Being able to cover America’s team is a wonderful thing. As a lifelong fan of the team, I try to be open minded and unbiased when writing on issues that concern the players or team. I was brought aboard this site in July 2012, and it has been a pleasure to do a weekly column on the Cowboys. However, the last two weeks have been even brighter in particular with a few real cool events that I had the pleasure to cover.
A little less than two weeks ago a fellow writer from this site and myself were able to be present at the “Citi Jason Witten Pro Football Camp” media session on Saturday, May 4, 2013. The Camp was held on Saturday and Sunday at Grand Prairie High School, and was for kids in grades 1-8. It had over 100 kids participating and numerous instructors from around the DFW area. There were about ten people doing a five minute media session with Jason on Saturday morning. Some of the questions asked were what he thought about Gavin Escobar, thoughts on a two tight end offense, and can the team finally break out and have postseason success. Witten seemed very at ease and comfortable with the light media that was attending. He answered all questions and my impression was that he seemed very genuine in his thoughts and interaction with the small media contingent.
The second event I was able to cover was the Reliant Home Run Derby at the Ballpark in Arlington on Wednesday, May 8, 2013. This event had much more “hoopla” than the first as there were nine prominent Dallas Cowboys participating in the event. The players included Jason Witten, DeMarco Murray, Sean Lee, Bruce Carter, Brandon Carr, Dez Bryant, Jason Hatcher, Miles Austin, and Doug Free. Jason Garrett also participated in the event and like in everything else he does, was very methodical in his preparation before “officially” being up to bat. Prior to each official start of his ten at bats, he would take two bunts before taking swings that would count. The first round consisted of ten at bats for each participant, and the top five would move on to the next round.
While the crowd was very small (maybe 100 people in the stands), the media contingent was quite impressive. On the field was Brad Sham who was emceeing the event for those in attendance. The first base dugout was where the media congregated. Such notable personalities such as Mickey Spanola, Steve Dennis, Mike Doocy, Calvin Watkins, Tim MacMahon, Mike Fisher, multiple writers from Dallas Cowboys.com, and others as well.
After each participant batted, they would come to the first base dugout for a two to four minute light media session. As a fan of the team and football in general, I seen hundreds of interviews on the local news and random sports channels such as ESPN and NFL Network. However, to see and watch it from the other side was quite entertaining and enlightening. The reporters rush to surround each player when they are up to speak, and all of the microphones and voice recorders are put in close proximity to record each question and answer (this audio/video is what they will review to then prepare their column or article on). It was a “free for all”, where you had to have your question ready and be ready to shout it out, otherwise someone else will spit one out first and leave you waiting for your next opportunity.
As someone who is new to this media coverage process, I noticed how the media members definitely try to be “friendly” with the players. The only Cowboy that was aggressively questioned was Doug Free, with the questions being all about his contract status and his possible pay cut or outright release. The media did not let up, thus Free’s sessions was ended prematurely as compared to the other players. The other Cowboys were given a bunch of “softball” questions that I basically knew the answer that was forthcoming as soon as I heard the question that was being asked.
Jason Witten was asked what his thoughts about Gavin Escobar and how he felt about a two tight end offense. DeMarco Murray was asked what he thought about Joseph Randle, and his feelings on sharing a rotation with him. Dez Bryant and Miles Austin were both asked about Terrance Williams and his role on the team. Sean Lee, Jason Hatcher, and Brandon Carr were all asked about their new roles in the 4-3 scheme, their thoughts on it, and what they foresee for 2013. The answers were they are ready to embrace their new teammates, they are ready for the new defense, and they think the defense will be troublesome for the opposing offenses. But really, what else could we really expect these guys to say in May. These questions were all relaxed as the more pointed ones will all be asked once the season arrives and the first problems and issues occur on the field starting once the season starts.
The future for each and every one of us is uncertain. For myself, I may continue on with what I’m doing with the site, I may become the next great sports reporter at some network, or I may be done with this all next week. What I will take with me though, was that I had a great experience covering players from the current Dallas Cowboys. I had the opportunity to see them in a live media environment, and was literally just a few inches away from these guys that I normally see from the stands at Cowboys Stadium or from television set at home. It was nice to see the “behind the scenes” interaction between the players and media. As this was my “rookie” experience, I kind of just sat back and took it all in. I didn’t want to seem out of place, and I didn’t want to stand out. I just wanted to just enjoy the experience and prepare myself if another opportunity presents itself in the future to cover the team in a live setting.
Follow Craig Cortemeglia on Twitter at @ccortemegliaTLH