes may seems quite antiquainted, but they are the rules. Ever been in a MLB press box? Try your smarmy schoolboy crap there.

    I don't know of your background or your future, but if you went undergrad at Duke and then grad school at UNC, I question your knowledge of the profession of journalism for the simple fact that if you get a job in the business, it will likely pay less than a year of your education, but will probably teach you more. Much more.

    It is not a glory job. It is a grueling job. It makes cynics out of people who work their asses off for long hours only to have some college kid act like they know better because they have a blog. And I say that as a professional who has a blog.

    Again, Bob overreacted, but so did you. The people who cheer you are the people who do not get it. They do not get that sports journalists are usually the biggest of fans. That's often why they got into the business. But they fight a constant battle of controlling their inner fan to be a professional. Think if your job was to watch a team that you care about or despise night after night after night and not being able to let the agony or glee out. It's tough, but you have to learn it. In high school I sat courtside and watched my school lose to our archrival in a state championship basketball game. I was a superfan. But I kept my mouth shut the entire game and afterward covered the team, many of whom were friends, totally objectively.

    So your behavior, which I somehow guess based on your writing and self-lauding nature was probably a little more over the top then you describe, was out of place. Don't be surprised that kids who want to sit at the adult table and still play with their mashed potatoes are not welcome.

    ReplyDelete
  45. Great story, I loved it. Enjoy reading your blog as well. (and this is coming from a UNC fan.)

    Go Heels

    ReplyDelete
  46. As a former sports journalist, I certainly hear what you are saying. You should have seen the 'old school' club in the 1980's when I was a 24-year old cub reporter.

    But, at the same time, I think you also exemplify some things that concern me about the future of sports journalism in the blogger era. The loss of neutrality leads to partisan reporting, and think we can already see where that leads in the political realm. Journalism ca 1800-50 when all media was blatantly partisan is not where we need to be. We are a world searching for true, spin-free information. I'd take a cue from someone like Barry Jacobs, who certainly has found the way through the maze to be clear, fair and while having personal preferences, even-handed and non-partisan in his reporting. Doubt he's ever cheered from pres row - not that I've seen. There is some validity to the standard of neutrality.

    So in the end, I find your thoughtful post resonant and yet disturbing. That said, thanks for writing it.

    ReplyDelete
  47. Wow. I took the time to write a thoughtful, detailed comment that did not kiss your ass, and within a few hours, it's gone. How's that for being in the right? Keep up the good work, kid. You'll get far eliminating dissenting opinions, especially the ones that call you out for being, well... you!

    ReplyDelete
  48. A few comments on this.

    1. I was there on press row too, and you were cheering throughout the Duke games (and the UNC games too), more than just the one occasion. You were fist pumping many times at big plays. I understand why that happens, and I'm not condemning you for it, but the account here is a little inaccurate in the amount of cheering you were indulging in.

    2. I don't think you show any understanding here of why the "no cheering" rule is in place, and why it is especially important at an event like the ACC Tournament. It is because when we put on the media credential, our role in relationship to the game changes. You are right, it is a different role than that of the fan. It is okay if you like being a fan better. But when you are there to cover a game, the idea is to analyze and report what is going on, and to allow your colleagues to do the same.

    This is especially important in the ACC Tournament with writers from different schools, cities, etc. who have competing allegiances. If I (as a writer, most often, for a UNC-affiliated publicaiton) notice you taking pleasure when Carolina is struggling, it detracts from my ability to analyze what is going on objectively. Instead it calls up my own emotional reactions to what is going on. That is why cheering on press row is considered unprofessional, because it detracts from everyone's ability to do the job they are there to do.

    3. As someone who has worked at publications at the margins of the mainstream sports media for a long time--back to 1995--it irritates me that you do not appreciate how cheering on press row is particularly damaging to those who write for "school affiliated publications." The knock against such publications is that those who staff them can't be professional and hence should be excluded from access. Over time, we (in dot com media, school affiliated pubs etc) have shown we can provide coverage that is different to and in some ways better than what the newspapers can do, in part because we are free of the space restriction and the formatting restrictions of conventional media. It has been a long struggle to get to the point where the ACC and other powers that be are happy to issue us press credentials so we have the same access as everyone else. And hence it's irritating to have someone come along who doesn't take the value of a credential seriously and acts in a way that undermines the credibility of those who are trying to do good journalism for smaller or niche publications and websites.

