A Q&A with the Los Angeles Times’ Andy McCullough on the insecurity of writing, what the Royals did for his career, and Twitter schtick

Every week we will run a Q&A with a wonderful reporter to talk about what’s right and wrong with journalism, their interests and random other stuff. Some are friends. Some are just people whose work we really respect. Some cover sports. Some don’t. Hopefully all will be interesting.

This week, it’s with Andy McCullough of the Los Angeles Times. Andy worked with Mike at The Star-Ledger and went to school with Jared at Syracuse. Much more relevantly, he is one of the elite baseball beat writers in the country. He covers the Dodgers now, and used to cover the Mets, Yankees and Royals. He talks about the insecurity of writing, what it’s like to be part of the story and Twitter schtick. And he set a new -30- record for F bombs.

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The questions are in bold. The answers are not.

1. How did you break into journalism and land at the job you hold now?

I love reading, man. It is my favorite thing on the planet. When I was a kid, my parents used to yell at me for reading Goosebumps books at the dinner table. I got scolded in high school for reading Nabokov in math class. Before I went to college, I had read pretty much every Stephen King novel and every Philip Roth novel. My personality tends toward the obsessive.

In high school, I wanted to do something in the arts, but I couldn’t figure out a discipline. I am not funny enough to do standup. I am not creative enough to write screenplays. I like purchasing goods and services, so the idea of writing fiction seemed silly. I pondered becoming a lawyer, before I realized I lacked the patience to go through seven years of school. So, journalism! The books that made me want to be a writer, “The Fight” by Norman Mailer and “FridayNight Lights,” were both written as journalism. I wanted to write like that.

I went to Syracuse because I didn’t get into Georgetown. I spent freshman year drinking Natural Light and gaining weight. But I did start to understand the concept of journalism. My randomly assigned roommate was a guy from Colorado named Alec Saslow. He became one of my best friends. His older brother is a guy named Eli, a Syracuse alum who writes these incredible stories for The Washington Post, and I learned a little bit from him about what it actually takes.

As a sophomore, I started writing music reviews at The Daily Orange. After a couple months, the feature editor refused to give out reviews to people who wouldn’t commit actual acts of journalism, so I volunteered to write a story about something. I spent the next five semesters working on the masthead: Assistant feature editor, feature editor, managing editor, some fake job I made up called “enterprise editor” so I could get paid the $100 a week I needed for beer money.

While acting as the managing editor as a junior, I convinced Matt Gelb, then the sports editor, now the Phillies beat writer for the Philadelphia Inquirer, to let me cover men’s lacrosse. I was his boss, and I’m taller than him. I covered the football team as a senior, when Greg Robinson ran a defense that never left the basic 4-3 package and never blitzed.

The weather in Syracuse is miserable, and the school is far too expensive. But The Daily Orange is the truth. The paper fostered a culture of competence and competitiveness. The walls of the office are decorated with old columns and features written by alumni. The sports office was like a shrine to the Gods: Eli, Jeff Passan, Pete Thamel, Greg Bishop, Adam Kilgore, Chico Harlan, Darryl Slater, Pete Iorizzo, so many others.

When I worked at the paper, the staff was incredible: Zach Berman, Gelb, Zach Schonbrun, Ethan Ramsey, John Clayton, Jen McCaffrey, Michael Bonner, Kyle Austin, Matt Levin, even Matt Ehalt! I lived with Clayton, who works in public relations now but will probably sell his novel in a few years, and we talked about writing constantly. We used to drink beer and read Gary Smith, and argue about ledes while we playing one-on-one beer pong. College was the best. I miss it every day.

So, I went the fairly standard internship route: I worked at The Intelligencer, my local paper in suburban Philadelphia, after sophomore year. Spent the next summer at The Columbus Dispatch, writing about window treatments for the features department. I must have been pretty awful at both those places, because I came up completely empty with internships as a senior. I applied to at least 50 papers, and did not merit an interview with any of them. That was brutal. For a lot of my life, I’ve vacillated between unbearable arrogance and crushing self-doubt, and for most of that school year, I felt like a total failure.

