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By the Book

by Archives October 16, 2007

I have to admit that when I heard Suzyn Waldman, a New York-based reporter, cry during her live report on perhaps the final press conference given by Joe Torre, I was surprised.
She got judged harshly by other reporters and commentators, especially those outside the New York area, and probably made the stereotypes even more believed about women reporters in the sports world.
But, I don’t think that the people judging her know what it would be like in her situation. Here is a reporter who has been there for all of Joe Torre’s 12 years at the head of the Yankees. You can’t help but become attached to the people you see almost every day from March until October. Heck, I’ve been a reporter at Concordia for only four years and have the same kind of feelings.
When you see someone holding a press conference after his season, and perhaps managerial career, just ended, it can get emotional. When his boss George Steinbrenner said that Torre’s job would be in jeopardy if he lost the series, you have to take it seriously. When Torre says that “they have a great future,” when talking about the Yankees, you have to know what is going through his mind.
When Waldman cried, she mentioned that the tears you heard in her voice are the tears that were falling in the coaches’ room in the Yankees clubhouse. How can you blame her? When you see people crying, and when you are attached to these people, you get emotional. It’s human nature.
That led me to examine the relationship that sports journalists, especially beat reporters and former players, have with the teams that they cover.
It seems that there are three different categories. You have the ones who still think they are part of the team. Those like Benoit Brunet of RDS, who say things like “we need to improve our even-strength scoring,” when talking about the Canadiens. Does he know that this isn’t 1993 and he is no longer on the team?
The second category is the people who try and overcompensate for their connection to the team. That would be Tiki Barber of NBC when he called Eli Manning’s attempts of being a leader “comical.”
Basically, this type of analyst tells everyone “not only am I going to be unbiased, I will beat down my former teammates and coach,” though Barber already did those things when he was still a member of the Giants.
The third category is the person who does their job well, with no bias or compensation at all. This category should be the one with the most people, but it’s hard to find someone who could do their job well no matter what.
For this category, I will go with Jesse Palmer, the former Florida quarterback who played for the New York Giants, and had a brief stint with the Montreal Alouettes.
I was watching the South Carolina-North Carolina game that Palmer was an analyst in. He played for South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier at Florida, but you wouldn’t know it by the way he was reporting on the game. He has a very, very bright career in broadcast – something that can’t be said about his stint as a quarterback in the NFL.
I wrote about this last year, about how hard it is to keep your blinders on when covering a sports team, no matter how hard journalism teachers hammer it in your head. At no time was this more apparent to me than when I started covering the Alouettes.
A year ago at this time, I was a fan of the team. Now I have to be critical and pose hard questions to the people I was once cheering for.
I don’t feel out of place when doing this. The reason for that is every beat reporter will tell you that their job is easier when the team wins. However, when the team doesn’t win, you have to ask questions and be critical. That is the key.
When I turned on CJAD after the Alouettes’ loss to the Toronto Argonauts and observed that they only replayed the clips of Montreal touchdowns, it showed their bias.
That’s where the problem lies. Fans and listeners don’t want you to sugarcoat anything. They want to know why the team is doing well or why they stink. They want you to be honest.
So I don’t blame Suzyn Waldman for crying during her report. She wasn’t sugarcoating the Yankees’ season, she just felt sorry for a friend.
You don’t lose your right to show emotions when you become a journalist, no matter what people want you to think.

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