Dallas, Texas, December 3rd – Walking into an empty American Airlines center almost 2 hours before tipoff, I looked up at the bold, white letters, shining overhead, spelling out “PRESS ONLY.” My accomplice for the evening was Bill Cox IV ’17, his face flushing bright red as two women at a table asked for our media credentials. Eager to establish our legitimacy, we proudly flashed our ‘Single-Game Media Pass[es],’ rushing off to find the Rick Carlisle pre-game press conference.
As we descended to the floor level of the AA Center, walking by the media cafeteria, the team locker-room, and brushing past Clayton Kershaw (who was in attendance that evening), we were in awe of the access that accompanies a media pass. As close friends and avid Dallas Mavericks fans, Bill and I had looked forward to our night as press for weeks, excited to see not only how the team could handle the Chicago Bulls, but also experience a more “behind-the-scenes” look at sports journalism. Finding seats at the pre-game conference, we had to quickly overcome our excitement, looking around at the room of professional journalists and reporters preparing their microphones and formulating potential questions. Once Carlisle entered, we listened as he discussed the team’s poor start to the season, noticing how he kept his comments positive with his tone of optimism. Referencing the recent injuries to key players like Dirk Nowitzki, JJ Barea, and Seth Curry, Carlisle described the team as an “NBA player recovery boutique,” a snippet I captured due to my imitation of the journalists around me, holding my phone in front of me and recording his comments. As the conference wound down, we made our way to the front, wishing Coach Carlisle good luck on behalf of the Jesuit community, before snapping a quick photo.
To my surprise, sitting in on the conference seemed strangely familiar. I felt as if I had seen the room before, and heard Coach Carlisle answer similar questions on countless occasions. I realized this sense of familiarity was due to the vast coverage of the media, broadcasting press conferences like these on ESPN or the local news nearly every day. At this point, Bill and I understood the major role the media plays within the world of sports. Journalists, reporters, and even sports analysts who use social media as their primary platform, are the main outlet in which the public interacts with and gains information about their favorite sports teams. This “insider” perspective Bill and I had that night is something made available to everyone by the media, making it possible to sit in on the pre-game conference just by watching the news, reading Bleacher Report, or picking up one’s phone and scrolling through Twitter.
Following the conference, we made our way to the court where we gathered footage of various Maverick’s and Bull’s players, meeting several professional journalists along the way. As the game started we entered the Press Box and began taking notes on the game, again following the example of the journalists around us. Bill even attempted to “live-tweet” the game but found it difficult to watch the court while constantly typing out updates, a true skill which select media members possess. Around halftime, we were invited to a lower-level section of media seating by one of the journalists we met earlier in the night. We ended up sitting next to the vacant seats usually occupied by representatives from 1310 The Ticket, and behind Victor Villalba, the Mavericks Spanish play-by-play announcer. We were handed stat sheets at the end of each quarter by a Dallas Mavericks Press associate, being treated like true media professionals. Though we were a far cry from such, it was easy to let ourselves feel that way, surrounded by and interacting with career sports reporters, one whom even let Bill use his phone charger.
Near the middle of the 4th quarter, Bill and I felt a sudden excitement coursing through the conversations of the press members surrounding us. Aside from the Mavs great performance so far, leading by over 10 points for most the 2nd half, Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas’ most well-known player, and future Hall of Famer, had just announced that he would be speaking at the end of the game. This was no regular press conference though, Dirk had been injured for the past month, and his condition was uncertain. At 38 years-old, Dirk is nearing retirement, and many wonder whether this injury will be the end for him. At the start of the post-game conference, Carlisle expressed his joy about the win, before shockingly announcing that Dirk would not, in fact, be speaking due to a sudden conflict. A sigh of disappointment could be heard around the room from media members eager to get the scoop on Mr. Nowitzki. However, as Carlisle closed and began to walk off at the conference’s close, he added that he was just kidding and Dirk would be speaking in the locker room.
Bill and I watched the mass exodus of media personnel quickly relocating to the space in front of Dirk’s locker. Surprised by Carlisle’s “fake out,” we joined the press in the locker room, standing right next to small forward Justin Anderson. While changing clothes, Anderson spoke to us about how the crowds next to Dirk’s locker often bled into his personal space, thanking us as we encouraged some reporters to move over. He continued to talk to us as we awaited Dirk’s arrival, even joking around by singing a snippet from a popular Kevin Gates song when Bill inquired why he had two cell phones. When Dirk finally entered, he brushed right by us and took place at the center of the crowd. Unfortunately, we were not able to hear much of what the soft-spoken German had to say, but we gathered that his injury is day-to-day, and he wishes to return to the court soon.
Being so close to an all-time great like Dirk seemed like a once-in-a-lifetime experience for me and Bill, but was just an average day on the job for the press around us. Bill and I learned a lot from our night at the Maverick’s game, and we both walked out with a renewed appreciation for the role the press plays at sporting events. The life of a sports journalist is an exciting one, able to provide the public the thrill of attending a sporting event from the comfort their own home.
On behalf of the Roundup and Jesuit community, I would like to thank Sarah Melton, Vice President of Basketball Communications for the Dallas Mavericks for making this experience possible.