Here’s a recent feature I wrote on Bosnian standout Dzanan Musa, who is expected to be taken in the first round of the 2018 NBA Draft.
Mark Shearman has achieved extraordinary success as a sports photographer, specializing in track and field. He has a remarkable portfolio — containing images of Olympic legends such as Edwin Moses and Carl Lewis, Usain Bolt and Sebastian Coe — that few can ever hope of compiling. But, he admits without hesitation, he’s as hungry as ever to remain at the top of his game.
He’s traveled to more than 80 countries. He’s had, by his own estimate, more than 1,000 cover photographs for the London-based Athletics Weekly magazine. And he’s adapted to the changing technology to remain one of the best in the business.
“Since 2001,” he recently told The Japan Times, “I have shot exclusively digital and cannot ever envisage ever shooting in film again.”
“Working predominantly against a deadline,” Shearman noted, “it has made my life so much easier with the ability to transmit images within seconds of taking the pictures, and when returning from an event in the U.K. by train or from abroad by plane, I can utilize the traveling time by working on the images I have taken.”
He described his laptop as a “portable darkroom.”
The 2018 NBA Draft is less than a week away, and Yuta Watanabe remains focused on pursuing his dream.
The Kagawa Prefecture native worked out for the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday. He did the same thing for the Washington Wizards in late May. According to published reports, he’s also worked out for the two-time defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors, Atlanta Hawks, Oklahoma City Thunder, Philadelphia 76ers and Phoenix Suns over the past few weeks.
Humble but with a fierce desire to succeed, Watanabe knows he carries the aspirations of an entire nation’s hoop fans.
“A lot of people care about what I’m doing,” the former George Washington University standout was quoted as saying by Pacers.com. “And hopefully I can make them happy.”
The draft will be held next Thursday in New York City.
By Ed Odeven
TOKYO (June 15, 2018)
Third in a series
The power of the written word, of the spoken word, of journalism to make an argument — or simply tell a story — in persuasive, coherent passages remains Stephen Brunt’s mission du jour.
For him, it’s enough.
Packing a punch into each written paragraph, picking the right words and the right phrases to make a point are his supreme skills.
Exhibit A: A 2016 tribute to all-time hockey legend Gordie Howe. Narrating for Sportsnet, where Brunt serves as Mr. Versatility, he provides a vivid example.
There’s an understated beauty in focusing on one important task: telling a story.
Listen to Brunt’s words and watch how they perfectly complement the images of Howe’s hockey career.
The skill for asking the right questions strengthens Brunt’s work.
Noting the longevity of Mr. Hockey’s career — from 1946 to the early ’80s — Brunt asks the questions all of us should ask if we were narrating the video: “How did he do that? How did he mess with time?”
Interspersed with vintage game footage of the Detroit Red Wings icon, Brunt also points out that he had “a mean streak a mile wide.”
There’s no sugar-coating that description. It works in helping paint a powerful picture about the way the rough, rugged Howe played the game.
While words, ideas, sounds and images work in harmony to tell meaningful stories in this multimedia age, Brunt remains a classic journalist in one sense. The Ontario, Canada, native admits he has no interest in using Twitter.
The longtime former Globe and Mail sports columnist was asked to explain why. He prefaced his answer discussing how readers used to interact with the media, how they could make suggestions before the social media age we now live in.
“I’m not on social media, so people could email me through the newspaper and I guess through Sportsnet, and back in the old days they used to write letters, which I always kind of liked, because even if they were nasty, you had to spend some time on them, right? You actually had to invest in them. But I made a conscious decision to stay away from Twitter because I’ve seen too many people just get consumed by it, for better or for worse,” Brunt said in a recent phone interview.
“And it’s a mean world, and it’s a cheap world, and I don’t want to react. And part of it is — again it’s kind of old school — (but) the stories I write are not me, they are separate from me. They are something that I produce, and people can react to that, but that’s not reacting to me. They are reacting to the work I produce, and I want that separation.”
While others boast about their gazillion Twitter followers, the 59-year-old Brunt, who penned the thoughtful 1999 book “The New Ice Age: A Year in the life of the NHL,” is grounded by his principles.
“The work is not me,” he said. “And I think that’s healthy. (On Twitter), I think that’s where you become the product, and it’s not my cup of tea. I know it works for some guys, and it certainly can boost your profile and your brand, but it’s disposable, and it’s reactive and it’s angry.
“I like to keep (a separation) — even back in the day when they started opening up comment sections on newspaper websites, where you can kind of interact with readers. I said I don’t want to interact with readers. I want readers to react to what I wrote, but that’s not me.
