ORLANDO, Fla. — I chose this life for a variety of reasons, none of which had anything to do with money, because you cannot live on the French Riviera on what reporters make.
The main reason I’ve been doing this my entire life — never once have I earned a nickel outside of journalism — is to be in the belly of the beast. To be on the scene when events happen. To witness news first-hand and speak to those involved and chronicle what just happened to give information to readers. To experience history in the making. It’s sort of a calling, and in some situations a responsibility, although I don’t necessarily believe what I do is making humanity better; I’m not full of myself.
Watching the drama unfold at Disney over the last few days merely confirms that I chose wisely decades ago when confronted with a career path in college and went to journalism (because I was awful at just about everything else).
To hear Doc Rivers, coach of the Clippers, speak from the heart while addressing systemic racism … and marvel at the insight and wisdom of Jaylen Brown, who’s just reaching his mid-20s … and beholding the growing awareness of Kyle Korver, a white player raised in Iowa … is stuff that those outside this business just don’t experience first hand.
Then, to be one of a handful of reporters to hear directly from the Bucks following their boycott, well that was special.
Being a reporter gives you insight, allows you to step into the world of your subjects, to listen and in some cases to feel. We have advantages lacked by others in the public who form their opinion about people or events based on second-hand knowledge and half-truths and a lack of context. They’re not in the belly. And because of that, my obligation becomes more important, to supply the information and then let the public decide.
I don’t walk in the player’s shoes and therefore I can’t say they’re right or wrong for the choices they make; no one can. I’ve learned that over the years. Your perspective can’t be their perspective because you’re not about that life. And vice versa.
All you can do, and what I always do, is listen. Too often in this society, especially with social media, we talk at each other instead of talking to each other. There’s a helluva difference.
However, if the players asked me my opinion, here’s what I’d say:
Your platform will never be bigger than it is right now at Disney, where the media are giving you a microphone. Take advantage of this perk here and now.
After the playoffs, take your fight to the fight. Which means, if your issue is with the police, then be a presence among them. Hold press conferences at the precincts. Rattle that culture at the site. Same for government, go to the capitol steps.
Educate yourself. Go back to college and take courses. Learn how the judicial system works. Strengthen your voice on this and other matters which in turn will only make you wiser — we all strive for that. Intelligence equals respect.
And if LeBron James wants to generate swells of registered voters, he should be at polling centers personally, all day if necessary, with free autographs and selfies for those who register. And let everyone know in advance. That’s game, set, match.
Somewhere among the fray, I’ll be standing, taking notes, learning, observing, analyzing and witnessing. The belly of the beast never disappoints because it’s always feasting, and I’m always hungry.
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