Jason Quick, who works for The Oregonian, covered the Portland Trailblazers for years. He just moved off that beat to cover the University of Oregon football team. Then he gave an interview to SB Nation about why he made the move. It gave a perfect look into the problems of wanting to be a writer and storyteller covering a major sport’s team while dealing with, in Quick’s word, the “bulls—” that often comes with the territory. He experienced some downright maddening stuff, and they’re the types of things that any journalist has probably run across in his work—and they’re the types of things make me go on rants to my wife about how I want to quit journalism and just write fiction.
Because the stupid truth is that a lot of times, when we trust people, we’re writing or at least dealing with fiction, anyway.
I put some highlights from Quick’s interview below. After you read them, drop your thoughts about it in the comments, and if you’re a working or former beat journalist, let us know how much you can relate to what Quick has to say. Does this sound about par for the course in journalism to you, or does it sound like simply a bad situation?
“I’ve seen a lot of bull—-. From putting your heart and soul into a player and believing him when he talks about kissing his kids at night and all that, then you write that, and the next road trip you see him with somebody that’s not his wife, basically getting it on. That’s disheartening to me. There’s a lot of times where you hear a bunch of bull—- from these guys, it’s hard to believe anything.”
“There was a time when I really, really enjoyed this beat. 2008-2009, around the time they had the 13-game winning streak [in 2007] and the year after that, that was by far the most fun I ever had at my job. There was a closeness with the team, a drive I had, a vision. But I think what made that special was a bunch of guys on their rookie contracts. I’ve seen how money changes players, changes their attitudes, so I think over time it eroded the goodwill that I had, pursuing stories because you want to believe what you’re writing, you know? There’s just too many instances where I would buy into it and down the road realize it was all bull—.”
“[The (NBA) access] sucks. It sucks. It’s awful. It’s horrid. On the Oregon beat, the kids are awesome. There hasn’t been one guy that I’ve talked to that hasn’t been engaging, well-spoken, polite. Every kid I’ve talked to I’ve been really, really impressed with. The coaches, on the other hand, I can’t say the same. They’re almost trying to be difficult. It’s frustrating. It’s obvious they have no respect for our profession.”
“Damon Stoudamire gave me a great piece of advice early. He told me that I was going to get a lot of heat from these guys. At the time, I was getting a lot of heat from the players, they would throw balls, Rasheed was shooting rubber bands at me during interviews. [Stoudamire] said, ‘These guys will respect you more if you tell the truth. They might outwardly show that they’re upset with you and that they think you’re full of —- but deep down they know what’s right. If you write it, they’ll respect you.’
“I always tried to lead my coverage that way. Write what I knew was right. No matter if it pissed someone off or not. I don’t see a lot of that today. I see a lot of guys trying to be buddy-buddy with the players.”
“One thing that really hurt was last summer. As far as, ‘Why am I doing this? Why am I spending so much time…?’
“Nicolas Batum was probably one of my favorite players on this current team. I felt like we had a really good relationship. When he was going through all that crap, the Minnesota stuff. I ran into him downtown, right there at Director’s Square, by the waterfalls and stuff.
“During the interview, his agent Bouna [Ndiaye] calls, what a piece of work he is. Bouna asks him what he’s doing and he says, ‘I’m talking to Quick.’ Bouna tells him, ‘Don’t, stop talking to him, don’t run anything.’ Nic gets off the phone, he says, ‘My agent doesn’t want to run what I just told you.’ It was basically the same thing that he told David Aldridge about a month or so later.
“He said, ‘But when it comes time, you’ll be the first person I’ll call.’ We shook hands, he put his other hand on our two embraced hands, and he said, ‘Trust me. Trust me. Have I ever done wrong by you?’ I was like, “Nic, I don’t know about this. You said this was on the record and you’re asking me not to do it.’ He’s like, ‘Quick, trust me. Have I ever done wrong by you?’ His hands are over our hands shaking.
“For the rest of the summer it was nothing. I had his number, texting, calling, all that. The next training camp, he gets back, I don’t talk to him. I didn’t talk to him until the second game of the year, all through training camp, media day, I didn’t say a word to him. He was asking Joe, ‘What’s wrong with Quick? Is he mad at me? What’s going on?’
“Finally we talk in Oklahoma City. He had a s—- game. You can go back and look at what I wrote. He said, ‘Are you mad at me?’ I said, ‘Yeah, you know exactly why.’ He said, ‘I know, even my girlfriend said it’s not right. I’d never been through something like this. My agent was telling me this.’ At the end, I got over it.
“It was just like, ‘Why trust these guys? Why have faith in these guys?’ If there was a guy I trusted and had faith in being a good person it was Nic. That was like, ‘What am I investing so much time into this for?’ I’ve given a lot of time to this beat, that was a real… that was when things really started shifting for me.
“The fans too. They piss me off. I feel like I get so much unwarranted —-. A lot of this stuff, I can’t say where I’m getting it from. Just trust me. I don’t want to get into it. I feel like people don’t understand this profession. A lot of times when you’re writing stuff, you know it, you just can’t reveal who it’s coming from.”