I’m guessing not many of you reading have had the chance to cover a professional sporting event with all the access real sportswriters (whatever that means, these days) receive. I’ve done everything from high school through Division I college football, but until the Warriors started their social media campaign this season, I’ve never had a chance to take my talents to the pros.
After allowing me to cover “Tweedia Day,” once again the Warriors were gracious enough to invite me over, this time for last night’s Phoenix Suns game. And not some sort of bastardized “sit at the top of the second level and you may get to talk to Dan Gadzuric after the game if you behave” kind of coverage, either. This was the same access guys like Marcus Thompson II and Rusty Simmons are provided to do their jobs.
As such, I wanted to tread lightly in my first at Oracle with a media pass attached to the beltloop of my jeans. First, the players and coaches have no idea who I am, so there’s no relationship there. Second, there’s a code of conduct among reporters that I wasn’t about to disrupt, at least my first time covering a Warriors game from a location other than my couch.
“STEP ASIDE, MATT MORRISON, BAY AREA SPORTS GUY COMING THROUGH!!!”
Yeah, not exactly. Here’s how it all went down…
Before the game
I was tempted by the offer of a media parking spot, but that would have meant paying for parking in downtown SF and taking 880 to get there after work, so I declined and took BART instead (good call, as the traffic on 880 looked pretty standard near the Coliseum just before 6 pm, and by “standard” I mean 10-15 mph). Walked through the gated player’s parking lot into the bottom of the arena, and got a tour.
I was shown the media room, where the opposing teams arrive and their locker room, and where I’d be sitting during the game, at one of the three tables between the first and second levels of the arena. It’s a great vantage point, with Ethan Sherwood Strauss of Warriorsworld and I sitting in between a couple Warriors.com employees and two Turkish guys who have the honor of following Hedo Turkoglu around. The beat writers were stationed at a similar table on the right side, so again we were getting the same access as any other media member.
I went back down to the media room, where you could pay $7 for a meal of fried chicken, pasta with meatballs, salad, veggies and chicken noodle soup (I did). I met Strauss for the first time after going back and forth with each other on Twitter for the better part of a year. That was before also meeting Damon Bruce for the first time, after similarly communicating via email and Twitter off and on for several years. Really nice guy*; talked to him for a couple minutes while attempting to watch last night’s dreadful LeBron James extravaganza.
* (This seems to be the norm around here. All the local media guys I’ve come across have been nothing but cordial, if not downright friendly. Well, the ones I’ve introduced myself too, anyway. Kind of surprising for industry full of insecurity and people trying to get noticed. Maybe it’s a Bay Area thing.)
The media room is actually two rooms: one with a buffet line, a few tables and a TV, then another with a set of tables with dividers (sort of like the individual study areas in a college library) where guys like Thompson II and Tim Kawakami worked up until gametime. Since I pay myself for my work on BASG (and times are tight this year — I had to restrict myself from bringing a date to this year’s holiday party), instead of working I spent my time before the game eating, talking, watching the Cavs not play defense, and checking Twitter and my fantasy teams.
The coolest thing about watching the game up at the press tables is that there’s a TV at the corner of each table that updates all the basic stats in real time. Or maybe I just feel that way because I’ve spent many an evening manually recording and adding up stats at high school basketball and football games (which is hard because if your mind drifts for 30 seconds you realize you missed a bunch of stuff you should have written down, then you have to make stuff up to put in the newspaper … just kidding!).
Other than the fact that you have your computer in front of you and you can’t cheer or drink beer (I hear that’s frowned upon in press row), the only difference between watching the game with a press pass or as a regular fan is that they hand you stat sheets at the end of every quarter. That’s not a big difference anyway, college teams also do this.
After the game
Here’s where it got a little surreal.
Another reason why I decided to tread lightly last night was out of my control: the Warriors lost, 107-101, to a Suns team they really should have beaten at home. We headed down to the press conference room (which had about 40 seats and was filled to less than half of capacity) to ask Keith Smart questions about the loss we all just saw.
Kawakami asked questions about penetration by the guards (i.e. Nash), Strauss asked questions about Stephen Curry, a couple more questions were asked about more generic topics and the press conference was cut to an end after a little less than 10 minutes by the Warriors’ head of PR, Raymond Ridder. It was a strange game, a game where it was clear that the Warriors’ offense was stagnant, Smart wasn’t in love with Curry’s production (he blamed Curry’s below-average performance on his eyes getting scratched), and the Warriors didn’t make free throws at the same ridiculous clip the Suns did. So I asked a question about free throws, just to see what Smart would say, and he said what I figured he would.
Like I wrote earlier, making waves as a rookie “beat blogger” wasn’t the goal last night, so I definitely wasn’t doing my best impression of a NY Post reporter. I’d like people to answer my questions without checking my media credential to see if I should even be allowed in the room before I start badgering coaches after losses.
From there, it was off to the mausoleum locker room. Took some video of Curry getting interviewed (not going to use it, since it consists of questions from two reporters who might not want me taking credit for their work, and one of those reporters transcribed the whole thing for their own blog already), then I asked David Lee a couple questions before he left the locker room (in the video below).
Another example of holding back in my first day “on the job”: Andris Biedrins (who left the game in the second quarter with some sort of stomach ailment and never returned) came out of the shower area and sat by his locker. Thompson II came up to him quietly and asked how he was doing. At least I figure that’s what he did. In that situation I didn’t want to bother Biedrins (who definitely looked under the weather) or cherry pick off Thompson II, who’s been asking Biedrins questions for years.
Other things I noticed in the locker room:
1. It isn’t that big, only about 20×20 feet.
2. There aren’t any crazy perks (such as TVs in every locker) like Mark Cuban has supposedly supplied in Dallas.
3. Dorrell Wright’s watch has a huge rectangular face and it looked awesome. I could never get away with wearing something like that, even if I became ungodly rich, but that didn’t stop me from staring at it for at least five seconds. That thing definitely cost more than my Honda.
After that, it was over. The writers all went to file something before deadline, and I chatted with Strauss for a while in the parking lot before heading to BART for the long journey home. I filed something around 2:15 am last night, which was before my deadline of “falling asleep on the couch due to exhaustion” — the same couch where I usually cover the Warriors. It’s a (somewhat) comfortable couch, but I wouldn’t mind the chance to play journalist again. And again. And again…