    4. As to your comments on the beat reporters themselves, I would advise you to spend a bit more time around them and in their shoes before issuing such a broad denunciation of what they do. It's a not a job I would want for myself, and no the beat writers don't look like an impressive group as a mob, but as individuals they are generally very knowledgeable and have wisdom worth respecting.

    5. I agree that the on-stage press conferences are of limited value, but the real action is in locker room interviews. Did you conduct any locker room interviews? That is where you can ask any quesiton you want of players and have a good chance of getting a non-canned answer. It's in the locker room that people like Widerer do their best work. And in my experience it's simply false to asser that the relationship between media and players is always one of mistrust and condescension. Players are willing to talk and share openly, especially when journalists take an interest in them as human beings not just as box score contributors.

    6. All that said, I am sure you are very good blogger, and it's fine if you prefer that role to being a media member. Please just don't apply for a credential next time if you're not able to live with the norms and responsibilites involved.

    ReplyDelete
  49. Anon, this is a common problem on this site. Comments get deleted because of some blogger glitch. If you'll look at the rest of the comments, you'll see that positive and negative ones remain. I deleted exactly one comment on this post, and that was when someone posted Heymann's phone #. Write it again, copy it for safety, and it'll probably show up.

    In the meantime, thanks for all the comments, positive and negative.

    -Shane

    ReplyDelete
  50. Excellent work. Inspiring post.

    ReplyDelete
  51. 1. I was there on press row too, and you were cheering throughout the Duke games (and the UNC games too), more than just the one occasion. You were fist pumping many times at big plays. I understand why that happens, and I'm not condemning you for it, but the account here is a little inaccurate in the amount of cheering you were indulging in.

    2. I don't think you show any understanding here of why the "no cheering" rule is in place, and why it is especially important at an event like the ACC Tournament. It is because when we put on the media credential, our role in relationship to the game changes. You are right, it is a different role than that of the fan. It is okay if you like being a fan better. But when you are there to cover a game, the idea is to analyze and report what is going on, and to allow your colleagues to do the same.

    This is especially important in the ACC Tournament with writers from different schools, cities, etc. who have competing allegiances. If I (as a writer, most often, for a UNC-affiliated publicaiton) notice you taking pleasure when Carolina is struggling, it detracts from my ability to analyze what is going on objectively. Instead it calls up my own emotional reactions to what is going on. That is why cheering on press row is considered unprofessional, because it detracts from everyone's ability to do the job they are there to do.

    3. As someone who has worked at publications at the margins of the mainstream sports media for a long time--back to 1995--it irritates me that you do not appreciate how cheering on press row is particularly damaging to those who write for "school affiliated publications." The knock against such publications is that those who staff them can't be professional and hence should be excluded from access. Over time, we (in dot com media, school affiliated pubs etc) have shown we can provide coverage that is different to and in some ways better than what the newspapers can do, in part because we are free of the space restriction and the formatting restrictions of conventional media. It has been a long struggle to get to the point where the ACC and other powers that be are happy to issue us press credentials so we have the same access as everyone else. And hence it's irritating to have someone come along who doesn't take the value of a credential seriously and acts in a way that undermines the credibility of those who are trying to do good journalism for smaller or niche publications and websites.

    4. As to your comments on the beat reporters themselves, I would advise you to spend a bit more time around them and in their shoes before issuing such a broad denunciation of what they do. It's a not a job I would want for myself, and no the beat writers don't look like an impressive group as a mob, but as individuals they are generally very knowledgeable and have wisdom worth respecting.

    5. I agree that the on-stage press conferences are of limited value, but the real action is in locker room interviews. Did you conduct any locker room interviews? That is where you can ask any quesiton you want of players and have a good chance of getting a non-canned answer. It's in the locker room that people like Widerer do their best work. And in my experience it's simply false to asser that the relationship between media and players is always one of mistrust and condescension. Players are willing to talk and share openly, especially when journalists take an interest in them as human beings not just as box score contributors.

    6. All that said, I am sure you are very good blogger, and it's fine if you prefer that role to being a media member. Please just don't apply for a credential next time if you're not able to live with the norms and responsibilites involved.

