As you know, this website has been going strong for about two years. And that’s largely due to you, the reader. I can only assume that if you’re reading it, you have an interest in sports or pictures of sports. Some of you, in fact, may even have a longing yourself to write about sports. That’s why today’s Need-to-Know Wednesday may actually impart some information.
You see, I myself not only write for this blog, but have been writing about sports since high school in the early-to-mid nineties. And you may not realize it, but I’ve interviewed a decent amount of very famous names during that time — in sports mediums from Athlete Weekly to SportsZoom. There’s certainly a decorum involved in interviewing the professional athlete, which is why I thought I might take this time today to impart to you some of the wisdom I’ve learned on the subject, so you too may employ these methods as you embark on your new career as a sportswriter. You can thank me later.
1. Always be polite. It’s crucial to establish, up front, a good personal relationship with your subject. When I sat down with Jayson Williams, for instance (link), I knew he was a volitile personality and did my best not to provoke him. As a result, the interview yielded not only a comprehensive look at the athlete’s career, but a fascinating glimpse into Williams as a person. All because I showed the proper respect.
2. Get them to address their shortcomings. For example, Bill Buckner is best known for botching the Red Sox momentum in game six of the 1986 World Series. When I interviewed Buckner in 1997 (link), he not only spoke on the sensitive subject of that bemoaned game, but also on his poor sense of direction, his inability to cook and his failure to adhere to local zoning restrictions concerning additions to his home. The result? One of the greatest interviews Buckner has ever given (and a Yves Jorgenson award for me!).
3. Engage them in subjects close to their heart. When I interviewed college football hall-of-famer Alex Karras, I expected to address the gambling problems which plagued much of his NFL career. Imagine my surprise, then, when he wanted the talk to focus on his relationship with a young Emmanuelle Lewis, and as a result I ended up selling the piece to an entirely different publication than originally intended. (link) You have to be flexible.
4. Take the time to learn about yourself as well. Case in point: I only recently remembered, through hypnosis, that I interviewed professional wrestler Stone Cold Steve Austin (link). Apparently, during the interview I was punched in the face repeatedly, an experience which I subsequently forced myself to forget. Only through the help of intense therapy was I able to unlock the sit-down with Austin, which I had no recollection of outside of listening to the radio in my car on the way home from his estate, which simultaneously addressed my issue of not being able to listen to Taylor Dane music without feeling that I’ve been punched in the face by Stone Cold Steve Austin.
5. Stand by your work. Six months ago, I interviewed Bill Laimbeer (link), and at the time I believed my tough questions to appeal to Laimbeer’s style. After I ate a sampling of Brazil nuts Laimbeer sent me in the mail two weeks later, however, I learned that the gift was not for a job well done but a vessel by which Laimbeer delivered a gypsy hex that has in recent weeks caused me to both grow a tail and see a five-times increase in the size of my face on my head, replacing much of my hair. I will not apologize to Bill Laimbeer.
6. Don’t be afraid to ask the uncomfortable questions. When I interviewed tennis great Steffi Graf (link), I repeatedly asked her if she wanted to make out with me. Although she said no and halted the interview, I know that it was because she just wasn’t willing to address my breakthrough interviewing techniques.
7. Overall, stay focused. Do not pander to the many questions former Reds pitcher Mario Soto asks about your massive face and tail. Remember, the interview is about him, not you.
I hope these tips will help you as you embark upon your new career as a sports journalist. In the meantime, however, peep the video below — it’s from this past Saturday’s Saturday Night Live. It was a dismal episode, starring LeBron James, and before you guys go and start blasting SNL (yes, I know it’s often not funny) and Andy Samberg (yes, I know he’s often not funny), I think you can’t dislike the following, which I hope you’ll agree is pretty sharp.
Until next week, friends.