Jimmy Roberts on reporting golf story from Attica: ‘It’s a scary place; Everything you would think it is’

Jimmy Roberts never imagined he ever would do a golf story at Attica State Prison. Yet there he was in a room interviewing convicted murderers.

“You never know,” Roberts said. “Attica is a scary place. It’s everything you’d think it is.”

The piece highlights the debut of his new show, In Play with Jimmy Roberts. The premiere episode is Tuesday at 10:30 p.m. on the Golf Channel.

This is the network’s version of Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel. The show, which will air once a month, will focus on long-form storytelling about all things golf.

There should be no shortage of material. Here’s the rundown for the debut:

Golf Vistas From Behind Bars – Sentenced to prison for a murder he claims he did not commit, Valentino Dixon has spent the past 21 years in Attica State Prison in Upstate New York. Eligible for parole in 2030, Dixon has never played a round of golf or even picked up a golf club. However, he passes the time in his cell drawing famous golf holes from around the world. Interviews with Dixon, Charlotte Ross, his childhood art teacher and Lamar Scott, who also is serving a life sentence but claims he committed the crime Dixon was convicted for more than two decades ago, are featured.

The King’s Warehouse – Latrobe, Pa., is an iconic location in American golf as the home of the sport’s most famous player, Arnold Palmer. In a massive warehouse is a treasure trove of memorabilia that Palmer has collected over the years. Rich Lerner joins The King for a rare tour.

Divots of Depression: Christina Kim – With her robust, upbeat persona, LPGA professional Christina Kim seems an unlikely victim of depression. Known for her incandescent smile and her full-throttle cheering at the Solheim Cup, Kim found herself in that unlikely position in 2011, wrestling with depression and contemplating suicide. Damon Hack sits down Kim for her first on-camera interview about her battle with depression.

Roberts’ prison story is really compelling; more than worth your time. I did a Q/A with the long-time NBC Sports reporter (@jimmyrobertsNBC) on the show and the art of telling a good story.

So this is the Golf Channel’s version of Real Sports?

That’s a very apt description. You need three things to tell a good story: You need the resources and time to report it; you need the time to tell it; and you need a good story.

With those three components, you have a fighting chance people will want to either see or read your story. Golf Channel made a commitment to storytelling with this show.

What is it that has drawn you to this role as a storyteller?

For better or worse, it’s the lot I’ve fallen into. I grew up with the Wide World of Sports, and later I was very fortunate to get to work with people like Jack Whitaker and Jim McKay. I’m not a stats guy. I’m more of an up-close-and-personal person. I still think there’s nothing like a good story.

(Below is Rich Lerner talking about his story with Palmer)

Why will this type of vehicle work for golf?

I think it was George Plimpton who said something to the effect, ‘The smaller the ball, the better the writing.’ A lot of what’s going on in golf is pretty compelling. You can watch golf on TV and enjoy the competition. But there’s a whole segment of the population, myself included, who play golf. We relate to the game in that aspect.

Golf may be a sport, but it’s also a culture. Golf Channel has done a good job of positioning itself as the voice of this culture. There are so many stories out there. We look forward to telling them.

What was it like going to Attica?

If you’re of a certain age, Attica means something to you. I got goosebumps walking in there. You remember the helicopter shots of the dead bodies (from the famous prison riot).

It’s a dark place; it’s a dangerous place. It’s Medieval. It’s every bit as dangerous as its reputation.

I’m glad I went there. It’s one of the more interesting stories I’ve ever been a part of. I’m glad I met (the main subject). I hope somebody sees his story and says, ‘I wonder if this is worth taking a look at.’








One thought on “Jimmy Roberts on reporting golf story from Attica: ‘It’s a scary place; Everything you would think it is’

  1. Let’s hope Roberts’ outstanding story – which he classily credited to Golf Digest – helps set free yet another victim of wrongful conviction.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *