Sports reporters root for the good story, not a specific team

It was a tumultuous weekend for Illini sports, with the lows outweighing the highs. I was “fortunate” enough to be present for two of the lowest lows: when volleyball was swept by Minnesota on “Friday night “:https://www.dailyillini.com/article/2012/09/illini-volleyball-splits-first-weekend-of-conference-playand the embarrassment of a football game the “next night”:ttp://www.dailyillini.com/article/2012/09/illinois-closes-nonconference-schedule-with-loss-to-louisiana-tech.

I wrote Illinois off as losing halfway through each event. Most everybody with a brain probably did that, but it was uncharacteristic for me. I’m usually what my friends call “unrealistically optimistic,” and I constantly recite the cliche, “It’s not over until it’s over.”

Losing faith last weekend made me come to an upsetting personal realization.

I am no longer a sports fan. Thanks to my five or so years of sports reporting, the fan has been completely sucked out of my soul. The days of having my face painted bright blue, holding a giant foam finger and screaming obnoxiously are long behind me.

I still care about sports more than the average person, I still follow my favorite teams with a religious devotion and my moods still revolve around how said team performed, but I can never call myself a typical sports fan. No honest sports reporter can truly do that.

It starts with all the time spent in the press box. You’re not allowed to cheer there. But this rule apparently only exists in the “United States.”:http://deadspin.com/5931913/bbc-announcers-went-absolutely-bonkers-as-britains-mo-farah-claimed-10k-gold?utm_campaign=socialflow_deadspin_twitter&utm_source=deadspin_twitter&utm_medium=socialflow If you cheer in the press box here, I’m pretty sure you’ll get kicked out, or at least receive the death stare from about 30 people, which I’ve gotten repeatedly, just for talking too loud in the press box. The years of conditioning myself not to clap, to grit my teeth instead of smiling and to nudge whoever is sitting next to me instead of jumping up for joy have turned me into a silent machine when attending an event as a fan.

I always second-guess myself before wearing orange to an event. As an objective student reporter, it’s against the rules to wear school colors while covering events. I kept wondering why people looked at me funny when I was tailgating Saturday with my purple shirt on. Then I realized, oh yeah, I was the elephant in the room.

It’s even worse when I’m in the student section. I feel like I’m wearing a giant sticker that screams, “SHE’S NOT SUPPOSED TO BE HERE.” In all reality, no one has any idea that I’m out of place because I look completely normal. But I feel like an alien sitting there because I don’t know any of the cheers and have no desire to be standing for the entire game. I’m also analyzing every play more than I should and questioning why decisions were made instead of sitting back and enjoying the game. When people ask their friends something, I want to answer because I have the inside scoop. Then I remember how I’m here as a fan so I attempt to chill out, typically failing miserably.

My non-reporter friends don’t understand my inner struggles. I went to a volleyball game with my friend Sheila a few weeks ago. She thought it was OK to arrive to the game 15 minutes late. Doesn’t she realize we have to get there 30 minutes early, make sure we’re settled and check that our computers are working? Wait, I guess she’s right. Those important details don’t matter to fans.

This lack of time as a spectator results in a bitter hatred toward fans and the actions they engage in, which is really just jealously because I can’t take part in those activities myself. The fans are standing during games, excited to see that last point and you’re not supposed to stand — though sitting throughout a game is undeniably a perk. The fans ruin your perfect view. Then the fans do the wave, and the reporter is not a part of it. And if you’re a sports reporter that likes the wave, that’s just wrong.

Next, the fans jump around and do crazy cheers and chants, which ruin your focus and makes it harder for you to hear what is happening in the game. Then there’s the most depressing moment, which I experienced last Saturday: having to drink water while tailgating because you can’t interview athletes with beer on your breath.

I love getting to know athletes, but being around the team so much as a reporter ruins your image of it. You learn that athletes you once idolized lack a personality or aren’t the nicest people or don’t deserve to be where they are. You realize that coaches are glorified robots who spout the same PR replies and dodge the truth. And most upsettingly, you uncover the dirty skeletons behind teams and have to report on the heartbreaking drama.

Sports reporters are trained to root for the story, not a specific team. Really, you want what is going to be the most fun to write about. That would make for the most interesting dialogue after the game. In all reality, it’s probably more interesting that Illini quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase was benched for his poor “performance”:https://www.dailyillini.com/article/2012/09/scheelhaase-benched-for-rusty-performance Saturday and Illinois got creamed than if he had played normally and Illinois won another boring football game.

Rooting for the story really hit home for me this summer when I wished former Illinois gymnast “Paul Ruggeri”:https://www.dailyillini.com/index.php/article/2011/10/ruggeri_beginning_redemptive_journey_toward_olympic_games didn’t make the U.S. Olympic team, after chronicling his story for an entire year. My mom told me to never tell that to anybody.

Sorry, mom. I’m writing this for the entire world to read. I’m a human, I wanted the best for Ruggeri, but there were a million stories about athletes accomplishing their Olympic dreams. I wanted to write about someone doing everything he could and then falling short. Even though his tale turned out sad and “depressing”:https://www.dailyillini.com/index.php/article/2011/10/ruggeri_beginning_redemptive_journey_toward_olympic_games, it was the better story.

I’m sorry. I’m a reporter. It’s not about winning or losing, it’s about a good story.

_Emily is a graduate student. She can be reached at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @EmilyBayci._