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FJM: Chris Jones Piece On Locker Room Etiquette

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Happy Friday folks!

As you all know, I regularly fawn over the writing and professionalism of Equire’s Chris Jones.  Recently, he’s taken to his personal blog, Son of Bold Venture to discuss press box etiquette and locker room etiquette.  If you follow twitter closely, you’ll note it’s sparked quite a debate.

When it comes to press box etiquette, I read his piece and learned.   I’m new to the press box, and while most of the stuff seems self-explanatory but worth mention (like, watch the damn game) I was grateful for a number of little nuggets I picked up.  I’m basically his exact audience with that piece – “new” media, didn’t go to journalism school, largely labelled as a blogger.

But his piece on Locker Room Etiquette for reporters really piqued my interest.  I’ve been on the other side of that my entire life, albeit to a lesser degree.  But at all levels, reporters come and go, and as a player, I had certain people I liked and certain I didn’t for different reasons.  I thought I’d FJM his piece so I have some jumping off points for the player’s perspective on media in the locker room.

I’ll keep my thoughts short so this doesn’t get ridiculously long.

THE YOUNG REPORTER’S GUIDE TO LOCKER ROOM DECORUM, ETIQUETTE, AND NOT COCK PEEKING

1. Seriously, no cheering.

That’s a holdover gag from the previous bit on press box etiquette.  But yes, don’t come in and high five anyone after the win, whether you’re a heavily invested beat reporter or not.  As Jones likes to say, be a pro.

2. Always remember that players live in their locker room; you’re just passing through. The press box is your domain; the locker room is theirs. However, during those designated times when the locker room is open to the press—those hours vary sport to sport, but they’re mandated by our various leagues and associations—you have every right to be in there. Don’t act like you own the place, because you don’t. But if you behave the right way, no one should object to your presence, and if they do, you can point to the clock and the sign on the wall and tell them to go into the trainer’s room if they want to be alone.

Absolutely.  I for one (usually) enjoyed having a chat after the game – think about after your rec league games: you can sit around in the dressing room and re-hash what happened throughout the night for an awfully long time, because you want to.  It’s not so fun after a loss, but sometimes discussing the events from the night can be like therapy.

3. Don’t go into the trainer’s room.

It’s weird how the trainer’s room is this little safe-haven, but you know what, it should be.  A lot of personal stuff goes on in there, and thanks to injury it’s generally a lot of frustrated guys.  Nothing wrong with have a little team-only zone.

4. Okay, let’s get this out of the way: Don’t cock peek. When I was a beat guy, there was one poor reporter who got labeled as a cock peeker. (He claimed that he was just staring into space when he was tabbed, which, knowing the guy, I actually believe; unfortunately, that space happened to be occupied by a middle infielder’s wiener.) Whatever happened that terrible afternoon, the guy’s lot was pretty miserable after. (To steal an old line, You peek at one cock, and you’re a cock peeker for the rest of your life.) Now, if we’re all being honest here for a moment, sometimes it’s really hard not to notice that a guy has an enormous schlong, because it will fill your field of view, and it’s one of the dirty little secrets of the profession that reporters will make jokes about our coverage area’s more distinctive members. (Ever wonder why Alexei Yashin’s nickname was Snuffy? Ask Snuffleupagus.) But even if some guy’s dick taps you on the shoulder and asks for a peanut, you should probably look at the ceiling and sing “Yes, We Have No Bananas” until it goes away.

First off, that paragraph is fucking hilarious.

Of course, “don’t cock peek” has to be a staple of reporter professionalism.  But look – it’s going to happen.  If you keep your head straight up, straight forward for the entire time you’re going to get a sore neck and look weird.  So when you drop your head occasionally – maybe to write a note or two - there’s a lotta penis around the room, so it’ll happen.  As a player, I did my best not to make reporters feel uncomfortable, and other players should do the same.  It’s not that hard to towel off and put on underwear, at the very least.

I get the impression hockey isn’t as bad as baseball when it comes to this (not sure why, just some of the reports I hear out of baseball clubhouses weird me out), but there still seems to always be a guy or two who takes the “it’s okay to be naked” thing too far. 

