In sports reporting — and really any other kind of reporting but let’s not worry about those newsies right now — interviews are half the job. And when you find an interviewee who can give you gold, you keep digging there.
Take Bob Green for instance. The long-time football coach at Montana Tech (you know, those guys that sometimes play EOU) was the greatest sound bite manufacturer in the history of sports journalism. For college football fans growing up in Montana like myself, Green’s spontaneous post-game press conferences were legendary, riddled with such gems as:
Don’t believe me? Just YouTube coach Bob Green for yourself; you won’t be disappointed. I promise.
But since the Oredigger hung up the whistle and with it his crazy backwoods-sounding near rants, there’s been a void in my life. But I think I’ve finally found my Eastern-Oregon Bob Green.
Blue Mountain Community College volleyball coach Dave Baty. He doesn’t have the harsh rasp that Green did or the bugging eyes like he’s just one more wacky metaphor from an aneurysm, but he’s become my favorite character to talk to nonetheless.
On one of my first assignments with the East Oregonian, Baty’s Timberwolves were just barely able to beat a Yakima Community College team and the coach was none too pleased. He told me this:
“Of our four matches left, I thought that this would be the easiest and we came out here and played like we were playing in some Fourth of July picnic.”
Now I chuckled a little — but not in front of Baty because he was a little fired up. But he’s become a consistent supplier of quotables.
“We dug such a hole for ourselves. We just laid down in our own grave and handed the shovel to our opponent,” he said after a match this fall.
Another diamond from this year on his front line hitters: “That’s off the planet good. That’s like Saturn or Jupiter, way out there crazy.”
But my favorite was a nugget he dropped last year about middle blocker Becky Kershner, a 6-foot-5 sophomore at the time who was under-performing in a match. She only had 17 kills.
“She should be eating lunch here, she should be just running the show and yet she’s not,” Baty said.
Sidebar: Becky was a nice change of pace from the prep athletes interview regularly because (so far) she’s the only person who looked me in the eye during our conversation. I don’t mean the others were all sheepish. I mean Becky was a giant and it was nice to talk to someone my same height.
Interestingly, she’s now on scholarship playing volleyball for the University of Great Falls, a small private school in my old home town.
But back to Baty. A coach like that refreshes the journalistic soul, like a surprise rain storm during Pendleton’s endless dry summers.
I wish all players and coaches would take a nod from Dave Baty and Bob Green. A little fun in the conversation makes our relationship much more enjoyable and boy does it make my job more interesting.
So the bar is set high. Here’s hoping that creativity is contagious.
Contact AJ Mazzolini at email@example.com or 541-966-0839.