I had no backup plan. I was majoring in newspaper journalism, which is not a particularly useful degree. The best idea I could come up with was to move back in with my parents, figure out how to get a teaching certificate and beg my high school football coach to let me help out with the freshman team. This was not a good plan, but my options were limited by myopia and alcohol consumption.

A few weeks before graduation, a lifeline arrived in the form of an email from Tom Bergeron. He was the sports editor at The Star-Ledger, which had nearly folded that winter, and had not advertised an internship program. When we talked on the phone later that week, he offered me “10 weeks of temporary employment.” I stayed there five years.

Gelb got the same offer from Bergeron. We lived together in an apartment in Millburn, N.J., and I think combined we took three days off all summer. He got an offer with The Inquirer in August. Soon after, Drew Van Esselstyn, who would replaced Bergeron as the SE that summer, hired me as a “freelance clerk.” I am pretty sure that was illegal, but I wasn’t complaining. I loved The Ledger: I really couldn’t believe I got to work with people like Steve Politi, Jenny Vrentas, Dave D’Alessandro. And Drew, well, as you know, Michael, there are not enough compliments in this world for Drew. He is the best man I know.

For that first year, I carved out a weird niche. I backed up Brian Costa on the Mets and Marc Carig on the Yankees. I covered the Rutgers women’s basketball team for a season. I did some features on non-rev sports at Monmouth, Rider, Princeton, Farleigh Dickinson, wrote some stuff on boxing and MMA. I ran the website some nights, positing stories and curating the online section. I edited the site the night Steve McNair died, and the night Tiger Woods crashed his car. The web editing forced me to read the entire paper, so I got to see the amount of effort Mike Garafolo put into covering the Giants or the way Dave D. mastered the Nets offense, etc.

There were a few clerking duties: I did Carig’s expenses more than once, including the infamous report where he tried to charge the paper for his haircut. I also drove Carig to his apartment in Harlem after every single playoff game during the Yankees’ run to the World Series in 2009.

Wrapping up an answer that is far too long: In May of 2010, the Wall Street Journal hired Costa. Because The Ledger was cheap, they couldn’t afford to make a real hire on the Mets beat. So I got the gig. I am eternally grateful. I was 22 and could not discern my ass from a hole in the ground. After three years, Carig left the paper, and I moved to the Yankees for 2013 as one of the last dominos in The George King Nine. Then I spent two years at The Kansas City Star, and moved to Los Angeles this past winter.

2. You spent the first four years of your baseball-reporting career working in New York. This year you’re in L.A., covering the Dodgers. But in between you had a two-year stint in Kansas City. It seems like there probably weren’t more than 2-3 people covering the team daily and the Star was obviously the biggest media in town. What’s it like to go from being a small fish in a big pond to being the biggest fish in a small pond? How did it affect your coverage, knowing you were one of the only voices? How did that experience help you as you returned to a large market this year in Los Angeles?

New York was a perfect place to start. I was pretty confident in myself when I started covering the Mets, but I got shook quite quickly. The beat was very competitive: The tabloids had all these scoops that I felt I could never find; Dave Waldstein wrote the strangest, most interesting stories for The Times; Costa and I always seemed to be working on the same features; I once challenged Adam Rubin to a fight in the Land Shark Stadium pressbox over a notebook item about Dave Hudgens. It was intense, and anxiety-inducing. I still remember the dread I felt when Joel Sherman walked into the clubhouse. I would watch the players he spoke with in the room, thinking “OK, how is his column going to fuck up my world tomorrow?” It was hard. I leaned on Carig a lot, and he helped immensely.

And I was a very small fish in this pond. The Star-Ledger was still a behemoth when I worked there, top 25 in the country in circulation, but it paled in comparison to The Times, The News, The Post, ESPN, Newsday, WFAN, etc. My first year on the Mets, it took like three months before any player called me by my name. During the year I covered the Yankees, the only player who called me by my name was Andy Pettitte, and I’m pretty sure that’s just because we had the same name. That first spring in Kansas City, players introduced themselves to me. A sea change, in a lot of different ways.

