Former ESPN Magazine writer worked as clubhouse attendant; other laid-off sportswriters share their stories

Jeff BradleyAn excerpt of my latest column for Poynter:


For the bulk of his professional life, Jeff Bradley has spent his summers at a Major League ballpark. He had high-profile beats covering baseball for ESPN The Magazine and the Newark Star-Ledger.

But last summer was different. Struggling to make ends meet ever since being let go by the Star-Ledger in Jan., 2013, Bradley worked as a clubhouse attendant at a country club near his home in New Jersey. He shined shoes, vacuumed the carpet and kept the bathrooms clean.

Bradley likely is the only clubhouse attendant who also has written about Derek Jeter for national publications. A few times, Bradley was mistaken for being a member. On other occasions, he ran into people who knew him as “the sportswriter,” prompting the inevitable questions of what happened?

“Sure, it was embarrassing … Continue Reading

New public editor represents shift for ESPN; first with digital background

Brady JimAn excerpt from my latest column for Poynter:


Jim Brady’s appointment marks a significant transition for ESPN. He will be the first person in the position whose background primarily is in digital. Brady helped launch and then later served as both sports editor and then executive editor of He also held multiple executive positions at AOL. Brady is the CEO of Spirited Media, which operates the mobile news platform Billy Penn in Philadelphia, and in the interest of full disclosure is a member of Poynter’s Board of Directors.

Brady’s resume is quite a departure from his predecessor, Robert Lipsyte, the former New York Times columnist who barely used social media. Stiegman, though, quoted Lipsyte in noting that ESPN wanted a new public editor who can address various issues on the network’s many platforms from TV to mobile.

“Bob … Continue Reading

ESPN should have pulled plug on Grantland when Simmons left

Grantland doneAn excerpt from my latest column for Poynter:


In Grantland’s case, there was another factor beyond money. When ESPN parted ways with Bill Simmons earlier in the year, ESPN president John Skipper should have pulled the plug on Grantland at the same time.

While the site was named for Grantland Rice, the most influential sportswriter in the 20th Century, it really should have been called “Simmons,” arguably the most impactful sportswriter thus far in the 21st Century. Simmons conceived the site as an extension of his ground-breaking columns and podcasts that covered the Celtics in one breath and “Mad Men” in the next.

With Simmons, Grantland developed into a niche site with a faithful following. Even though it didn’t generate a profit, Grantland’s premium content allowed ESPN and Skipper to take a pleasant ride into an intellectual, … Continue Reading

Tom Verducci: Lessons from his approach to working as Fox analyst for World Series, writing for SI; Reporting common thread

Verducci and BuckAn excerpt from my latest column for Poynter:


Tom Verducci is a busy man during the World Series.

He has a “night” job working with Joe Buck and Harold Reynolds on Fox Sports’ No. 1 announce team for the games. Then after the final pitch, he makes the transition to his “late, late night/early morning job” in writing columns for the games on

Verducci says his game day routine usually ends around 3 a.m.

“There’s always November for sleeping,” Verducci said.

Perhaps nobody else in sports media has conquered the multi-media aspect like Verducci. He is the first non-player to work as an analyst in a World Series TV booth since Howard Cosell. He also remains a must-read with his baseball writing for Sports Illustrated.

So how does Verducci view himself these days: As a broadcaster or a … Continue Reading

Lost art of using phone is bad trend for journalism, public relations

phoneExcerpts from my latest column for Poynter:


At the dawn of 2015, I made a New Year’s resolution. I vowed to try to rely less on email and actually use the good old-fashioned phone to reach out to public relations people on my various beats. Even if I didn’t have anything on the agenda, I planned to dial someone’s number just to see what was going on.

You know, how’s the family? What’s the latest at your place?

Of course, New Year’s resolutions never stick. So along with my vow to read more and eat less, I haven’t come close to calling PR folks as much as I had hoped.