“And I’m happy for people to say they loved or hated what I wrote, and that’s good and I pay attention to it, but again I like that one degree of separation between me and the work.”
Davante Gardner is staying put with the Niigata Albirex BB.
While the Central Division club missed the playoffs last season, the Marquette University alumni enhanced his reputation as an elite player in the B. League by leading the circuit in scoring (28.7 points per game).
The 203-cm Gardner finalized a deal to return to Niigata for a third season, the team recently announced.
“I am already ready for the 2018-19 season,” Gardner said in a team-issued statement. (I’m) also preparing to go to the championship.
“Fans, boosters, sponsors, please, please help us this year. Thanking you in advance.”
By Ed Odeven
TOKYO (June 11, 2018)
Second in a series
From newspapers to magazines to books, Stephen Brunt has cemented a place in the annals of print journalism and nonfiction writing as one of the premier sports scribes of this era and the final decades of the 20th century.
While the industry has been bludgeoned by the downsizing of staffs at countless newspapers — dramatic decreases in circulation have contributed greatly to this crisis along with readers relying on free news online instead of the old habit of purchasing a paper — Brunt and his peers in sports media have, of course, noticed the rise of The Athletic, which began operations in January 2016.
The steady growth of The Athletic has brought wave after wave of prominent hires to the startup’s local sites and also to produce content for the entire North American market, including The Athletic Ink which showcases commentary and long-form features. Among the big-name hires: veteran journalists Peter Gammons, Jayson Stark, Stewart Mandel (editor-in-chief for its college football site), The All-American), Seth Davis (managing editor for its college basketball site, The Fieldhouse), Ken Rosenthal, Tim Kawakami, Richard Deitsch, Joe Posnanski, Dana O’Neil, Lisa Olson and Jeff Pearlman.
As of early June 2018, The Athletic (https://theathletic.com/) was already operating subscription-based sports websites in more than 20 North American cities. It also has a French language site in Montreal (an English one, too, in the Quebec city).
It’s been a curious thing to follow.
Does Brunt, one of the most famous sports pundits in Canada, think the general impression of The Athletic has been a positive one for the sports news consumer? And what about for job-seeking writers and editors: Has The Athletic made a positive impression so far?
“I think it’s really interesting because they’ve hired a lot of big names, and that’s in part because they’ve gone out and paid some people,” Brunt said by phone from Hamilton, Ontario. “It’s also a reflection of where the business is right now, especially for newspaper guys, like people are looking for a place to land and they are paying.”
He went on: “The content’s really good, by and large, better than what you are getting in newspaper sports sections now. Like the Toronto Star, for instance, the biggest paper in the country circulation-wise, just killed all of their sports-related travel except for the playoffs. So they don’t have anyone on the road with the (Toronto) Blue Jays. Like, for instance, they didn’t have anyone out on the road with the Maple Leafs at the end of the season.
“So they are burning the furniture in the newspaper business, and a lot of the stuff that guys like to do, the reason that was a fun world was you got to go places and cover things, right? I covered a bunch of Olympics and World Cups and Euros (soccer championships). I saw the world on the Globe and Mail’s dime, and that’s gone.
“So I think a lot of writers are looking for a place and that could mean that they (The Athletic) can hire a lot of very good people. But it’s a pay site, and the one thing I keep coming back to is I’ve got three kids, the oldest one is 30, and they are sports fans — my sons are at least to a degree. But I look at how they consume stuff, and they don’t pay for things. They don’t pay for cable; they pay for their phone. But the notion of paying for content would be completely alien to them.”
Which brings up Brunt’s broader point about The Athletic and the fact that many people consider the Internet is free — for everything.
“And I just don’t know if you can convince people to pay for content,” Brunt said. “So I’m a subscriber to The Athletic because I want to support it and I understand that you can’t make a site like that work based on online advertising. There’s just not enough revenue, but I also wonder about the guys who own it (founded by Alex Mather and Adam Hansmann), who are kind of venture-capitalist types. I wonder if they are just trying to built it up to the point where they can sell it. That’s what I’m suspicious of.”
Brunt maintains a hopeful outlook for The Athletic, though.
“Look, as long as it lasts, I hope it lasts, it’s keeping some good people employed,” he said. “It’s producing good content. So I have some reservations about the business model, but I really hope it survives.”
With The Athletic’s rapid expansion, its websites have popped up in U.S. and Canadian markets with pro sports franchises. These sites have become direct competitors with newspapers that once dominated coverage in these markets, such as Boston, Calgary, Chicago, San Francisco, New York, Winnipeg and Vancouver.
