Thursday Q & A: Greg Bedard from the MKE Journal Sentinel
When I came up with the concept for the PocketDoppler.com Thursday Q & A it was originally just going to be focused on Wisconsin sports bloggers. I came to the realization that even with the bevy of bloggers out there that cover the Packers, Badgers, Brewers & Bucks I would run out of people to talk to sooner than I thought. To off-set that I started to reach out to others in the Wisconsin sports arena who, while may blog, aren’t primarily noted for it, starting a few weeks back with author Phil Hanrahan. Today’s guest continues in that vein as we are very happy to have Journal-Sentinel Packers Beat Writer & Blogger (award winning blogger mind you), Greg Bedard.
How did you get your start in sports reporting & why did you choose to leave your job in South Florida to come to Green Bay and cover the Packers?
Well, let’s see. The year was 1994 and the sounds of Pearl Jam, Nirvana and the Spin Doctors were… Just kidding. It was either ’94 or ’95 and after having my second straight season as a Rutgers baseball player was cut short by an injury — go ahead, give me the injury-prone label — I decided that I didn’t want to play anymore. I wasn’t having any fun. It had become a job. And while I was a pretty decent first baseman that was due to get some solid playing time as a redshirt freshman, I wasn’t making it to The Show at any point down the line. I had been reading the student daily for some time and was intrigued by sports writing. Up to that point I had wanted to be a SportsCenter anchor like every other college male at that time. But the written word struck a chord with me. I thought what those print reporters did was deeper and of more substance. So I just decided to walk into the offices of the Daily Targum and see what it was all about. I was assigned a feature on the woman’s golf team. Wouldn’t you know it, my future wife’s name appeared in my very first bylined story. How about that? From there it just snowballed. The first beat I requested and got was the softball team. Soon I became so engrossed with it that I was skipping classes to cover road games (actually, any excuse would have made me do that). I covered them like they were the Red Sox. You guys will get a kick out of this. I wrote a pretty critical article of the coach because she didn’t pinch-hit for a light-hitting player that was mired in a slump. Of course I laid out all the stats on how bad the girl was hitting at that point. Yeah, she cried for a few days after that.
Why did I leave South Florida for Green Bay? There were a ton of reasons (including some problems I had with my former employer) but the biggest were these: A bigger paper with better pay and a much lower cost of living. I didn’t want to raise my family there (the twins were about 4 months out of the NICU — they were born nine weeks early — when I got the first call from Garry Howard). I could see the coming storm in the industry and I really wanted to get as fast as I could to a paper where the beat really mattered to the people (uh, check), and one that was ahead of the curve online (double check). There were some people that said I should have waited for a higher profile opportunity, but I didn’t want the music to stop and be stuck where I was. Turned out I was right. The chance to work with such a deep team of widely respected writers like Bob McGinn, Tom Silverstein and Lori Nickel was simply too good to pass up. I want to build my career the right way, and that includes learning from the best.
For a lot of people, they can’t get past the weather thing. Well, here’s how I explain that. From August-March, I’m working my tail off. Yeah, it’s beautiful in SoFla from Nov-March, but I’m inside all the time with my head down so what do I care what the weather is outside? When things slow down, it’s June and July. You DO NOT want to be outside much in Florida at that time. But it’s beautiful up here then, so I get to do so many great things with my family like go camping or to the beach or a different festival every weekend. It’s great. I love it. And I love the move I made. Haven’t doubted it for a second. Even in February or March or April or May.
Do you think that Packer players are under more scrutiny than players in larger cities? If Green Bay is the ‘fishbowl’ many say it is, do you think it’s because Packer fans are a bit more rabid than other NFL fans or is it because the police blotter is so much smaller.
I don’t think the Packers are under more scrutiny. In fact, I think it’s much easier for them to live great lives with their families here if they are of that age. People leave people alone up here. I see Packers out all the time. Saw Tramon Williams shopping for furniture today with his wife. Now the single guys, yeah, I would think they would have a little bit of a problem if they’re trying to live up their bachelorhoods. It didn’t used to be a problem — we’ve all heard stories — but it’s different now with the Internet. But I don’t think it’s a deterrent or anything. If you get in trouble in any NFL city, you’re going to get scrutinized.
These days, covering an NFL team is pretty much a yearlong task. If I were to break the NFL year down into Pre-Draft/Draft, OTAs/Training Camp & Regular Season what part of the year do you enjoy covering the most?
Hmmm. Good question. I would have to say pre-draft (including free agency) and the draft for a couple of reasons. I love the thrill of the chase and digging, and you actually have time to do that once the season is over. While I love the schedule of the season, mostly because I can make ample time for my family, you’re so busy with what amounts to bookkeeping — who’s injured, who is going to replace him, how the team played in the last game, what’s interesting about the next opponent — it really doesn’t leave much time to a) really craft a good story, or b) devote the time to really report and flesh out things by talking to more and more sources. In the off-season, you can really write if you get the opportunity. And report. I don’t like OTAs. It’s designed to puff-piece time, and we’re writing off of the players and coaches telling how great they and everything is going to be in the upcoming season. Nobody knows nothing. I also love pre-draft because of events like the Senior Bowl and combine. Great for developing sources and REAL stories.