    ReplyDelete
  52. 1. I was there on press row too, and you were cheering throughout the Duke games (and the UNC games too), more than just the one occasion. You were fist pumping many times at big plays. I understand why that happens, and I'm not condemning you for it, but the account here is a little inaccurate in the amount of cheering you were indulging in.

    2. I don't think you show any understanding here of why the "no cheering" rule is in place, and why it is especially important at an event like the ACC Tournament. It is because when we put on the media credential, our role in relationship to the game changes. You are right, it is a different role than that of the fan. It is okay if you like being a fan better. But when you are there to cover a game, the idea is to analyze and report what is going on, and to allow your colleagues to do the same.

    This is especially important in the ACC Tournament with writers from different schools, cities, etc. who have competing allegiances. If I (as a writer, most often, for a UNC-affiliated publicaiton) notice you taking pleasure when Carolina is struggling, it detracts from my ability to analyze what is going on objectively. Instead it calls up my own emotional reactions to what is going on. That is why cheering on press row is considered unprofessional, because it detracts from everyone's ability to do the job they are there to do.

    3. As someone who has worked at publications at the margins of the mainstream sports media for a long time--back to 1995--it irritates me that you do not appreciate how cheering on press row is particularly damaging to those who write for "school affiliated publications." The knock against such publications is that those who staff them can't be professional and hence should be excluded from access. Over time, we (in dot com media, school affiliated pubs etc) have shown we can provide coverage that is different to and in some ways better than what the newspapers can do, in part because we are free of the space restriction and the formatting restrictions of conventional media. It has been a long struggle to get to the point where the ACC and other powers that be are happy to issue us press credentials so we have the same access as everyone else. And hence it's irritating to have someone come along who doesn't take the value of a credential seriously and acts in a way that undermines the credibility of those who are trying to do good journalism for smaller or niche publications and websites.

    4. As to your comments on the beat reporters themselves, I would advise you to spend a bit more time around them and in their shoes before issuing such a broad denunciation of what they do. It's a not a job I would want for myself, and no the beat writers don't look like an impressive group as a mob, but as individuals they are generally very knowledgeable and have wisdom worth respecting.

    5. I agree that the on-stage press conferences are of limited value, but the real action is in locker room interviews. Did you conduct any locker room interviews? That is where you can ask any quesiton you want of players and have a good chance of getting a non-canned answer. It's in the locker room that people like Widerer do their best work. And in my experience it's simply false to asser that the relationship between media and players is always one of mistrust and condescension. Players are willing to talk and share openly, especially when journalists take an interest in them as human beings not just as box score contributors.

    6. All that said, I am sure you are very good blogger, and it's fine if you prefer that role to being a media member. Please just don't apply for a credential next time if you're not able to live with the norms and responsibilites involved.

    ReplyDelete
  53. Thad, appreciate the comment. I disagree with your characterization of my "cheering" or "fist pumping" and with the overall condescension and implication that I'm too wild and immature to warrant a place in the noble confines of press row, but that's bound to happen and it's frankly not worth the debate. Your other points are well taken. I'm also curious if you had trouble posting this comment, since it seems to be a problem.

    At this point I'm no longer going to respond to comments in this post since, to me, it's something I wrote and learned from and am now content to move past. Please feel free to continue commenting, and know that I'm not ignoring you personally.

    -Shane

    ReplyDelete
  54. This is a great point...Carolina Grads in my experience have been more "status-obsessed and arrogant" than any Duke Grad and/or students I've met...Besides, ECU is the best anyway...lol P.S. I'm pretty sure Thad is Bob...

    ReplyDelete
  55. Shane,

    Unbelievably great post. The Moody Blues should take over press row, and head butt these MO FO's

    ReplyDelete
  56. Shane, I don't think you are too wild and immature. I actually think you are perfectly smart and probably a very nice guy as well. But you seem to have misunderstood the point of the no cheering rule and why it's especially important for non-mainstream folk to adhere to it. And I was looking right at you from 5 feet away when you cheered late in the UNC-Miami game and later on in the Duke-Maryland game. To be fair, it's not as if you were yelling or waving a pom pom, but you had a physical reaction to some of the plays that was significant enough to get my attention and that of others. It was well outside the accepted norm. It's okay if you don't care about the norm, but I'm just relaying to you how it looked to others.

