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Michael Lewis


June 17, 2017
Things they don't teach you in J-school

SAO PAULO, Brazil -- Some things that they don't teach you in journalism school:

Writing on ridiculous deadlines; cranking out stories while the media bus is bouncing along to the airport; sending stories from the check-in counter at the airport; and, taking a 2:50 a.m. flight from Natal, Brazil to Sao Paulo.

All in the life of a sportswriter at the World Cup.

First, let's tackle an own goal by FIFA. There was no stadium clock at beautiful Arena das Dunas Monday night in Natal. None to be found anywhere, a major blunder

A red card to FIFA and the Brazil World Cup Organizing Committee for this egregious error, and I don't want to hear any excuses about saving money for Sepp Blatter's retirement fund.

This isn't the 1930 World Cup in Uruguay. Heck, there are official clocks in the Caribbean and Central America. What does it take to put an electronic clock on both sides of the stadium for the fans (and media) to see?

Fortunately, for the second half I used a stop watch on my I-phone as the "official time."

The match ended at 9 p.m. local. The first USA player did not enter the mixed zone where the media does all the interviews until 10:20, a good 80 minutes after the 2-1 win over Ghana. It certainly did not help our deadlines because we had to be on the media bus at 11:45 p.m. for our trip to the airport (it eventually was pushed back to midnight).

The reason for the delay? The U.S. team wanted to leave together and the players did not want to leave any player behind. John Brooks, the hero of the game with that late goal, and Jermaine Jones were in doping control. They trickled out. Michael Bradley, then Jozy Altidore.

With a Newsday deadline looming at 11:20 p.m. local time (10:20 p.m. ET), I had to get back to the media center to write. The game story was sent at something like 10:17 p.m., the sidebar about 15 minutes later.

U.S. Soccer's David Applegate, who is in charge of the American media traveling with the team, is our version of MacGyver. He is Mr. FixIt for us and has come through in flying colors for the second consecutive mundial. He had a hot spot on his phone, enabling me to send stories from the bus to various destinations; I even sent while waiting on line to check in at the airport.

Our GOL Airlines flight arrived at Sao Paulo at 6:20 a.m. The pilot said it would take five minutes before we found a gate and that we should be patient. Some 15 minutes later, we were parked. That is about right, since I have multiplied by three everything I hear from a pilot or airline official when it comes to time on a flight.

By the time we got luggage and waited for our bus, it was after seven and we had to traverse through the morning rush hour back to the hotel.

At about 8:30 a.m., reporters en masse walked into the restaurant and had a quick breakfast.

I got up at around 12:30 p.m., showered and went to the media room to do some work, grabbed a cheese sandwich from a mini-store at a local gas station, hopped on the media bus for training and a USA press conference with coach Jurgen Klinsmann, Graham Zusi and Alejandro Bedoya at Sao Paulo FC. That was delayed because the U.S. team was delayed in traffic, pushing the writing time for our stories further back.

So, if I ever teach a journalism course, I certainly will include what it is really like being a reporter.

You wait a lot.

You work and sometimes travel at crazy hours.

And you have to have patience.

It doesn't always add up, but if you want to persevere in this business, you better be prepared.

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