The differences between the two markets were stark from the start. We will get into this later, but I enjoy goofing around on Twitter. One day in spring training, Vernon Wells’ father showed up at Royals camp. Vernon Wells’ dad is named, of course, Vernon Wells, Sr. He’s an artist, and he specializes in athlete portraits. He painted the cover of the Kansas City media guide. As a gag, I tweeted something like “Vernon Wells is in the Royals clubhouse.”

Then, a minute or two later, I wrote “The artist, not the outfielder.”

I thought it was hilarious. The Royals did not. Several executives accosted me about the stunt, and seemed very taken aback by it. I was like, “Don’t you guys have anything better to do?” Because on the Mets or the Yankees, it seemed like no one in either organization ever cared at all what I wrote. That’s when I realized: They don’t have that much else to do. I was the only game in town.

Right before my first spring training, I had dinner with Tim Brown , who has spent most of his career in Los Angeles and New York, but covered the Reds for one season. He told me to expect someone to be mad at me, every single day. That pretty much came true.

It started early. The team was not pleased when the paper wrote that Wade Davis was “demoted” from the rotation to the bullpen (Ah, the halcyon days of yore) in like the second week of camp. It became very apparent that every word I wrote was going to be scrutinized and subject to criticism from the organization. And that’s totally fine. I welcome it, even if it’s annoying when it’s nit-picking. That keeps you on your toes, and it makes you think a little bit longer before you send out a dumb Tweet or sneak an insult into a game story. Sam Mellinger, the Star’s columnist, still texts me about how I once referred to undersized reliever Tim Collins as “a pint-sized can of gas.”

Los Angeles presents a blend of the two experiences. Despite the size of the market, only four writers travel with the team on a regular basis: The Times, MLB.com, ESPN and the Los Angeles News Group, a hybrid of the LA Daily News and the OC Register. So there’s more competition – and I don’t mean to slight Jeffrey Flanagan from MLB.com, who broke every goddamn Royals arbitration number last winter and pissed me off to no end – but still a large spotlight shining on the work I do via the front office.

3. This story reconstructing the Royals’ crazy Wild Card Game win over the A’swas fabulous. It’s deeply reported, well-written and it seems like it took months to create. How did it come to come together? And how did you get the idea to do this story and this way?

Thank you, Michael. That is very kind of you to say. The story rose came from an aborted book project Mellinger and I tried to complete in the winter after the 2014 season, attempting to tell a tale threaded through one game like Buster Olney did in “The Last Night of the Yankee Dynasty” or Dan Okrent did in “Nine Innings.” The game was incredible, and it seemed like the right framework upon which to hang the story of the Royals’ rise from the ashes.

You do not need to check your local Barnes and Noble to learn that the book never went. But I did a sizable amount of legwork over the winter, watching the game over and over on YouTube, taking notes and trying to convert play-by-play into a narrative. At some point in December, I stopped doing that and just let the Word documents languish on my computer.

I am on the record about this already: I did not expect the Royals to be very good in 2015. I think I predicted an 85-win season. I changed my mind about two weeks into the regular season, after the sharpened focus and heightened talent of the group became apparent.

While reporting another story in the spring, I first heard the George Brett anecdote with assistant general manager J.J. Picollo. I kept that in my back pocket, unsure how to use it. I had so much other stuff stored in my head and my computer about the game: How the Royals discovered Jon Lester had the yips, how Billy Butler didn’t actually fuck up in the first inning, how Eric Hosmer almost threw up afterwards from the stress.

I called Chris Fickett, my editor at the Star, one day late in July and told him I wanted to write a massive takeout about the game. He had the right response for when a reporter tells you he wants to do a 200-inch story: “What new stuff do you have?” I sputtered my way through an answer. One of my main flaws is an inability to explain what a story will be about before I start writing. My fall-back answer is “It will be about [insert player/trend/game], and you will like it.” That wasn’t totally sufficient in this case, so Chris and I went back and forth for a while talking about different ways to approach it. The main thing was I felt the game still resonated so strongly with readers, and we had a chance to drill something definitive about that night. Just put a big fucking sign on the wall that says “No one can ever write about this game again. The Kansas City Star retired it.”

