Your viewpoint of a beat writer may never be the same after spending one day with ESPN.com Cleveland Cavaliers beat writer Dave McMenamin.
coiski got a chance to experience a game day in the life of McMenamin, who interpreted every single detail – from what he listens to on his commute home (sports radio) to every ESPN commitment he has to meet on a typical game night – to show you what it takes to be one of the most successful beat writers in the NBA today. And while you’ll find out a lot more about what McMenamin, know that this routine is carried out 41 times a year and that doesn’t include road games. Sheesh.
6:30 AM EST – Wake Up
Shortly after waking up, I usually scroll Twitter to see if anything happened the night before, basketball-wise, that I may have missed and can potentially follow up on as a lead later that day or in that very moment by firing off a text to a source. I’ll also check my email to see if anything came through during the night before ultimately beginning the communication with my on-site producer for the day (who will meet me at the practice facility with a camera crew to set up my shot) – and also the producers in Bristol, Connecticut, who will usually ask me for two topics to discuss on a TV hit of SportsCenter AM later that morning.
7:15 AM EST – Catch Up
I’ll watch a bit of SportsCenter AM to see what stories ESPN is talking about because that’s my company and you want to know where their heads are in regards to breaking news and specific topics. For example, there may be an athlete in another sport that spoke out about a major topic, like Colin Kaepernick on social injustice. During the season, that’s something you’re gonna want to follow up on with the team you’re covering because it resonates across all sports.
After that, I’ll then shower up, get dressed, grab a coffee from Artefino Art Gallery Cafe and head out.
8 AM – And…We’re Live!
A lot of times – especially during the NBA Playoffs, we have daily live TV updates, so I have to show up to the practice facility at 8 AM in a suit, having to be lively and with information ready to share to everyone watching SportsCenter. For a guy who covers the Cleveland Cavaliers on a daily basis, coming up with two topics isn’t hard at all. But the thing is, I’ll sometimes be on the SportsCenter 8 AM show, the SportsCenter 9 AM show and the SportsCenter 10 AM show, and they’ll all want two different topics apiece. Also, all of those shows have different producers, so I’m constantly trying to find a way to take the best information I have and present it in different ways to satisfy all the shows.
10:45 AM – Shootaround/Media Availability
After my TV hits, I hang around the practice facility for the shootaround session, which is a relatively painless process. The Cavs don’t make Coach Lue available during this time, but you can easily get a couple of short interviews with some of the players, like LeBron, Kevin Love and a few others. I then take that content and tweet out some news, maybe take some Instagram photos/videos of guys getting some extra shots up and maybe write a brief story based on the main points that came out of those interviews. I’ll probably do another talk-back interview with one of the SportsCenter shows, and I’ll tape what we call a whip – a mini, one-minute story – that ESPN will air later in that day at 6 PM as a preview of the game that night.
1:45 PM – The Commute
I live in a great location downtown – not too far from the Cavs practice facility and close to Quicken Loans Arena, so I usually have about a 15-minute drive home barring any traffic. I’ll listen to local sports radio on the drive home to see what’s resonating with the local Cleveland market.
2:00 PM – Quick Break
At this point, I have about two hours of freedom. I like to work in a nap of at least an hour. On the days I’m feeling ambitious, I’ll hit the treadmill.
4:30 PM – It’s Game Time, Pt. I
Tipoff for Cavs games is 7 PM ET. I like to get there at 4:30 PM because the first pre-game interview with Coach Lue is at 5:15 PM, the opposing head coach is at 5:30 PM and finally, the locker rooms open up from 5:45 PM-6:15 PM. During this time, I spend most of my time in the Cavs locker room, interviewing some of the players. Every once in awhile, I’ll venture over to the visitor’s locker room to say hello to former players I used to cover or to interview a star of great magnitude on the opposing team, but for the most part it’s important that I stay in the home-team locker room to develop a relationship with the guys on the team I’m covering or maybe ask them a question or two that I can use for a bigger story down the line.
6:20 PM – Hello, World!
I do a live TV hit on the baseline before the game. We integrated Facebook Live in our coverage, so after the hit I’ll fire up the Facebook Live app from our NBA on ESPN Facebook account. It’s still wild to me that you can have tens of thousands of fans tuning in for your live hit on Facebook. I’ll usually hold my phone, selfie-style, so the viewers can see the guys going through the lay-up line behind me. During this, I’ll spout out 2-3 keys to the game, maybe something I observed in the locker room or an interesting conversation I might’ve had with one of the players before their pregame routine.
6:40 PM – Dinner? Maybe Not…
Usually, I have about a 20-minute window to try to grab a quick bite to eat from the media room – hopefully less hot dogs this season because I’m trying to stay fit for the camera – but that can change based on television responsibility or if there’s some news that breaks during pre-game. Every once in awhile, the Cavs love to spring on us, last minute that, ‘Oh, LeBron is resting tonight.’
So then, I would have to notify the news desks at ESPN – both on the .com and the TV side – and, depending on the reason he’s resting – maybe it’s some sort of lingering injury – that could lead to an impromptu television hit or a phone-in interview to SportsCenter.
7 PM – It’s Game Time, Pt. 2
I always do a pre-game coffee before getting up to my perch to watch the game.
There are a lot of beat writers who will listen to the broadcast during the game to hear what the broadcasting crew is talking about, but I like to hear the arena instead. I do rely heavily on Twitter during the game to monitor what the broadcast team is talking about because then I know what the fan base is reacting to. While you’ll have 20,000 fans at the arena, there’s so many more at home watching on TV. If something monumental comes up – like a player reaching a milestone – or, like last year during the NBA Finals, a protester ran onto the court with a “Trump Sucks” painted across his chest, I’ll usually tweet that out for the fans at home that may have not had the chance to see that. But I usually just take notes on sequences that may have stood out that I can ask about later, and I write these notes during quarter breaks, timeouts and halftime so I’m not missing too much of the action.
10:30 PM – It’s Game Time, Pt. 3
By game’s end, I like to have my thoughts set on at least two story lines, where I can go either direction to reveal something about the team that kinda came to light that night. I have the luxury to go to the post-game press conference – unlike some beat writers who have to turn in a story right at the final buzzer – ask Coach Lue about one of the two thoughts I was thinking about and then I can take his thoughts into the locker room and try to snowball a little bit to see what maybe LeBron or Kevin Love or Kyrie Irving thinks about them. Sometimes, you go in with your points but then one of the players may give a polarizing quote that ends up be the #1 story that night in which you’ll have to change up everything. I then begin writing my story that will be published the next day.
12:30 AM – Day’s End to Do it Again
I get home around this time, but I’m still wired so maybe I don’t fall asleep till around 1:30 AM. And we do that 41 times a year. Plus road games. Plus playoffs.