The biggest thing is, as he mentions, you have to avoid it so you can avoid the label.  As I’ve written about before, homophobia is rampant in locker rooms, so it would certainly make a reporter’s job harder if he were put in the situation Jones described.

5. No autographs.

Yeeeah, I was never important enough to run into that problem, but yes, that would be brutal.

6. In most professional locker rooms, there are tables filled with bowls of candy, gum, fun dip, and roofies. Don’t pinch from those bowls, however tempting it might be. Someone will see you do it and judge you harshly for your lack of self-control. Honestly, I’d rather my wife caught me masturbating.

That’s just one of those things that you should know from a social standpoint.  There’s no reason to assume you’re entitled to team stuff, given that you’re covering the sport, not a member of the squad.

7. If a player’s giving you some seriously unnecessary shit, stand up for yourself. Don’t let him think he can bully you, because like every other bully in the world, he’ll haunt you forever if you let him. Don’t purposefully get in a scrape or try to act overly hard, but don’t ever allow yourself to be treated as anything other than a human being. This job’s not worth your soul.

And that’s a terrific point.  Athletes get cocky, like they’ve granted reporters suuucccchhh an honor in letting them ask a few questions (incidentally, this is why I never want to be a reporter).  I hated hearing my friends and teammates say something totally douchey to a reporter.  So sure, stand up for yourself.

That said…. remember that sports in general come down to the schoolyard principle where “because I can beat you up” is a good enough reasons to do a lot of things.  So make your point as fairly and sternly as possible, but avoid taking any personal cuts at  guys, or you’ll probably get the Ryan Leaf reaction.

8. I can take a bit of abuse. The worst part of the job, for me, has always been waiting in locker rooms. There’s one guy you need to talk to, and he’s in the shower, or he’s got his headphones on, or he’s talking to someone else. You can’t really leave, because you don’t want to lose him, and so you’re stuck standing there like someone who missed the bus. I really have no good advice for you. If you master the art of waiting in the locker room, please let me know your secret. In the meantime, just try to make yourself look like part of the furniture.

Yeah, you’re kind of on your own there, reporters.  I have no idea what you’re supposed to do.  I guess just hope there’s a couple reporter buddies around to talk to?

9. No high-fives. No fist bumps. Handshakes only. Offering congratulations is fine. Offering to carry someone’s water is not.

Right, same as what I said in point one.  We can be friends and all, that’s cool, but let’s try and avoid the teammate-like reactions to a win.

10. If a fellow reporter has an interview that’s clearly a one-on-one—a prearranged or orchestrated sitdown between a single reporter and a single player—stay the fuck out of it.

I can’t imagine another reporter thinking that’s a good idea.  But this is exactly the thing – if you’re just relatively socially aware, you can get by in the locker room.  Unfortunately, there are some people in media, shocker of all shockers, who are completely socially inept.  I guess point number 10 is for you people, so….if you didn’t know that, know you do.

11. No joke, if you bust up a one-on-one, I’m going to hear about it, and I’m going to post your name here, next to the following words: COCK PEEKER.

That’s locker room style justice right there.

12. If there’s a player you want to talk to, wait until he seems relatively unoccupied. Approach confidently. Introduce yourself if he doesn’t know who you are, including your affiliation. Ask if you can have a couple of minutes of his time, if that’s really what you require. If you need more time than that, say so. If he says now’s not a good time, ask when you might be able to talk to him. If he says okay, be ready with your questions. They should be good questions.

And that’s why I love this guy’s take on being a reporter.  As a player, as with just being a normal person, you feel like a dick when you don’t remember someone name, because you always should.  But when you bounce from city to city and you regularly answer similar questions in similar situations, sometimes it can be tough. Way easier to remember the name of the guy you’re writing about with the name on his shirt.  Make it easy for the players if you can, so they don’t come off worse than they intend to. (Unless you’re a beat writer or something.  Then the guys should know your damn name without an intro.)

13. There’s a difference between being friendly with players, which is smart, and trying to be their friends, which is stupid. I’m pretty sure the only genuine modern friendship shared between a sports writer and an athlete was between Dan Le Batard and Ricky Williams. It was a questionable situation for both of them, and it ended badly. Be cool with these guys, because you want something from them, but never fool yourself into thinking there’s anything that they want from you other than good press.

