Friday, April 11, 2008

Thoughts From A Blogger Covering A Dallas Mavericks Game

If you're just joining this little Drama Club, I'd suggest quickly checking up on this tripe and this schlock.

So now I'll tell you, the rest of the story. Once Cuban opened up the locker room and invited bloggers in, I got in touch with the Mavs' Basketball Communications office. The kind folks there were helpful, if slow to respond, what with all the "handling of media affairs for a pro basketball team" stuff. They said to submit a formal application with my name, website, and contact information and they would get back to me. Then Cuban dropped the "you must appeal to me on BlogMaverick" business, and I decided not to stoop to that level. I would just wait for BC to get back to me.

And I waited.

And waited.

And dropped a follow up email.

And another.

And a voice mail.

And it's at this point that I start feeling like Favreau in Swingers, just repeatedly leaving messages for someone who will never call back.

Meanwhile, Cuban tells that the stipulations are for "only Mavs-specific blogs that have been around for at least six months." I figure I'm screwed, since I fill neither of those requirements. And I'm bummed, but I can't blame Cuban. I said there should be some sort of standard and he set one. What I didn't know was that that stipulation applied to the BlogMaverick submissions. Not general credentials. So that afternoon, when I received an email from a very helpful guy inside the BC office letting me know I was in, I was over the moon. OH, SWEET, SUCCULENT VALIDATION! VALIDATE ME! VALIDATE ME!

This is followed, of course, by a follow up email by the head of the department asking about a specific level of credentials I got for the All-Star weekend. "Oh, no!" I thought, "The jig is up!" I was pretty certain that would be the doom of me, especially since there was no "Hi" or "Dear Sir" or "This won't be a problem, just checking on something" in the email. It was like a hall monitor quizzing me on why I wasn't headed straight for the restroom. I thought I was sunk again. Either that or word had gotten to Cuban and I'd had the kibosh put on me. Yeah, because Mark Cuban gives a rat's ass what I do with my time.

Finally, after the interview with and talking with, I decided there was no way it was going to happen. Which was okay, new Office would be on and the Thursday night games were good anyway.

And then I got an email saying I was all set.


I decided not to ask any questions, to keep my head down and just try and get to the game. Bear in mind that I had an actual column I was working on (and will be published soon), that actually would benefit from talking to some of the Mavs' players. I wasn't just going for the "free game, free food, and free parking." (Note: While I did get access to the game, I didn't eat the food and parking, most definitely, was not free.)

I debated whether or not to write this post, but I imagine there's some interest out there, and an important blogger made the point that like it or not, it is a story, albeit a meaningless and completely unimportant one.

So here are some brief notes about my experience covering an actual National Basketball Association Game.

  • The AAC staff and Mavericks Basketball Communications staff were incredibly helpful and approachable. I didn't feel watched or second-tier in the least, and it speaks to their professionalism as an organization.
  • I kept my head down in terms of talking to other folks. I didn't want to all of a sudden have a gaggle of beat reporters aware that I was a blogger. Most of them wouldn't care. But one prominent writer was cracking jokes about "how ridiculous blogs are." So that kind of made me keep to myself.
  • You know how on television, the press conferences seem like they're in this huge room? Well for a regular season game, they're in one that's about the size of my first apartment, only without the cockroaches and constant moaning from the upstairs neighbors. For the pregame press conference with the media, Avery sat down on the stage and everyone just kind of gathered around him like it was a campfire sing-a-long. He was more polite and laid back than he comes off on television, where he comes off as, you know, a complete lunatic.
  • I did not interview the following: Avery Johnson, Dirk Nowitzki, Jerry Stackhouse, Jason Terry, Josh Howard. Why? Because if you wanted that, you'd read the Dallas Morning News or the Fort Worth Telegram. If talking to them could have helped the column, I would have.
  • Yes, the locker room interview is as messed up as it sounds. You wait for a guy to get back in from a shower, he dresses with his back turned, while you're just hanging out behind him, all in a gaggle, and then as he finishes putting on his thousand diamond bracelet, he turns and you can start asking questions. Pretty much the most bizarre thing I've ever encountered. I've been in locker rooms before, but just examining the process, as necessary as it is, really makes you step back and see how strange it really is.
  • I've made my fair share of "Haha, Jason Kidd's small" jokes in my time. I mean, really, it's a quick laugh, and look at him on screen! He's tiny. I turned around and the first time I saw him I thought he had swollen like he'd eaten a Mario Bros. mushroom. I won't be making any more of those jokes. Terry, however, is exactly the size you'd think he is.
  • Dirk Nowitzki had feet so big I vowed never to let him meet the Paroxywife.
  • The AAC Mavericks experience is an absolutely amazing marketing scheme. The entire thing, from the moment you step in the doors to the second you get in you car,makes you appreciate the way Cuban has installed an organization that devotes itself to being top level in everything it does.
  • Cuban was not, at least when I was in there, on the treadmill.
  • There is enough room in the locker room, even with five players dressing at any one time, to fit approximately 30 of me, and probably 45 to 5o Skeets or Abbotts. Tim McMahons? Maybe 20. Big, tall dude, compared to most of the journalists in attendance.
  • I got a chance to introduce myself to Tim and he was a really nice guy, not at all the self-aggrandizing jerk he's been made out to be in some circles of the web. He said something I thought was interesting. He told me that he'd "much rather deal with Mark Cuban than an owner who’s not accessible and isn’t passionate about his team." Sounds about the same for everyone who's dealt with Cuban.
  • I want you to imagine the nicest hotel room you've ever been in. Now add the biggest TV you can think of, and put 12 little TVs all around the room. Now throw a bunch of little imaginary socks around the room. That's an NBA locker room.
Like I said, I had a hard time on whether or not to post this, since it reveals, pretty plainly, just how much awe I had to contain last night. I like to think I was no different than any other first time beat reporter being intimidated by the level I was now covering. On the other hand, though, to not post this would be deceptive. Because I'm not a journalist. I'm a blogger. I write columns and coverage of the NBA from a blogger's perspective. Not only am I not expected to have the same perspective as a member of the traditional media, I'm specifically read because I don't do that. I can say, with full confidence, that I can't do what those guys do. They have training, experience, and a set of guidelines and deadlines on which they operate. However, at no point was I a problem for anyone, there is going to be a column out of this (whether or not it's a good one is up to debate, much like everything else I've written on here), and the Mavs got more exposure because of it.

See? We CAN all get along! Kumbaya, MSM! Kumbaya!

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