I would guess you ‘shoot the sh*t’ with other team reporters while covering the Packers, either on the road or at home. Based on those experiences, what is the general opinion of the Packers organization from those not connected to the team?
We all have our likes and dislikes about the organizations that we cover. But we all kind of view every team as the same to tell you the truth. They’re businesses out to protect and enhance their logo. Period. I never thought of the Packers as any different when I came across them in Florida. Sure I knew of their tradition and being publicly owned, but they were just another jersey to me aside from watching Brett Favre.
Last year, especially at the onset, the Packers offensive line was much maligned. They seemed to pull things together about mid-way through so do you believe the o-line protection will carry through from the end of the season or will Aaron Rodgers be running for his life the first 3-4 games again.
There is no reason why the Packers offensive line shouldn’t come up and play very good football. Of course, I said that the previous two years as well. Rodgers could stand to help his own cause as well and should be mindful of that and trying to correct that.
On the topic of Rodgers, is he due to fall back some in his performance or has he established a track record that fans can reasonably count on every year?
With the offensive system and the talent he has around him, there’s no reason why Rodgers shouldn’t at least maintain his performance. It’s a very quarterback-friendly offense. But I don’t think people should judge him harshly if he throws a few more INTs or his completion percentage dips a little bit. That might be a good thing. The Packers aren’t playing fantasy football.
Year two of the Capers defense, any noticeable changes or differences you’ve noticed in the practices you’ve attended so far in attitude/confidence of the players?
Not really and no. I know you’ve heard a bunch of good words coming from the coaches and the players but, really, the proof is in the pudding. Remember, Capers doesn’t have a very good track record in Year 2 of his previous stops. That being said, Capers should have more to work with with more depth at CB and safety if everyone stays healthy. That’s kind of an underrated thing in terms of the criticism Capers got about the Vikings and Cardinals. Look at what he was playing with in the back end. Then again, similar thing happened to Bob Sanders and he got fired.
Can Brad Jones provide sufficient outside pass rush opposite of Clay Matthews or has Green Bay blown it by not acquiring a bookend OLB?
Have no idea on Jones, really. Anybody that tells you differently is fooling themselves. The Packers can talk all they want about scheme producing pressure and standing up Cullen Jenkins and blah blah blah, but when you’re a 3-4 defense, you need some serious heat from the OLBs. I don’t know if the Packers have blown it — I would say not — but if I were them in an uncapped year, I would have found some veteran at least to cover yourself if Jones can’t do it or if Jones and/or Matthews gets hurt. There is zero depth behind them. I don’t care what you think about Frank Zombo, John Russell or any other UDFA, they ain’t playing this year at OLB or shouldn’t be. If they are, something is seriously wrong and the Packers are in trouble.
Do you think there be a new CBA in place in time to have a 2011 season?
Depends how you define the season. You mean by the time training camp is supposed to start? No chance. In time to play a full season? Doubt it.
You’re someone who has really embraced the online Packers community of bloggers, tweeters and what not & from what I can tell seem to enjoy the interaction. Why go to all that effort when others in your profession don’t seem to place as much importance on it?
A) I wouldn’t call it effort. I’ve always been interactive with the readers and am up for talking football with anybody. B) In case you haven’t noticed, my industry is about 7 years behind the curve so I try to set my own course in many regards. I’m not one of these people that says, ‘Well, this is the way I’ve always done it and it’s worked pretty good so far.’ I’m constantly asking how I can do things better or be better at my job. Just the way I’ve always been wired. I think it helps tremendously that the Internet was actually around when I started. Can’t imagine otherwise. Also, while I had my difficulties at The Palm Beach Post at times, no one will deny that it was one of the most creative and forward-thinking sports sections in its heyday and prepared many, many people to go on and do bigger and better things. Innovation was constantly preached (don’t ask me why their web site was so behind for many years).
Basically, I’m just being me. What you see is what you get. There’s no pretense. I didn’t accept your invitation to try to get in with more Packers bloggers or to become more popular. I did it because I like blabbing on and on (gee, ya think?)… Just kidding. I did it because I’m always up for having intelligent conversations on a variety of subjects and letting people get to know me a little better. I think the better my readers know me, my background, makeup, etc., the better they’ll understand me and what I’m trying to do on this beat.
…and now for the lighting round.
Your all-time favorite professional athlete is:
Never really thought about it, but I would have to say Jack Nicklaus. That surprised me (Larry Bird a close second).
Your favorite Packers blog to read that is not the JSOnline Packers Blog:
If there were no sports to report, you would be doing:
My best Woodward & Bernstein imitation on the politics beat, which is a lot like sports.
If you were a professional athlete, your sport & position would be:
First base, Boston Red Sox wearing No. 14 (if Jim Ed Rice would let me).
Should I ever run into you at a bar, I should buy you a _____________ for taking the time to answer these questions.
Any good beer, preferably locally brewed, would be just fine. Thanks for having me. Anytime.
…and thank you Greg for taking the time, on your vacation no less, to participate in the Thursday Q & A. As you all know, you can catch Greg’s coverage in the sports section of JSOnline as well as the Packers Blog area, both required reading for any Packers fan.