I’m lucky to have a network of friends who can help with this stuff. Before I started reporting, I bounced some ideas off writers like Adam Kilgore, Tyler Kepner, Barry Svrluga. I had a sense of what I wanted to do, but those guys helped crystallize the process. Tyler suggested talking to the broadcasters. Barry suggested talking to fans at the game.

So I wrote down a list of all the people I wanted to interview and went after it. I knew Ron Darling from the Mets beat, and he was gracious with his time and insight. I spent about two weeks playing phone tag with James Shields and the Padres PR staff. A Star-issued iPad came in handy: I watched the entirety of the eighth and ninth innings with first-base coach Rusty Kuntz, who broke down everything from the cues on the mound to Derek Norris’ signals behind the plate. I also watched Eric Hosmer’s triple in the 12th sitting next to him in the Fenway Park dugout. We went through the at-bat pitch by pitch.

I mined most of the Royals clubhouse for anecdotes. I conducted a rare cordial interview with Greg Holland. Jarrod Dyson, the guy who scored the tying run in the ninth, refused to talk to me for some reason – I suppose he was mad at something I wrote, or too busy not learning how to bunt.

I crowd-sourced a group of fans at the game by sending out a message on Twitter. The responses flooded my inbox. As I was reading through them, I decided to only talk to fans who weren’t alive when the team won in 1985. I wanted the story to be about the birth of a new generation of Royals fans, not about the rebirth of the diehards.

So there was this trove of material. The game presented an easy structure to follow. Just start at the top and go. From the start, I was married to opening with Brett and J.J. I remember when I sent the lede to Adam and he wrote back “That’s it.” Man, that felt really good – until I realized I needed to write another 6,000 words.

I had never written a story of that length before. I would not do it like this again: I had just moved into a new apartment in K.C. on a Monday, and the story was due for the next Sunday. So that Tuesday, I sat down at my laptop around 10 a.m. and started transcribing. I got up at 1 a.m. and the first draft was done. It was rough sledding for a while – I remember I sent multiple texts to friends that basically said “Fuck writing, am I right?” – but the narrative of the game made the story simple to complete.

And that’s the thing about it. The game provided enough drama. All I did was cast as wide a net as I could, and pull it all together. The response was legitimately overwhelming. I am glad people liked it.

4. Your Twitter persona is, um, surly. How much do you worry about alienating readers or followers who might not be as appreciative of it? Have any employers ever asked/told you to be more welcoming on there?

Surly is a little strong, Michael. I do worry about that perception, and I’ve dialed back the sarcasm since my early days in New York. Professionalism is important to me, but I don’t want to be humorless. I ignore somewhere between 95 and 99 percent of the dopey stuff that gets tweeted at me. Once or twice a week, I’ll gently poke fun at the fallaciousness of an argument, usually by agreeing with the author in farcical fashion. I don’t call people names. A block generally occurs only if someone tells me to kill myself.

During the last year or so at The Star-Ledger, when audience engagement became the most important thing, I heard a lot more about how I interacted with readers on Twitter. It was never an issue in Kansas City, and it hasn’t come up in Los Angeles.

5. It’s a well-known fact that reporters aren’t supposed to root for the team they cover. But to what extent did the Royals’ consecutive trips to the World Series benefit your career? What is the difference between covering a good team and a bad one?

It had a huge benefit. There’s no denying that. You could say I should thank Ned Yost, but I taught him how to run his damn bullpen in the first place.

Real talk: I did not go to Kansas City because I wanted to eat barbecue. I wanted to increase my profile. While working in New York, I got passed over for a number of higher-paying jobs at higher-profile places, and I was never even considered for them. I felt like I was doing good work covering baseball in the toughest market in the country, and I wasn’t getting noticed. I went to Kansas City because The Star has had one of the best sports sections in the country for two decades, and because I wanted to stand out.

