Long Weekend Readers Voice


Happy Labour/Labor Day!!

So, I’ve been thinking about this topic ever since Bob Ryan retired from the Boston Globe.

More so in the USA than in Canada but, the natural progression for athletes when retiring is to somehow get in front of either a camera or a microphone. There are too many names to mention, but tune into almost any MLB, NBA or NFL game and you are almost certain to find a former athlete as part of the on air team. That’s not to say it isn’t happening in Canada, it certainly does too.

The same can be said of radio hosts. Not so much in Toronto, but numerous retired players become radio “talent” in the world of sports.

The one media vertical I don’t think this happens on a regular basis is print, I can’t think of a retired player who has gone on to a regular role as a writer.

In each area of the media we have experienced, educated/trained “talent”, of varying backgrounds. You will find in each market, the good, the bad and the ugly.

My question for you is what makes a good modern day sports media personality. Does the person’s background matter to you in evaluating their on air on print capabilities? Do you care that they never played the game as a pro? Does a good sense of humor or a great voice mask inexperience? Does someone who does a ton of homework, comes to work super-prepared cross out the fact that he never played in the bigs? If you were going to have one prerequisite to becoming a sports journalist today, what would it be?

Happy summer long weekend!!


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Brian Gerstein
September 1, 2012 1:28 pm

Great topic TSM. It has always been one of my pet peeves how just because you are an athlete, especially one with a huge following, how many doors immediately open up to you. The saving grace though is usually the shelf life is not too long if the athlete can not produce in the media spotlight. I immediately think of someone like Tie Domi, who crashed and burned on air almost immediately as he had no dues to pay before going on air.

The reason why you don’t see any athletes go into print is due to them being in the media spotlight themselves and being so media saavy that they would be more well suited in that capacity, plus the idea of using an athlete on air is to get the name and face recognition out there rather than just on a byline.

While I do not feel it is necessary to be a former athlete, and I am perfectly fine with a well prepared and skilled non-athlete, the former athlete, if they can bring it does add an extra dimension, having lived through what it is like to perform on the ice/field/court and can offer more than the non-athlete who plays that role.

There is enough room for both. My beef is when the hiring process of the ex-athlete is done too soon without the proper preparation time.

The one prerequisite I would look for in becoming a sports journalist is being able to take the huge overload of information out there and convey it to the sports fans in an intelligent, novel manner, where I feel that I benefitted by listening to their insights on the game.

By far the ex-athlete who I desperately want removed from my current sports watching habits is Leo Rautins, a supposed ex-athlete who comes across as a know-it-all just from having a cup of tea in the NBA with the 76’ers and certainly has rubbed me the wrong way from Day 1. Contrast that with Jack Armstrong, an ex-collegiate coach at Niagara, who treats the fans with the proper amount of respect they deserve, while being both entertaining and knowledgeable.

Looking forward to seeing more comments on this thread.

September 1, 2012 2:25 pm

>I can’t think of a retired player who has gone on to a regular role as a writer.

Doug Glanville writes a regular column on espn.com


September 1, 2012 4:51 pm

” but tune into almost any MLB, NBA or NFL game…”-TSM

“One of the main uses of the preposition into is to indicate movement toward the inside of a place. In to is the adverb in followed by the preposition to.” – GrammarBook.com

Perhaps fewer professional athletes join the print media because they are unable to write well? Surely a professional athlete would never be able to compose sentences that were as clear and eloquent as those of regular blogger?
“The one media vertical I don’t think this happens on a regular basis is print…”

September 1, 2012 9:54 pm

Off the top of my head, the best athelte-turned-writer/journalist is Rick Telander of the Chicago Sun-Times, who played at Northwestern and may have gotten a cup of coffee in the pros.

Tangentially, I’m always intrigued by the athletes that go into the booth, but that do pxp instead of color.

Jim Van Horne
September 2, 2012 1:09 pm

One of the reasons you don’t find an over abundance of former athletes in print, I believe, is because they aren’t taught to be “writers” and “communicators” they’re taught to be athletes. There’s a big difference between paraphrasing and pitching, and after fifteen years in “the show” there aren’t too many millionaires who want to waste their time learning the difference between a perfect pitch and a preposition. Besides, writing means a former athlete will have to mix with individuals they have held in contempt for most of their careers, and that just wouldn’t wash.
On the other hand, colour commentators are another matter. In the role of play by play, it’s the job of an individual to tell the viewer/listener “what” is happening. The colour commentator tells us “why” it’s happening. As a former player, he/she should be able to see things we as mere mortals should not be able to see. I have always found the best colour commentators, or analysts are those who were “journeymen” in their respective sports. Athletes who had to work hard for success and therefore had a better understanding of what it meant to find success.
What makes a good media personality today? Knowledge, versatility, preparedness, humility, sense of humor, respect for the viewer/listener.

September 2, 2012 3:41 pm
Reply to  Jim Van Horne

“One of the reasons you don’t find an over abundance of former athletes
in print, I believe, is because they aren’t taught to be “writers” and
“communicators” they’re taught to be athletes.”

which is funny, since so many athletes have “communciations” as their major in college.

mike in boston
mike in boston
September 2, 2012 5:34 pm
Reply to  Alex

Well, Julius Peppers received a C in “Basic Writing” and a D in “Black Experience” but scored an A Elementary Physical Methods, so that tend to support Jim’s thesis.


September 3, 2012 8:46 pm

I’d be interested in seeing retired writers become athletes.

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