DS: The Media Center is kind of disturbing, because we’re all kind of hemmed into this big warehouse building in the middle of nowhere. I think people are friendlier than they would be at a regular old sporting event, like at an NCAA basketball game it doesn’t seem like people greet each other in the line at the buffet or whatever. Here, it seems like every time you wait in line for a piece of pizza you have to introduce yourself to the Belgian journalist behind you.
LCB: How can tell an American journalist from a non-American journalist over there — or can you?
DS: To me the number one giveaway is the white sneakers. I wrote about that a little bit. It’s definitely striking. And I’ve worn my white sneakers a little bit, too. It clearly signifies you as American.
LCB: How is the Cheney hunting accident playing over in Italy? What’s the buzz in the Media Center on the topic?
DS: We have our own little office so I hang out with Washington Post people all day. As far as what we’re doing I think we all just try to work in a Cheney shooting joke once or twice into our copy. Other than that it’s kind of just something to read [about].
LCB: I’d like to get your thoughts on something that is burning up the blogosphere. Bryant Gumbel of HBO’s “Real Sports” apparently recently said the following about the Winter Olympics: “Try to blot out all logic when announcers and sportswriters pretend to care about the luge, the skeleton, the biathlon and all those other events they don’t understand and totally ignore for all but three weeks every four years. Face it — these Olympics are little more than a marketing plan to fill space and sell time during the dreary days of February. So if only to hasten the arrival of the day they’re done, when we can move on to March Madness — for God’s sake, let the games begin.” In the same segment he also mentioned that the Winter Olympics looks like a “GOP convention,” complexion-wise. Discuss.
DS: It’s definitely an immensely white crowd — journalists and fans and athletes.
LCB: And white-sneakered, too?
DS: Yeah, definitely. The American speedskater Shani Davis, the big buzz around him was that he was the one black superstar in the speedskating world. It’s definitely a white world over here.
As to the other thing, it’s interesting [Gumbel] said that. I think a lot of people have been saying that … questioning whether it’s really worth you know, say, the Washington Post sending 11 people [to Turin]. I wonder about that, too. I think the European press covers some of these sports year-round. There are World Cup circuits for skiing, speedskating and [European reporters] cover it every winter … so the Olympics really isn’t out of the ordinary. But for us, we do pretty much ignore these sports for three out of every four years. … [One of my colleagues] said that it feels like a made-for-TV event a lot of the time. You go to these events and go into a curling match in some suburb of Turin and it’s half-filled and you wonder … Curling, I’m obviously having a little fun with it, but it kind of makes you wonder why is this so important that we have so many people over here? If you’re here you do start to care about [it], though, so I don’t agree that journalists are just pretending to care. I think when you’re around it, you sort of get to know the personalities and you do start to care. Whether the people at home care, I am not sure.
LCB: You were once a cheese monger at Whole Foods. How did that job prepare you for your life as a sports reporter and, now, blogger?
DS: There are not a lot of similarities. But I did do a Cheese Lovers Newsletter (I used to struggle over whether there should be an apostrophe in “Lovers”). I would solicit email addresses and once a month send out some kind of overly-written treatise about all our new cheeses and cheeses that were on sale and beg people to come in and buy this or that cheese. Whenever anyone would show any kind of interest in cheese at the counter I would try to solicit their email address and badger then into signing up. So maybe that’s similar [to reporting]. That was sort of a little weird pause in my career.