I was very lucky to get the job. I was very lucky to work with people like Chris and Sam and Jeff Rosen and Vahe Gregorian and Rustin Dodd and Blair Kerkhoff and John Sleezer. I was very lucky that the team played so well. And I was very lucky to cover a team with so much ground left to till in terms of unreported features on guys like Lorenzo Cain and Wade Davis.

You can’t control how interesting a story is, but you can build a relationship so the player will be open with you in sharing it. My fortune was two-fold there: I was able to earn the trust of the necessary characters, and they had great stories to tell.

This past spring, I stopped by the Royals clubhouse. “We got you promoted!” Eric Hosmer said. In that moment, your insecurity creeps in, and you want to say “Fuck you, I did this on my own!” But that’s not totally true. So I wear it. I’m sure I’ll be connected with Kansas City for a while, and I’ll stomach the occasional dweeb on the Internet telling me I owe my career to the Royals. Only Billy Zane makes his own luck.

As for good teams and bad teams: Either one can be interesting. The 2010 Mets were a delightful trainwreck: Jose Reyes pulled an oblique muscle, and instead of putting him on the disabled list, the team told him to stop switch-hitting. Francisco Rodriguez fought his spouse’s father at the ballpark and spent the night in a cell at Citi Field; the team put K-Rod on the restricted list, and when a reporter asked Jerry Manuel how the team would welcome K-Rod back next year, Manuel replied, “I’m here next year?” There was the embarrassing Walter Reed incident. Manuel suggested John Maine could make his comeback with the team by pitching on off-days. The team played with, essentially, a 24-man roster for months, because Oliver Perez refused a minor-league assignment, and Manuel refused to use him.

I’m sure I’m forgetting like 15 other ridiculous things. I just assumed all teams were that dysfunctional. As for good teams: You have a clarity of purpose that allows you to put events into context, and it is nice being around players who give a shit. You get a lot more eyeballs on your work when the team is good. My career arc is a testament to that. So, thank you, Dave Eiland, for convincing Ned to run his bullpen better, which got people to read my stories from the playoffs.

6. In 2013, you wrote a remarkable and devastating piece about your father. Every time you post it on Twitter, it receives universal praise for its emotional power, despite the intense sadness it evokes. How difficult was it for you to write something so personal, especially considering the difficult subject matter? As a reporter who is used to only writing about others, what are the challenges of writing about yourself?

It was not very easy to write. There were sentences from the final version that I first wrote in six years earlier, when I was still in college. It took a long time to figure out what I actually wanted to say about my dad, and I’m not sure I was ready to write the story when I did. But my internal news peg clock dinged in the summer of 2013, approaching the ten-year anniversary of my dad’s death. How fucked up is that? It feels awful, in retrospect.

As you can see, I’m still conflicted about all these things. Writing the story brought some catharsis, but it did not bring much closure. I miss my dad more now in 2016 than I did in 2013, more than I did in 2003. I worry it will only get worse as I get older.

From a micro standpoint, I am a pretty limited writer, and it felt like I started every sentence with “I [verb].” During the editing process, I needed to shift away from only using my own perspective to explain every single thing in the story. I still struggle with that, as you can see from this interview.

From a macro perspective, it was difficult to choose what material to use in the story. What was too personal? You don’t want to turn a story into a session on a therapist’s couch. I’m not sure I straddled that line perfectly, but I tried.

7. For many writers, a Major League Baseball beat is a dream job, one you work toward for years to attain and tended to stay in for a long, long time. You started covering baseball full-time in your early-20s, right at the beginning of your career and soon after graduating from college. What is it like to have spent most of your adult, post-college life on the road, covering a baseball team in one city or another?

This is a tough one to answer without sounding like an asshole, but it has been hard. I say that while acknowledging that I am so incredibly, unbearably fortunate for the breaks in my career. But it has been difficult, in essence, growing up on a baseball schedule. I’ve tried, with fluctuating effort and efficacy, to maintain the friendships that are important to me, but I would be lying if I said they hadn’t dimmed. I suppose that’s normal for a lot of people in the post-college landscape, but I’ve missed a lot of family functions, bachelor parties and weddings. I think I’m skipping six weddings this year.