    And no, I'm not Bob. I'm Thad Williamson, and I covered the ACC Tournament for the Durham Independent Weekly. I write for Inside Carolina as well. But before blog readers write me off as another UNC guy, I also wrote a piece for the Duke Basketball Report just last week, and if you go way back wrote an article in 1999 called "The Virtues of Duke Basketball" based on my experience covering a game in Cameron. I have witnessed and played a small part in the evolution of the media scene that has taken place, such that it is way, way more inclusive and egalitarian than it was 15 years ago. If you think it's snobby and status-obsessed now, you have no idea what it was like before or the way new media people were treated. (Ever tried covering a game from the nosebleeds in Cole Field House?) Sure the older beat reporters are clubby, and it's easy to feel left out. The antidote is to form your own club.

    One more thing: just because younger generation doesn't read the papers does not mean they are irrelevant. Fading, but not irrelevant. A lot of people still do read them, and they are the ones with the resources to seriously pursue investigative stories. Or do detailed feature stories. And they have the resources to pay talented young people like Wiederer enough to live on.

    Shane, good luck with your blog (and in fan mode now, congrats to Duke for a very deserved ACC Tournament title).

    ReplyDelete
  57. To one aspiring youngling who hates press boxes to another, thank you.

    ReplyDelete
  58. Dude, you can write. Nice job. But there's some good stuff out there, too. As another guy wanting to get into it, I hope you remember that. You've obviously got a shitload of talent. Don't get jaded yet.

    ReplyDelete
  59. I wish Thad had posted his comments before I wrote my response to this, because it would've saved me some time. This story is well told, but there are some gaping holes of logic and ignorant rants that I, as someone who was also sitting on press row at the ACC Tournament for the first time, just had to respond to. My response got a bit long, so instead of hogging the comment thread, I turned it into a post on my blog:

    http://www.john-zhu.com/blog/2011/03/15/why-this-rant-against-sportswriters-at-the-acc-tournament-is-full-of-sht/

    ReplyDelete
  60. Looks like the blog is eating comments again, so I'll try to post my comment once more:

    I wish Thad had posted his comments before I wrote my response, because it would've saved me some time. This story is well told, but there are some gaping holes of logic and ignorant rants in there. My response got a bit long, so instead of hogging the comment thread, I turned it into a post on my blog:

    http://www.john-zhu.com/blog/2011/03/15/why-this-rant-against-sportswriters-at-the-acc-tournament-is-full-of-sht/

    ReplyDelete
  61. And yet another reason to despise Duke and the insufferable know-it-all dickwads it produces.

    ReplyDelete
  62. Shane,

    I think you would do well to consider the comments Thad made to you and the spirit in which he made them. He is an excellent writer and through his efforts, blazing the trail so to speak, he and others have made it easier for you to have the opportunity to sit on press row.

    There are standards for a reason and most are well conceived from those with long experience at doing their jobs. Maybe you didn't realize the extent to which your actions appeared but when you were called out and responded by giving a fellow member of the press the finger it was both juvenile and inappropriate. It did nothing but reinforce the idea that you didn't belong in the press section.

    Your blog pieces attacking Bob Heymann in the aftermath also reveal more of your true agenda than it says about Mr. Heymann's attitude toward your actions. If you felt like he was out of line I remind you the best way to deal with any verbal attack is to respond with dignity, class, and a clarity of speech that represents your point of view and renders the antagonist mute by force of logic and wit. If you had responded in that manner it would have reflected much more favorably on you than resorting to puerile actions.

    I hope you take Thad's criticism to heart. I believe you will learn and grow as a result. In my opinion, both you and your readers would benefit in the future.

    ReplyDelete
  63. A response from Chris Jones's blog (most certainly one of the good ones):

    http://sonofboldventure.blogspot.com/2011/03/shane-take-knee.html#more

    I like his advice, Shane. Find the good ones out there and become one of them.

    ReplyDelete
  64. Guys, for anyone still reading this, I've posted an apology:

    http://sethcurrysavesduke.blogspot.com/2011/03/apology.html

    -Shane

    ReplyDelete
  65. Two words come to mind here, "Righteous indignation." Most serious journalists refrain from its practice.

    ReplyDelete
  66. You have been quick to call out writers for their choice of questions but I don't see you once add in what questions you asked that blew theirs out of the water. Care to share a few of those with us?

    ReplyDelete
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