Starting on a new sports beat isn't merely challenging—it's daunting and terrifying and damn near impossible. So here's some advice for rookies stepping into the cage.
My own personal experience starting out on a beat is out of the box. I had worked as a freelance magazine writer for ten years when I landed a job of NHL columnist at the Globe and Mail in Toronto. (I made my way on the radar with a few features I had written for the G & M's business and city mags.) First day on the beat I introduced myself to Pat Burns, the Toronto Maple Leafs' coach and a very physically intimidating guy--an ex-cop who worked undercover with Quebec bike gangs, not any one to f--- around with. His own players were scared shitless. I introduced myself and he said, not warmly: "Are you the guy who wrote that I dye my hair?" (Another writer at our paper.) A few weeks of uneasy co-existence followed and then one day I mentioned that my best friend's father had been a cop, in fact the coach of the Toronto cops hockey team and that we played pick-up with cops every Saturday night when we were teenagers. I was in his good books forever after that. My only advice is to try to find one little bit of common ground, emotional quotient high preferably, with anyone you cover or are trying to work. If Mark Felt and Woodward hadn't been Navy guys, maybe Watergate wouldn't have been reported.
I am very concerned for some recent grads I have watched grow up through student media, and who are now spread almost impossibly thin as more senior writers are continually cut from the vulture-owned papers. On one hand it's an opportunity, but it feels like it will end badly for many before they realize the payoff. The access game in sports just makes it worse in the meantime.
compliment vs complement (sorry so pedantic). Really enjoy beat part.