I make that admission to show that I am just as guilty as anyone in being part of a horrible trend in media: Journalists and PR people have forgotten … Continue Reading

Author Q/A of new Carlton Fisk biography: Much more to proud catcher’s career than epic ’75 homer

Carlton FiskCarlton Fisk takes center stage every October. During baseball’s postseason, there are multiple replays of his iconic homer in Game 6 of the 1975 World Series. It ranks near the top as one of the game’s most memorable blows and was Fisk’s defining moment. Yet there was much more  to Fisk’s Hall of Fame career.

In “Pudge: The Biography of Carlton Fisk,” author Doug Wilson details how the catcher seemed to defy age that saw him still squatting behind the plate at 46. He writes how it started with an old school New England work ethic that he brought to the Midwest when he came to Chicago in 1981, posting several exceptional seasons during his 13 years with the White Sox.

I was with Fisk during my three years as the White Sox beat writer for the Chicago Tribune. He … Continue Reading

Editor: ‘Players Tribune is becoming an athletic community’

Jeter Players TribuneAn excerpt on my latest column for Poynter:


When The Players’ Tribune issued a release it had hired Kevin Durant as its new deputy publisher last week, it prompted the usual jokes on social media and elsewhere. USA Today even did a post noting that Kobe Bryant, who holds the title of editorial director for The Players’ Tribune, can’t be happy about Durant leapfrogging him.

“Well, these are honorary titles that suggest the athletes have a place in our company,” said Players’ Tribune editorial director Gary Hoenig. “We meant to explain them a little bit more jocularly—is that the word? We just haven’t gotten around to it. Kevin will have a role with us, but is he going to call and ask why we are spending so much on travel? I don’t think so.”

Hoenig, though, says the … Continue Reading

ESPN’s Ivan Maisel writes about grief while dealing with it himself

IvanMy latest column for Poynter is on Ivan Maisel, who lost his son last winter.

First a personal note: My relationship with Ivan Maisel goes back to 1988 when I met him on the national college football beat. We spent many times together in various press boxes and at several golf courses on Fridays before games. Ask him about “Sherman’s 5-wood,” and I’m sure he won’t stop laughing.

Our golf games still suck, but Ivan has gone on to become one of the best and certainly most respected college football writers on the beat. Trust me, you won’t find a better person anywhere.

Like everyone else in the business, I was crushed when I heard the news about Ivan’s son, Max. Unthinkable. As friends, we all felt his pain.

After Ivan returned to work, the journalist in me thought about … Continue Reading

Veteran sportswriters struggle to come to terms with being laid off by New York Daily News

BondyHankExcerpts from my latest column for Poynter.


Filip Bondy started hearing rumblings last Wednesday that the New York Daily News was making massive cuts. Despite generating high-quality work during his 22 years on the sports staff, he knew everyone was vulnerable.

“I didn’t wait for the call,” Bondy said. “I called them and asked, ‘Am I still working there?’ [The person on the other end] said, ‘Well, actually…hold on.’”

Bondy, though, had concerns about more than himself. His son, Stefan, covers the Brooklyn Nets for the Daily News. So after Bondy was informed that he had been dismissed, he immediately asked about his son’s fate.

“When they said he was staying, it was a relief,” Bondy said. “He’s got a lot more years ahead of me than I do.”

However, Stefan now works for a much different sports staff. … Continue Reading

Where’s OJ? ESPN omits Hall of Famer/convict from slide show of Monday Night Football announcers

Yesterday, the ESPN Monday Night Football twitter feed issued this tweet.

ESPN MNF announcers

If you click on the link, you will see a fast-moving slide-show of all the announcers, analysts and sideline reporters who have worked on Monday Night Football during the last 45 years. All except one person.

Thanks to reader Art for noticing that ESPN decided to omit O.J. Simpson. Back when he was better known for being a Hall of Fame running back, Simpson worked in the MNF booth from 1983-85.

Now that he is known more for something else, someone at ESPN decided not to tarnish this slide show with his image.

It would be one thing if other announcers were omitted. But there’s Fred “The Hammer” Williamson, who was so terrible in 1974 he didn’t even make it to the regular season.

There’s Fran Tarkenton (1979-82), Dennis … Continue Reading