Maybe it would’ve changed had I played in the NHL and made scads of cash and gotten super cocky, but I genuinely liked a lot of the reporters (especially beat guys) that I’ve worked with over the year.  Jones is right – it’s not like I wanted to go to the movies with any of them or anything, but it woulda been fun to sit down for a pint or two and chat occasionally.  I still keep in touch with a writer from the Alaska Daily News.  I’d say just don’t push it – if the player is comfortable with something outside of interview questions, let him be the one to mention it.

14. That being said, at some point in your career, your heart will fail you. It will not be objective. You will make connections with some guys and you will misfire with others. That’s only human. I really liked Carlos Delgado. I like to think I was one of the few people who understood what was going on inside Brad Fullmer’s head. I thought Raul Mondesi was a moron, especially after he mistook me for a clubbie and asked me to iron his shirt—two years after I’d started covering him on the beat. I hope the entire Baltimore Orioles clubhouse from the 1999 season dies broke and alone. (Holy crap, what a miserable bunch of felons and shitheels. They made me not believe in chemistry—the whole fucking science.) But your words should be objective. You need to learn how to separate your feelings from the page. It’s a hard thing to do, because we’re built to spill. But that’s why we don’t cheer, and that’s why we don’t high-five. We’re working here. And the beat guys who always get it right, the beat guys who know when to praise and when to call someone out, they never catch any shit. Your first goal should be respect, given and received. But you’ll have to earn it, by how you act, what you say, and how you write. Remember, because this is important, and it will apply to everything you will ever do: If you’re right, if your words are true, then no one can touch you. You’ll be unbreakable.

That’s just a really neat observation from a guy who’s done it for a long time, and done it well.  Best sentence is “we’re working here.” 

…..Actually wait.  The best sentence is “they made me not believe in chemistry – the whole fucking science.

And last one….

15. Oh, and if you really want to have a meaningful conversation with an athlete—for a feature, say, or a takeout—talk to them anywhere other than a locker room. The locker room is a place sportswriters survive. Thriving almost always happens somewhere else.

Well said.  I have a request in with the Phoenix Coyotes to do an interview with BizNasty at an interesting location.  Approval pending. Wooooooo!

Comments

8 Responses to “FJM: Chris Jones Piece On Locker Room Etiquette”
  1. AiH says:

    That was a fun read!

  2. RC says:

    “As I’ve written about before, homophobia is rampant in a locker rooms, so it would certainly make a reporter’s job HARDER if he were put in the situation Jones described.”

    Intentional?

  3. mikeb says:

    Watching you on OTR… Nice backdrop. And cat jokes. Classic.

  4. Steve C. says:

    Great piece…glad you posted it here because I don’t always make the jump.

  5. ms.conduct says:

    Good stuff. I have so much to say on this, but it seems like more of a conversation that would be better in person over beer and not documented for posterity on the internet. Haha…

  6. Alanna says:

    Very funny stuff.
    Any update on mending fences with your Twitter critic?

  7. Derrick says:

    Another outstanding article. I always pictured myself as being very approachable in those situations if I were a pro athlete. By that, I mean I would always be accommodating, avoid speaking in overused cliche’s (my pet peeve), avoid the “uh” and “you know” every other word. I get that a lot of times, sportswriters will print something that you may not like, or exaggerate to make for a better story, but there’s no need to paint everyone with the same brush. If there’s a particular guy that you don’t like, make an effort to either clear the air or just don’t talk to him. Talking to those guys is part of the job. They can make or break your reputation in a single article. You’re better off having them on your good side, and above that, recognize that there doesn’t always have to be a “me against the world” attitude. Long after you’re gone, those guys are still going to be doing their job.

    Maybe I’m completely wrong. I haven’t been in those situations, so I’m not jaded to the process.

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  1. [...] On his “other” other blog, Chris Jones riffs on the rules to the press box and the locker room for sports reporters. The latter drew some commentary from former hockey player Justin Bourne. [...]



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