Check out the press release for my client's store, SÖTSAK, and maybe we'll see you at the store for the Grand Opening on August 28!
NFL training camps draw thousands of fans, and I can never quite understand why. Sure, they’re free and a chance to see the team up close and maybe get a few autographs. Beyond that, I never understood the appeal. The climate? Hot, sticky. The general atmosphere? Boring. As a reporter for USA TODAY, I covered hundreds of these workouts that lasted nearly three hours under unrelenting sun in places I’d rather forget than remember.
Some teams make a point of setting up a table and assigning a couple of players and coaches to about 30 minutes of autograph duty every day. It’s a nice, orderly way of making sure people get what they came for. Many teams don’t, and fans simply line the walkway from the practice field to the locker rooms and beg for autographs. Players often stop and sign, but once they stop signing? Oh, that’s when the complaining starts. One player told me his team received a complaint about him not signing for a fan. He told me, ‘I signed at least 200 times after practice, and the 201st person is the only one who seems to matter.’ He signed and signed after practice, shortening the time he had to shower, change, have lunch, catch a nap, and get to meetings before the afternoon workout. His reward? People thought of him as stuck-up guy who stiffed a fan.
When I worked for the Washington Redskins as editorial director, I appeared on the coach’s TV show, a daily cable show, and a Sunday preview show. I also got to say a few words on radio programming. So when fans asked ME to sign their items at training camp (usually when players wouldn’t, couldn’t, or didn’t), I happily complied. I usually had to sign 10 or 15 times, certainly not 200. And I hadn’t just had my head ripped off in practice, either.
So let this link and the video be a warning to you as you consider whether or not to go to a training camp practice. Me? Well, I like the beach now.
Having spent a little time the other day reviewing my archives for some clips, I thought more about the work that went into the pieces than reminiscing about the people in them. Pardon my self-absorption for the moment.
I loved the work. The research, the calls, the interviews, and then the creative process. Whether it was magazine-length stuff, or the short pieces for which USA TODAY was known, each required a certain focus and a love of words and phrase-making. Short pieces valued the snappy beginning and a quick assembly of pertinent facts. Long-form pieces, such as those I did for the last two Super Bowl programs, tend to wind around and in and out of themselves and if you do the job right (and I think I did), they come back to their starting place.
See some of the work I've done over the years.
I’ve written about many people over many years. Some are gone now, and I miss them. I don’t think I ever had a more emotional day on the job than when I wrote Gene Upshaw’s obituary for USA TODAY in 2008. I knew the man for more than 20 years, respected him, liked him. I had seen him play for the Oakland Raiders but knew him best as the executive director of the NFL Players Association. His death was reported early on an August morning and a phone call from my editor got me out of bed around 6 a.m. to begin a long and painful day trying to write objectively without eulogizing. Here’s a link, since I know (hint, hint) that I’ve whetted your curiosity.
I always loved writing. As a kid, in high school, in college, as a professional. I still do. I love reading as well.
Value the word. Trust the word. Learn to use lots of them properly.
Some years ago at the Super Bowl, one of my colleagues was being pressured by his office to produce a number of stories in rat-a-tat fashion. Bang them out. Go, go, go. His response: “It’s writing, not typing.”
When you sit at your keyboard and send an email, a note, a letter, remember that little lesson: It’s writing, not typing.
No one ever kidded me and I never kidded myself or anyone. I always knew that professional sports, at their heart, were businesses. Owners charged for television rights and tickets, players sought signing bonuses and long-term contracts, and fans happily coughed it up. Winning and losing factored into all of this as well, but the bottom line was, well, the bottom line. And so it is in business as well. We compete for clients. We want to corral them, keep them, bill them, and get paid by them (trust me, the last part gets really competitive and nasty on occasion). We want our clients to do well and we want to do well by them, so that we do well. As a media consultant and supplier of editorial services, I would say the sport I’m closest to now is fishing. Not that I do much real fishing. But baiting the hook, trolling the waters, waiting for a bite, and then landing the big tuna (not Bill Parcells) is the best analogy I can offer. It takes patience, it takes persistence, and there can be long and boring stretches in the hot sun on a lake that’s way too quiet. The right lure and a steady hand, however, can help you land the one that someone else will say got away.