Washington, D.C.: Other than feeling the tone of the game, players and possibly crowd, how much does actually being at a game improve the sportwriter’s analysis of most contests? Can you basically produce the same written work from watching it on television, or is game attendance more a precaution in the event something extraordinary happens on the field/court.
Michael Wilbon: No, you cannot produce anything close to a fully comprehensive piece watching on TV. First and foremost, you see in-person what the camera might not show you. Second, you need the access to the players and coaches afterward (and, maybe, the officials) to ask guys why things happened the way they did…both the obvious questions and some that aren’t so obvious…The real work for sportswriters begins after the games in the locker room. You oughta come out of those rooms know a helluva lot more than you did when you walked in…or you haven’t done your job well.
Arlington, Va.: Did you hear about Steve Czaban (sports radio personality) asking Brunell on the Comcast postgame show whether he’d ask Joe Gibbs to put in Campbell for the rest of the season? For team growth/benefit? Why don’t reporters ask the tough questions that need to be asked at press conferences?
Michael Wilbon: No, I don’t listen to Redskins postgame on the radio. And because Czaban asked a question you don’t like, you think no reporters ask tough questions at press conferences? How many postgame sessions have you ever attended? And keep in mind (a little inside-baseball here), many times I don’t ask the questions I consider most important during press conferences, so that everybody can share the answer. Usually, I try to ask those questions privately so that I get the answer and MY READERS get the info and not everybody’s readers…That’s the nature of competition. And when you’ve been doing something for a long time, if the people you’re covering respect you, they’ll talk to you personally outside of the news conference, which is often just a waste of time.
So there you have it, ladies and gentlemen. A columnist like Wilbon (as oppposed to a beat reporter) can’t possibly do his job properly without being physically present at the venue (good to know the pundit’s trenchant TV analysis of games he’s only seen highlights of will never be confused with anything “fully comprehensive”). However, press conferences are best left to the not-so-well connected types.
Seriously, if you don’t have Michael Jordan on speed-dial, you should probably just retire.