Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Shoptalk

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Shoptalk

Article excerpt

PASS ON A PRESS PASS

Take me out to the ballgame -- without a reporter's notebook

It seemed like a dream come true. There I was, in the press box at Oriole Park at Camden Yards -- the standard for new, nostalgic baseball fields. A breezy, warm May evening opened in front of me, and my beloved Yankees were about to take on Baltimore's hometown heroes.

I had it all: the best seat in the house, and all the free hot dogs and peanuts I could munch.

My official purpose for being there: one of several stops in my research for a story on how newspaper sports coverage had changed in the face of growing competition from the Internet,

TV, and sports-talk radio. The effort proved fruitful as I gathered insight and quotes from veteran scribes, players, and even public- relations flacks about how the job of beat writers and sports columnists had become tougher and more demanding.

With several hours of interviewing completed, I settled in to watch the Yankees -- my baseball idols since fourth grade -- take on their longtime divisional rivals. With a rare sportswriter's view, I anticipated one of the best experiences a baseball fan could have.

What I discovered, however, was the complete opposite. Being a sportswriter is actually the worst job a sports fan could have.

The reason: you can't have any fun.

I found this out right after the first pitch was thrown and the Yankee leadoff batter belted a single. My first reaction, of course, was to cheer and applaud. But you don't do that in the press box. So there I was, a bona fide Yankee fan in the catbird's seat, and I had to hold my tongue. Any New York sports fan will tell you that's akin to holding your breath.

As the game progressed, things got worse. Unlike fellow fans sitting in the mezzanine level or the bleachers, sportswriters really don't want to chew the fat with other people. They're so focused on covering every pitch, nuance, and managerial decision, they couldn't care less about what I thought of the last double play or the blown strike-three call.

One of the joys of baseball is that most fans, rich or poor, old or young, will gladly (if insanely) discuss elements of the game in front of you. It's what makes baseball such a friendly, community event.

But not these guys. The only attention I received was when I blocked their view of the TV monitor during an instant replay. I recall one of them throwing an empty beer cup at me, while another tossed a half-full bucket of popcorn. …

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