Op-Ed: Going from fan to Detroit Lions beat reporter wasn’t my plan
As the final seconds rolled off in Sunday’s Detroit Lions vs. Green Bay Packers game, I only had one thought.
“Well that was fun!”
Earlier last year, while working at Woodward Sports, the CEO and supervisors approached me about a role change. Instead of co-hosting The Morning Woodward Show and being a general assignment writer, I would switch to covering the Lions for the network. The role would be that of a beat reporter or writer.
I was all for it, but shocked. After all, as much as I loved football, I felt like I was the basketball guy. Regarding predictions, breaking down players, knowing intricacies, and why teams do certain things, I could speak NBA. In fact, covering the Detroit Pistons as a beat reporter/writer was my dream job.
And my bosses knew it. Why on earth would they give me the Lions assignment? I mean, this would be quite the challenge and take me way out of my comfort zone. That was my initial thoughts and reactions.
However, I embraced the challenge. And boy am I glad that I did. Because covering the Detroit Lions this season was, professionally, the most impactful, meaningful, and enjoyable time of my career so far.
Things got off to a rocky start for me, though. Because it was so much to learn.
I had to learn about the NFL’s online content policy, and what type of clips I could and could not post. Along with that, I had to familiarize myself with the audio setup at the Lions practice facility. Since I was capturing my own audio and video, I had to get over some early hiccups. There was a ton of trial and error to find the right method to getting all of this content and deliver it. It eventually became really easy to do.
But wait, there’s more.
I had to learn that a stupid question is the one you don’t ask. Often times, someone else ends up asking your “stupid question.” I also learned that trusting my gut and showing up to away game stadiums super early is a must. No one taught me that. I had a hunch, though. It turned out to be the right one because from the four away games I attended, the Cleveland Browns staff knew their stadium the best. The LA Rams stadium staff, however, was a nightmare.
One of the biggest challenges, though, was finding the best way to deliver my perspective. Instead of being comparable to other writers, I wanted to find my niche. That took some weeks, and it wasn’t until near season’s end did I feel like I hit my stride. Maybe it had some to do with the Detroit Lions finally winning a game, but things started to flow better around that time. The Lions fan base is a tough one, so delivering engaging content that they enjoy isn’t an easy task.
Despite the challenges, covering the Detroit Lions this past season was the experience of all experiences.
Through it, my knowledge of football became more refined. It’s one thing to watch the game for entertainment. It’s another thing to watch when it’s your job. I couldn’t spew a bunch of things carelessly. In this role, I had to study what I intended to articulate.
I also experienced what it’s like to be in the shoes of a Lions beat reporter. The job isn’t easy. Because the Lions fanbase is a difficult bunch. As a reporter, if you’re too negative, the Lions’ fans that are kool-aid drinkers will bombard your Twitter. They love their Detroit Lions football. And even though my job is to be objective, they don’t care. They’ll say some unflattering things and you’ll need some thick skin to handle it.
On the flipside, if you detail any optimism for the team’s future, career Lions pessimists will attack in the same fashion. They’ll tell you how long they’ve been a Lions fan and how many times it’s been “Same Ole Lions.” They speak of every bad Lions moment as if they’re a professor on the subject. They don’t want to see anything about how the team is turning things around.
So as a reporter, I learned the best way to cover this team (or any team for that matter) is to detail your opinion, stick with it, and live with the results. You’re gonna tick someone off regardless.
My favorite experience of this season was interviewing. Being able to speak with players, coaches, and former players in one-on-one settings shaped me as a reporter. The interview with Amani Oruwariye was the first filmed sit-down I ever completed. I look back at it now and use it as a reference for how I can be better in the next one. Heck, even my interviews with coaches during media sessions. If I could get Duce Staley to speak to me on the side, I had to make sure I was coming up with a good question on the fly.
There’s much more I could write about this season, from conversations with former players about the team’s potential to how most of the local beat reporters are pro wrestling fans. Or I could speak about every time I randomly bumped into Brad Holmes, and he’d showcase how super polite he is.
Year one covering the Detroit Lions was a personal success for me. I aim to continue delivering content surrounding this team and create new ways of doing it. Going from lifelong fan to reporter overnight was jarring. The learning curve was quick. In the end, it was perfect.