Friday, May 21, 2010

Why I’m Scared of Jared Dudley

This isn’t the first time I’ve been scared of Jared Dudley. The first occurrence was only a month into my internship at HOOP Magazine. My Associate Editor accompanied me to my first writing assignment at Madison Square Garden, which was my first basketball game as a member of the press. The Suns were playing the Knicks that night, and since I’m from Phoenix, I couldn’t have been more excited to see my favorite team. My legs shook with nervous energy when I walked across 8th avenue on my way to the most famous arena in the world.

I entered the stadium through the employee entrance and when I received my press pass I squelched the nervous feeling akin to the first time I used my fake ID at a bar. I kept waiting for the nice lady handing out the passes to make me tell her my sign, laugh at me, and send me away. They let me in though and even had my name printed on the pass, which I slipped around my neck. I tried not to trip on the heels of my Associate Editor, and failed to hide my shit-eating grin as we walked to the locker rooms. My heart raced, and I had folded and refolded my paper of questions in a rectangle the size of a piece of gum.

I tried to look cool when I walked into the Suns locker room. As I passed through the entrance, right in front of me was Grant Hill and his surprisingly amazing abs. For a 67-year-old veteran, his abs looked like the statue of David. To the left of the small poorly lit room was Amar’e Stoudemire in the corner. I did everything in my power to pretend to be professional and not scream like a 14-year-old girl at a Justin Bieber concert. I had been standing in the middle of the locker room gawking for a couple minutes and was too nervous to ask anyone a question. I didn’t even know how to begin.

While I was busy refolding my paper with questions that I was too afraid to ask my favorite superstar athletes, Jared Dudley came over to the table by me and grabbed a Gatorade out of the round cooler. He loudly said, “the infamous New York press” to the other journalists in the room, who were also just standing around. Or he said something to that nature. I’m not sure since I didn’t turn on my recorder, and I was busy searching for a “Die Bart Die” tattoo on Robin Lopez’s chest.

Then Dudley turned to me and asked to borrow my pen. We bantered a bit about the recent NBA news while I kept thinking about the appropriate talking volume for a professional locker room. I didn’t turn the recorder on and was just happy to talk with a professional athlete in a scenario other than screaming from a distance ‘D-Fense! clap clap clap’. However, I did manage to ask Dudley, to his surprise, about when he was going to do another episode of JMZ.

JMZ is a play off of TMZ. It is a series of entertaining twitvideo posts where Dudley plays the role of reporter and asks questions for his teammates to answer with insightful and often humorous results. When I asked him this, he got a huge smile on his face and said, “We’ll see” while giving me a dap and walking away with my only pen.

This also turned out to be one of the prouder moments of my life because I didn’t mess up the fist bump with one of those awkward ‘I’m high fiving while you’re doing a clenched fist, paper covers rock situations’. Even though Dudley never gave me back my pen, my first encounter as a member of the ‘infamous New York press’ was a success.

After the encounter with Dudley, I loosened up and was able to get quotes from Stoudemire and Side Show Bob (Robin Lopez). I eventually became comfortable talking with professional athletes and navigating the MSG press room like I belonged instead of like a fan that slipped through the cracks. In later assignments I had no worries about approaching athletes with questions and was more concerned about being able to pick up their mumblings on my crappy recorder than thinking about how big a fan I was of the person I was talking to.

Although I became comfortable as a sports journalist, in a bitch-slap of foreshadowing, Jared Dudley taking my pen could prove to be the future of my sports journalism career. I could tell that Dudley was happy to know that I had seen his early work as a player/reporter when he had only a couple thousand twitter followers back in December of 2009. Now, Dudley is appearing on the BS Report, PTI and has done exclusive videos for TMZ. He even got a shout out from Hall of Fame Reporter Bob Ryan who called Dudley “my man”. Dudley has launched himself into a media star by the use of his twitter feed while most other NBA players use it to let their fans know about what they had for dinner.

This season has had some momentous NBA twitter posts that have caused shake-ups blurring the lines of reporter and player. Unlike Dudley’s entertaining and informative JMZ reports, most of the twitter news involving the NBA is negative. Examples range from the halftime tweet by Charlie Villanueva, which forced the creation of the Charlie V Rule that bans any social media during games. As well as, Gilbert Arenas going tweet crazy after reports of his gun-pulling encounter with teammate Javaris Crittenton, which led to his suspension from the League, and the deletion of his twitter page. There has even been breaking news stories that have been reported via player twitter feeds. Kevin Love was the first to report on the firing of Kevin McHale. Also, Chris Bosh recently asked his twitter followers to give him advice on whether he should resign with Toronto or move on to a new team. This past week a “hacker” apparently made Paul Pierce's twitter page predict the sweep of the Magic. Twitter will surely be the focus of another controversy of the NBA, but Jared Dudley has turned his twitter page into a PR machine. He is doing the jobs of suns beat reporters better than they are because he has the access and perspective that they can’t get.

The use of twitter by NBA players puts aspiring sports writers in a difficult position. There is no need for me to go into the locker room of the Phoenix Suns to ask Amar’e Stoudemire what is his favorite type of music or his thought on the upcoming game, when Jared Dudley is there asking the questions and posting them on the Internet. The transparency of the superstar athlete has led to a more difficult job for sports writers to come up with unique angles and write entertaining articles that are longer than 140 characters. As a fan, I love the idea that I can communicate with my favorite athletes and learn more about them as people. It is refreshing that players feel comfortable to announce to the Internet their true feelings instead of hearing the recycled responses that they give gumshoe journalist.

Although I may have been too scared to ask Dudley for my pen back, I’m more afraid that he is going to take my job. I am going to treat this like my first assignment for HOOP and just wait for the initial excitement to pass. After all with more players going pro after one year in college someone is going to have to proofread their tweets.

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