Uneven parallel bars expertise? Yep, that too.
As you all know, each Monday, we are posting a blog to help our readers get to know the media just a little bit better. If this is your first time, check out our growing vault of media profiles here.
As you know – or can see – each of these profiles has a twist.
No, we aren’t posting story pitch tips or media lists, but instead great stories from the media themselves about their lives, their work and other little known facts! Think of it as your first “networking” opportunity of the week!
So, Jeff, time to share!
What do you want to tell the blogosphere about yourself today?
There was a time, I suppose, when covering mainstream men’s sports was my goal. I grew up in northwest Illinois living and mostly dying with the Chicago Cubs, including the crushing summer of ’69 – Miracle Mets or Choking Cubs? -- so my sports writing career path certainly could have gone that direction.
But in high school and college at the University of Illinois, I had a passion for a broader array of sports than football/basketball and an appreciation of women’s sports that was ahead of its time.
Now I’ve come to believe that my first professional newspaper job was meant to be in Colorado Springs. Because during my decade there, the U.S. Olympic Committee moved its headquarters to a former Air Force base not far from downtown. The opportunity to learn about and cover Olympic sports dropped into the lap of someone who was cut out to do exactly that.
I covered my first Olympics – Los Angeles – a year before taking a job at the Phoenix Gazette in 1985 primarily to cover Arizona State football. While I’m most recognized for my coverage of ASU sports with the Gazette and Arizona Republic, including 13 years as the football beat writer and 14 with baseball, my first love is Olympic sports.
The diversity is part of the appeal, but it’s also the type of athlete drawn to an often solitary quest that can only be achieved every four years. To tell an Olympic athlete’s story is especially rewarding because so few come looking for it except in a short window immediately before the Games.
I’ve been to 10 Olympics including every Summer and Winter Games since 1996. My favorites: 1992 Barcelona, 2000 Sydney and 2002 Salt Lake (because of its importance coming so soon after the Sept. 11 attacks). Some of my greatest friends in my business are those I’ve been in an Olympic press room with at midnight to 3 a.m. after an incredibly long day, all of us still writing because of the time-zone difference to the United States. Or now because of the non-stop news cycle.
I know more about rhythmic gymnastics, synchronized swimming, Greco-Roman wrestling, track cycling, short track speed skating, archery and on and on than most would care to know. The trick, though, is not to pretend you know more than you do because most Olympic athletes understand the need to fill in the gaps. And their journey – not the specifics – is the story that people want to hear.
Every newspaper reporter wants to write a book, right? Mine hopefully will be about Arizona’s Olympic history, which dates to the 1908 Games.