"Almost Media" and Scot Thompson

I caught a glimpse of a noted Portland Timber on my Tuesday morning commute; Scot Thompson, if you must know, and, for you stalkers out there, he boarded somewhere between Hillsboro and Beaverton. As regular visitors to this space know, I do - or try to do - a weekly Timbers post. So, there it is, a golden opportunity for a “get” and ample stops between the stop where he boarded and PGE Park for whatever questions might come to me.

That’s when I realize I’ve got nothing - absolutely nothing - I want to ask the man. Welcome to my conundrum as an “almost-member” of the media.

I’ve got a note on my machine reminding me that tomorrow is the day I’m supposed to email the New England Revolution’s media people to see about getting some kind of access to members of the team and front office; it’s something I’m mulling in my capacity as a co-blogger for the Revolution’s corner of The Offside. And right now, I’m not sure as to why I’m going bother. (Of course, the person I’m supposed to write may read this and conclude I’m a waste of time...eh...) And my weekly Timbers post suggests some logic in contacting them, just to see about how they’d prefer I approach their people.

But I can’t shake that thing with Thompson. The thing is, what would I do with the access once I’ve got it?

I’ve mentioned this before, but, as I try to figure out what I want to post both here and on The Offside - and, speaking more broadly, as I try to figure the what I like to read in sports reporting on the Web in general - I wonder how much direct contact I’ll need, never mind want.

Take a standard questions: “What did you think about tonight’s game?” Now, if you’ve played soccer in your life, professionally or otherwise, you know there’s a pretty small universe of answers to this question: if you won, you’re happy; if you lost, you’re not - except when it’s close and against a better team; sometimes a draw is cause for celebration, sometimes it’s enough to make you want to go home and kill your cat, etc. Assuming you watched the game as a spectator, though, you already know the answer to this question. You’re asking the player on the assumption that the average reader is more interested in hearing it from the player than in hearing it from you.

It gets worse, of course, when you consider the bland pap you’re likely to get from the average player. I don’t blame the player, though, or think less of him: what would you say?

There are some questions I can think of, but those are of what I’d call “once-in-a-blue-moon” variety. To give an example, I see value in the information I got out of the Wake Forest soccer department (LINK), or Santa Clara’s coach (LINK). At the same time, I got what I wanted for information and don’t see the need to check in again; for all I know, that will be the one and only time I write the Wake Forest soccer department in my lifetime (then again, given the way the Revs draft Demon Deacons, maybe not). But most questions I have for players are, in a sense, pretty one-off: something like “How do you think soccer should be played?” or “What’s your philosophy on the game?” Once I’ve got that, I’m pretty well out of questions.

Other questions in my head - “What do you really think is hurting the team this year?” - aren’t likely to get the answer I actually want; e.g. “Our left-back is fucking killing us.” I mean, a player can’t say that kind of thing without causing a locker-room explosion.

I still think I’ll write the Revs office and just be upfront about the kind of contact I’m after - e.g. “I’ll be writing/calling, say, once every other month and with fairly vague, big-picture questions” - and if they tell me to go away, so be it. I’m thinking it’ll be the same with the Timbers. I want access to the players and staff, but I don’t want access access, like I don’t want to crawl through their trash and chase the players after the game or go out for cocktails with them; and I sure as hell don’t want to go to media tussles or “special events.” It's not that I doubt players are just as interesting as the next person; in fact, given the constant traveling, living on more dreams than money, etc. they’re probably more interesting than most.

I suppose the grand point is that I’m only interested in the inner life of my friends and family; with players and coaches, I just want the vaguest sense of how they approach the game - and that’s only when their new to the team, or when something happens and I can’t make sense of it (hey...it happens; think the Timbers’ 2006). I watch soccer for the games and I can formulate my own ideas about what’s working and what isn’t. All in all, I want access for those isolated cases where I can’t make the observations for myself - and, when it comes to what I care about in the game - that’s not a whole lot.

(P.S. Mr. Thompson: I was the bald dude furtively staring at you on the Tuesday morning train. Didn't mean to stare; it just took me a while to place you.)

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