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Judy Spooner: Athlete interviews over-hyped

Daughter Laura, who was a fine figure skater until she hurt her knee, told me she is looking forward to watching the Winter Olympics. Of course, skating is her favorite sport.

"I'll watch the ski jumping, but just before the skiers get to the end of the ramp, I close my eyes," she told me.

"However, I'm not looking forward to the biographies of athletes that are filmed ahead of time," she said. "They're all the same. There is lots of snow and a pale winter sun as they get out of their small foreign cars and go into their homes. The background music has lots of violins with a melodic line that is plaintive and vaguely sad.

"They film the players going to practice practically in the middle of the night or at dawn. No other athletes are there and they make it look lonely. If he or she is skating, they fall down and get up demonstrating that they can triumph over adversity."

"Then, they spend a lot of time talking about the near career-ending injury that needed months of rehab. They film him or her in a gym sweating while lifting weights."

"And, their parents had to spend their retirement funds."

"In the end, we don't know much about them, their hobbies, what books they read, their favorite movies or what they hope to do in the future."

I don't enjoy the unnecessarily dramatic biography either, I agreed. It would be interesting if a reporter had to do a biographic sketch of an athlete who did not triumph over a career-threatening injury and had someone pay for everything.

It's every television sports reporter's nightmare and might go like this:

Reporter: "How old were you when you started skating?"

Athlete: "I was 7. I liked it and kept on going and here I am."

Reporter: "Were you ever injured?"

Athlete: "I fell off my bike when I was 10."

Reporter: "What kind of training do you do? Do you have a coach that helped you achieve your goal to make the Olympic team?

Athlete: "I go to the gym every day about 9 a.m. for an hour. I run at our local activity center every evening. There are a lot of senior citizens who walk there. They are very nice and encourage me. One lady made cookies for me. My coach also coaches other skaters. He's nice, too. Of course, I spend lots of hours skating."

Reporter: "I'm sure your parents sacrificed a lot."

Athlete: "Grandpa pays for my training and my expenses. My dad sells insurance so his schedule is flexible. He comes to watch me compete, but not all the time. Mom, now that she's not busy raising me and my brother, has a part-time job as a secretary."

Reporter: "Were you a good student?"

Athlete: "Yes."

Reporter: "Let me guess. You majored in American history with a minor in English and you plan to go into the insurance business after you marry your childhood sweetheart who is an accountant?"

Athlete: "That's right! When will my interview be shown?"

Reporter: "I'll get back to you."

Judy Spooner
Judy Spooner is the longest-serving staff writer at the South Washington County Bulletin. Spooner, who covers education and features in addition to writing a weekly column, has been with the newspaper for over 30 years.
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