Behind the Curtain: Covering sports in the pandemic year

  • Mike Smith

    Mike Smith

Posted4/5/2021 5:00 AM

We're more than a year into the pandemic, and even with marked improvements and a vaccine, covering sporting events remains quite different compared to 10 months ago.

During the initial period when most sports were shut down, we created a column called Clubhouse Chatter in which sports writers answered questions on various topics. We put their replies on the front page of the Sports section to give readers a bit of insight into how the reporters and columnists think.


A question last May: Will you cover games differently in the pandemic aftermath?

One of the best answers came from John Lemon, who helps direct our Fox Valley high school coverage. He said:

"Mask, gloves, Bears helmet, Walter White's hazmat suit from "Breaking Bad," wrap me up like Ralphie's little brother, Randy, in "A Christmas Story," -- whatever I need to do to get back to covering games, I'm in."

Lemon, like everyone else, continues to write stories. Much of the high school coverage -- including basketball, volleyball, soccer and football -- takes place in person with masks and physical distancing.

When it comes to the pros and college, most interviews are conducted via Zoom, whether a reporter is on-site or not. It's worked out fairly well, but there are some disadvantages, one of which is no locker room access for an occasional one-on-one interview with players, coaches and team personnel.

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It was essentially the same for the NCAA tournaments and baseball's Opening Day.

Have you noticed how limited access has affected coverage of your favorite team? We hope not much.

The restricted access has allowed us to display the versatility of the Sports Department employees.

We've had our pro columnists write high school stories and features on players and teams they don't ordinarily see. You'd think by their breadth of their stories their familiarity with any team in any sport knows no bounds.

And the prep writers have written on just about every topic and sport, and crossed over for pro and college work.

The determination to get the job done on a daily basis is what they do best.

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