“What you are seeing is the decline of the newspaper coverage and people want their home team covered,” Brunt pointed out. “As much as they want to read big-picture national stuff, they want to know what’s going on with their team and there really is a vacuum there, and I think they are jumping in to try to fill it in all of those markets where the newspapers are in decline.
“Again, I don’t really understand the business model, but I think there’s a lot of content out there, and that’s the other thing.”
He brought up the example of having time before work to surf the Internet, checking out online sports coverage from ESPN, Sports Illustrated, Deadspin, The Ringer, “and it’s all free.”
“And you wonder how much content is the average (reader going to consume) — how far is someone willing to go for content, and are they willing to pay for it? That’s the question,” Brunt said.
By Ed Odeven
TOKYO (June 7, 2018)
First in a series
For decades, Stephen Brunt’s thought-provoking commentary has been a staple of Canadian sports journalism. He’s penned highly acclaimed books, including “Facing Ali: 15 Stories 15 Fighters,” “Gretzky’s Tears,” and the No. 1 Canadian best seller “Searching for Bobby Orr.” And he’s also provided radio listeners with engaging, informative sports talk throughout his successful career.
Now 59 years old, Brunt is a versatile, valuable member of the Sportsnet team, not unlike the variety of work that some journalists do for ESPN. He writes long features on a wide range of subjects. He works on TV documentaries (a topic to be explored in greater detail later in this series), too.
Above all, Brunt understands the power of words and employs them with great effect to deliver memorable stories.
Case in point: https://t.co/FVQCqxQyN6
Asked what me most enjoys about being behind the camera or producing copy for a broadcast, Brunt responded by saying, “It’s really different than writing (for print). I still think of myself as a writer, primarily. I do a lot of writing still, but the biggest difference for me is that it’s collaborative. You work with other people. The story’s in their hands as much as it’s in yours. It’s different than working with an editor as a writer.
“Like the visual people, these editors we work with, these producers, they have skills that I don’t have. They can do things that I can’t do, and they are super talented. A lot of them are really young, which again not like the newspaper business, which was getting pretty old at the time I left (in 2011). So I really like being able to think in a different way when you are working visually, and learning how to write a script versus writing a magazine piece or a column. Technically, it’s a different kind of writing. I like the learning part of it, and I really like the people that I get to work with. They are crazy talented.”
That talent creates an enjoyable work atmosphere and beyond, whether in the studio or on location in Canada, Los Angeles, the Dominican Republic or elsewhere.
“I’m having as much fun now as I’ve had at any point in my career,” he said in a recent phone interview. “It’s as satisfying as anything I’ve ever done, and it’s as much fan as anything I’ve ever done. So it’s great. I’ve been at this for a long time and it’s great at this stage … but it’s been a really different phase for me and it’s exciting. I like getting up in the morning and going to work. Its fun.”
Globe and Mail readers saw Brunt’s byline in the sports section from 1985 — he became a columnist in 1989 — until his departure in September 2011, when he joined Sportsnet on a full-time basis, providing content for its magazine, as well as video essays and columns and features for the website. He got his start at the paper in ’82 as an arts intern, then moved to the news department, where he reported on elections in 1984 . (This February, he became a part-time Prime time Sports co-host for an afternoon drive time 5-7 p.m. talk show with Bob McCown and Richard Deitsch. The show is heard on Sportsnet 590 The FAN in Toronto.)
When Brunt made the move to Sportsnet in September 2011, Rogers Broadcasting president Scott Moore was quoted as saying, “Adding Stephen full-time will strengthen all of Sportsnet’s platforms. Stephen is truly one of the most gifted sports columnists in Canada. His video essays are a great example of the type of storytelling we aspire to.”
Brunt commutes from his home in Hamilton, Ontario, to Toronto to go to work. Without traffic, he says it takes about 45 minutes, but it can take two hours. “It’s like driving in any big city,” he noted.
In 2007, he was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame as a reporter. His biographical section on the Hall of Fame website begins this way: “Stephen Brunt is the very best trombone-playing, fly-fishing, Hamilton Tiger-Cats loving national sports columnist to have covered the Canadian Football League (CFL).
“Known for his literary style, as well as his penchant for fine dining and expensive wines, the Hamilton-born Brunt has written about the CFL for The Globe and Mail for almost 20 years and never once lost his enthusiasm for the three-down game.”
In a wide-ranging interview, Brunt was asked what was the first sports book he read that left a memorable impression on him.
