May 24, 2021

It’s more than a grind

Christian Ortega

Stephen A. Smith stared at us through the lens of his webcam. He wore a white Under Armour sleeveless hoodie. He had just finished a workout. 

If his career were to end today, Smith, 53,  would most likely be known as the signature voice behind ESPN’s “First Take.” 

Why he got there wasn’t his ability to scorch listeners’ ears with his takes. Or because he’s boisterous. He got there because he worked hard to have that opportunity. He seized it. 

“If it’s easy,” he said,  “it ain’t worth having.” 

Whether it came from Smith, The Athletic’s Josh Tolentino or Sports Capital Journalism Program’s Malcolm Moran, their messages revolved around a similar theme. They’re successful not because of luck, but because they worked, and worked, and worked. 

Spending four hours at a stadium before a game is likely not always an entertaining experience; neither is sifting through game notes for nuggets or constantly communicating with everyone orbiting an athlete’s or coach’s life. But it’s the foundation of excellent sports reporting. And the cornerstone behind every tremendous reporter’s success. 

I learned the fundamentals of being a great reporter at school. Stay on top of your beat, read and constantly develop sources. I learned that’s not just enough. There’s a difference between a job and a career. When my career is over and I retire, I want to look back and feel satisfied with the work I did. Listening to these speakers definitely helped me understand what needs to be done and how I can do it. 

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