Sports reporters are unlike any others. They are members of a small professional clique that love what they do, sometimes at great personal cost.
This was in evidence in the weather-challenged re-match of the University of Texas Longhorns against the Texas State University Bobcats in men’s baseball.
All collegiate and professional sporting events have a minute-by-minute timeline of pre-game activities. This includes items from when team warms up to the playing of the national anthem. This insures an on-time start to the game. First pitch for tonight’s game was set for 6:30pm.
A similar countdown exists for the sports reporters. At 5:00pm, about 90 minutes before the start of the game, a cadre of reporters, videographers and photographers descend upon the Press Box for a most important event: dinner.
Everyone knows each other, unless they suffer from a social anxiety disorder. And everyone gets along. Absent is the competition found in the traditional newsroom. These people grew up playing sports. They know how to be a member of a team. They also know how to share. Everyone gets the same access to the game and post game interviews, if they want it.
At 5:45pm the Sports Information Director (SID) announces a lightening strike within eight miles of field. The game is delayed. No worries. The weather radar shows showers that barely touch the area.
At 6:30 the SID announces an additional 30-minute delay. The side conversations begin. One group relives milestone Longhorn victories. Schmoozing occurs as younger members corps get to know the senior members. And a television reporter is getting feedback on a story line from his peers.
The weather has now turned ominous. The sky is black. A tarp covering pitcher’s mound has blown loose, despite the sandbags. Water is ponding on the dugout roof. And a photographer is in the covered stands trying to frame a picture of the stadium with lightening in the background.
At 7:03 the SID announces a continued delayed with no estimated started start time. Side conversations now evolve into personal stories. A lot is shared in short time.
The rain delay will cause one reporter to miss his ex-cousin’s birthday party. Actually, it was his ex-wife’s cousin, who he really likes.
Divorce, or not being married, appears to be common among sports reporters. It’s no wonder. Their day starts at 2pm, ends at midnight and includes most Saturdays. Not a good formula for a relationship.
One reporter share they he’s driving for Lyft for the extra money. Freelancers earn $100 to $250 per game, and salaries for experienced photographers are about $33 thousand per year. One senior sports reporter took a pay cut to come to Austin. You don’t become a sports reporter to become rich.
As I introduce a television reporter to an arena videographer, the videographer planted a big, wet kiss on the temple of the reporter. It turns out they’ve know each other for 20 year. Neither of them looked that old. It’s a close-knit community.
And in the group were five people in their early twenties, just getting started in their careers. Three were preparing for the broadcast like it wasn’t storming, preparing side stories, factoids and anecdotes for the game.
A talented, but quiet, still-photographer was buried in Twitter and Facebook. He was the only holdout to the group bonding.
And a fifth youngster, a videographer, was taking it all in. He loved what he was doing but he couldn’t see a path to the next level, and he was hoping to learn from those around him. I had to give him credit. He was asking questions the older reporters were still asking themselves.
At 8:00 the SID said the game was cancelled. It would not be rescheduled because it was a non-conference game and the season is near its end.
Editors and producers were texted. Photos and footage of rain were uploaded. And by 8:10 the Press Box was empty.
As I walked to my car in pouring rain I though of these people. They work terrible hours for questionable pay. Their personal life suffers. And their work often gets cut for reasons beyond their control. But they comeback each night to bring us a 45 second update, or 400 word article, on how our favorite team did that night.
Thank heavens for them.
And thank heavens for my rain gear.