From the Press Box: us and them

Welcome to "From the Press Box", where Raw Charge's reluctant-yet-enthusiastic correspondent in the Amalie Arena press box, Clark Brooks, takes you behind the scenes of the exciting world of watching hockey from the rafters for the purpose of writing articles about it.

The best thing about having a team-issued credential to cover the Lightning is that I'm a Lightning fan, and I like to believe that being a credentialed member of the media allows me to be an ambassador on behalf of fellow fans who will never get to experience the game of hockey that way. Through this weekly column, I'll be sharing peeks behind the magical media curtain with you. Today, we're going to talk about writers and television people.

It’s kind of amazing how quickly one can stake a territorial claim to a place just because you spend some time there.  I’ve only been doing game recaps from my spot in the press box for just over four years, yet I feel comfortable saying things like “my spot in the press box.”

It’s good to feel comfortable enough somewhere to be able to do that, but it can also manifest itself in inappropriately proprietary ways. What I’m talking about here is the relationship between writers and members of other media, specifically those who work in television.

The Lightning PR staff places placards at all the spots along the work desk in the press box and many of them are assigned to people from the local television stations. Those spots are frequently vacant, at least during most regular season games. For big events and postseason games, they’ll be there, but for a Tuesday night tilt against a non-contender, sometimes not. I expect all seats will be filled for the Marty St. Louis jersey retirement game against Columbus on January 13. That won’t be the case the night before for the Buffalo game.

If you’re being childish and pedantic about it, you can act like a grizzled old scribe who has ink under their fingernails from banging out stories on a Smith-Corona (I’m told that’s a brand of something that used to be called a ‘typewriter’) who thinks they deserve special consideration and dismiss the TV people as a bunch of front-running fancy talking-heads, greeting their arrival in the press box inaudibly muttering “well, look who decided to show up.”

I may or may not have been guilty of that myself at times. Especially during the playoffs, when quarters become cramped and some of us end up being relocated to accommodate people who may not have been in attendance for a single regular season game. Not a lot, but sometimes.

That’s silly on a number of levels.

First and foremost, coverage of sports by television news is inherently different. They show highlights and do features, and they’re in the business of making a much bigger deal out of things that already qualify as big deals. They’re simply not in the business of detailed game recaps and statistical analysis. They serve a different function and they go about it in a different way, but they’re doing a job just like we are.

They’re also providing a level of coverage that other outlets just can’t. The internet is widely popular and prevalent but so is television. A ton of YouTube hits are nice but that’s still not as prestigious a statistic as eyeballs glues to a TV.

Secondly and just as important, some of us (writers, especially those of us representing the ‘non-traditional’ media, especially me) simply need to get over ourselves.  It’s not actually “our” press box. It’s a work area, provided to us by the team in order to help us in the media do our job of covering the team. That’s the reality of the situation and that’s just how it is.

But none of you froufrou TV folk better take my chair.