New Maine Times Book Review: 24 August 2011

Posted Wednesday, August 24, 2011 in Culture

New Maine Times Book Review: 24 August 2011

SIDELINED

By Kevin C. Mills.

Maine Authors Publishing, 2010.

317 pages, $21.95.

ISBN 978-0-9827021-7-8.

Reviewed by William D. Bushnell

When Kevin Mills became a sports reporter twenty years ago he probably thought he had a glamorous job covering major sporting events, hobnobbing with big stars, getting the big scoop.  Instead, he found he would be arguing with obnoxious parents, getting yelled at by steaming referees, and scolded by stress-out coaches.  And when his "Stop the presses!" moment came, he missed it.

SIDELINED is Mills' hilarious and perceptive memoir of more than twenty years experience on the sports beat, covering everything from baseball, football, hockey, and basketball to skiing, auto racing, soccer, and sailing.  He has written about men's and women's sports at all levels - high school, college, and professional - for newspapers like the Boston Globe and the Lewiston Sun Journal.

These thirty-five short chapters offer fascinating insight into the hectic life of a sports reporter, which as it turns out, is anything but a glamorous job.  It is a job of statistics, egos, quirky personalities, contacts, deadlines, game coverage day and night, in all types of weather, often working for editors who have no appreciation for the demands on a sports reporter's time and effort.

Fortunately, you do not have to be a sports fan to enjoy Mills's explanations of how the print media really works, his descriptions of his methods of putting a story together, getting his facts and quotes straight, and dealing with ever-changing technology and parental loyalties.

Most of the anecdotes are followed by a reprint of the actual published story, providing an interesting glimpse both at what we read in the paper and what really happened.  He tells of locker room antics, sideline adventures, how story tips often come from unexpected sources, and why his piano lessons as a kid might actually have paid off.

In "Accidental Excellence," he tells about a girls' soccer team and the "story that almost never happened," and how it won him a newspaper award.  In "A Heart-felt Tale," he tells how he got one of his best sports stories from a letter a mother didn't write and a courtesy phone call he almost didn't make.  Interviewing winning and losing players and coaches after a game is always tricky, but Mills reveals why a laugh is just as good as a pithy quote. 

He also describes how he handles complaints from parents, coaches, and players, proving the old journalist's adage - No matter what you write or how well you write it, somebody somewhere won't like it.

 

    In "TV Time," Mills reveals why print reporters hold television reporters in such disdain, claiming they are not reporters at all, just TV personalities with perfect hair.  He also tells why a reporter with a hot scoop may not be all that helpful to other reporters, and why lazy or inept reporters get no help at all from anybody.

 

    Learn too why it is always a bad idea to predict the winner of a sporting event before the final buzzer, why his cat-like reflexes couldn't save his laptop computer from a sideline mishap, why it is never good to be mistaken for a National Enquirer reporter, and what it's like to write a story amidst the mind-numbing noise of a thousand screaming fans.

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