“I read hockey books as a kid. I don’t know if any of them were any good,” said Brunt, who was born in Hamilton. “I read some of the Scott Young hockey books. I read Bobby Hull’s. I remember buying his ghosted biography, ‘Hockey Is My Game.’ ”
“I read the usual stuff that you would read as a kid as a fan, and I read books about the local football team (Hamilton Tiger-Cats) in the Canadian Football League, some guys (on the team), which would be really obscure for anybody who didn’t live here.”
While Canadian sports teams and individual athletes piqued his interest, Brunt revealed that A.J. Liebling (1904-63), an icon of The New Yorker magazine, got him intrigued about a possible career as a writer.
“The first book as a writer that really made me think about wanting to write about sports was reading ‘The Sweet Science,’” said Brunt of Liebling’s book of boxing essays, published in 1956, which Sports Illustrated called the top sports book of all time in 2002.
“I didn’t start as a sports writer, and it wasn’t something that I ever really aspired to do. But I love boxing and I love the literature of boxing. So then I read everything of Liebling, which is very old school, his essays, and even his food writing. So I think that’s the one.”
He then pointed out that Robert Lipsyte’s “Sportsworld: An American Dreamland,” which published in 1975, was also quite influential.
“He was one of the first guys, if not the first guy, to kind of write about sports in the real world — political, social context,” said Brunt. “He cover the early years of Ali, among other things, but he wrote about sports not in a vacuum. He wrote about it and linked it to what was going on in the world. … And especially in my early days of being a columnist at the Globe, that had a huge influence over me.”
Brunt began reading Liebling’s works while he was attending Western University in Ontario. He doesn’t recall precisely how he first came across his work, though.
“But my guess is I read a magazine story about boxing, or something to do with boxing, and there was a reference to it,” he offered. “That’s my guess that somebody referenced Liebling.”
He went on: “In any number of great magazine pieces about boxing, Liebling tends to come up, right?”
What attracted him to those stories?
“It was great old-fashioned writing and the reporter is kind of as a character,” Brunt said. “Like I’ve never been that. I don’t ever write about myself, but I love the idea of Liebling as this kind of larger-than-life character, and then he references Boxiana, the 18th century books about boxing. There’s a lot of stuff about Boxiana in Sweet Science.
“So then I went out and bought, I’m looking at it now, I’ve got an original copy of the first Boxiana,” he said, referring to a a book of articles penned by British writer Pierce Egan. The first volume was published in 1813. Several more volumes followed.
“I started reading kind of ancient boxing writing and I got into boxing literature in a big way,” he continued. “I’d say even before I wrote anything about it the one kind of library I have are shelves and shelves of boxing books.”
Brunt found his niche with boxing — and not just for coverage of title fights. With Brunt shining a light on corruption in boxing for an investigative series, the Globe and Mail received the prestigious Michener Award for public-service journalism for his series. Here’s how the Michener Awards Foundation summed up that project on its website:
“ ‘Ontario Boxing Scandal’ disclosed that Ontario’s athletic commissioner and former championship boxer Clyde Gray was not carrying out his duties properly and that he ignored rules aimed at making the sport safe for contestants. More than 40 unlicensed boxers were permitted to fight in Ontario along with 52 others with records that should have resulted in suspensions. The series of stories by Stephen Brunt lead to a government inquiry and transfer of the commissioner to another post.”
In his travels over the years, Brunt got to know a number of prominent boxing scribes from numerous places. He said Vic Ziegel, the late New York Daily News and New York Post columnist, had a gift for humor in his commentary and long-form magazine pieces. He met Barney Nagler (“one of the great old boxing writers,” Brunt pointed out), whose byline was carried by the New York Post, Philadelphia Evening Ledger, Newark Star Eagle, New York Morning Telegraph and The Daily Racing Form, among other print outlets, before his passing in 1990, and became friends with Hugh McIlvaney, the Scottish sports scribe who retired at age 82 from The Sunday Times in 2016.
“When I started covering the fights, I started to meet some of these guys who were of a previous generation,” Brunt recalled with enthusiasm. “I was a real acolyte of the older guys. So I was always really, really excited to meet somebody who had covered Joe Louis or covered Rocky Marciano. It was pretty cool.”
Upcoming installments in this series will highlight memorable events in Stephen Brunt’s writing and broadcasting career, the stories behind the stories in some of his most successful books, why he avoids using Twitter, and much more.
Editor’s note: Jeff Blair and Stephen Brunt have a new weekly podcast. Episodes can be accessed via this link: https://www.sportsnet.ca/590/the-lede/