I enjoy life on the road. I’ve gone through phases where I’ve been monkish, staying in every night and eating at Chipotle, and I’ve gone through phases I’ve been dilettantish, going out more than I should and too often playing hurt the next day. I can say with pride that the lifestyle has never really affected my work, but it has affected my waistline, and definitely my psyche. The biggest issue was not adapting to life on the road, but adjusting to the outsized expectations I had for myself: If I was covering Major League Baseball when I was 22, did that mean I wasn’t moving up quickly enough in the world if I was still doing the same job at 25?

I was unhappy for a long time. I got restless after only a couple years covering the Mets, and I kept pushing Drew to let me become an enterprise writer. How arrogant can a person be, right? But I never wanted to feel like my work was stagnating, and I definitely felt like that, and way before I should have. I should have been focusing on how to get better, not how much better I perceived myself to be when compared to others. Pangs of jealousy were pretty constant – every time I saw another young writer get an opportunity, I would get frustrated that I wasn’t the person getting that chance. My narcissism used to be pretty bonkers, man. It still is, but it used to be, too.

It comes back to that arrogance v. fraudulence divide I mentioned earlier. If I wasn’t being told how great I was, if I wasn’t breaking stories every day on the Mets, if I wasn’t getting hired by The New York Times, maybe that part of me that doubted myself was right. Maybe I was a total fraud.

I remember reading Franzen’s “Freedom” when I was 23 and wondering, “Man, all these people are really fucked up. Why do all these well-paid, well-adjusted adults make such self-destructive decisions? And why do they seem so depressed all the time?” And then a couple years passed, and I was like “Oh . . . I get it!”

Therapy has helped, and so has growing more comfortable in my own skin. I don’t think I’m a fraud anymore. Some other people might, but I don’t. A lot of my friends in baseball know me as this brooding, oversized monster, constantly grumbling about life and its various indignities. So it’s been nice this year to tell people “I’m doing great!” and really mean it. It drives DiComo nuts.

8. While you were in KC, you found yourself in the middle of a few public incidents of sorts with the Royals. There were the 1738 shenanigans (which got its own write-up in the Washington Post). Your sparring sessions with Ned Yost became Twitter fodder and then he gave you TV airtime after winning the World Series. What was it like to be part of the show, basically, and also kind of have the people you cover put the spotlight back on you a bit?

You have to be willing to stand and trade. My writing style can get aggressive, especially on deadline, when the stress heats up the prose. In a market like Kansas City, where every word gets dissected, you have to defend yourself. For a while with the Royals, I was operating like Tony La Russa: You hit me once, we’ll hit two of your guys in response. I escalated some things that I shouldn’t have, but I also feel strongly that reporters should not allow themselves to be insulted or dismissed by athletes just because we make far less money. And that doesn’t mean taking a cheap shot in print. That means telling the person to his face how you feel. And that gets back to the thing Tim Brown said: Someone is going to be mad at you every day, and you need to figure out who it is.

I treat athletes with respect. But I also treat myself with respect. The clubhouse can be like the elementary school playground. If you let yourself get bullied, it’s going to keep happening. You have no allies in the room. You have to have your head on a swivel, and you have to be ready to defend yourself. At times in Kansas City, that meant I was throwing a (metaphorical) wild haymaker when someone was just flicking a jab. All the good anecdotes I have to explain this dynamic are probably unprintable. Sorry.

For the record: I don’t like conflict! For me, nothing feels better in this job than wading deep into an interview and understanding you’re getting good material for a story, something truthful and meaningful and fresh. That’s what I enjoy about journalism. I don’t like engaging in petty fights about a headline, or a choice of words, or the pants I wore to the ballpark. But sometimes that’s what the job calls for. You gotta hang with ‘em.

One note on the Fetty Wap stuff: I’m not one of these people who sneers at sites that rely upon aggregation. I read Deadspin every single day. But I was stunned at how disingenuous all those posts were. Look at the timestamps on the Tweets. The one at 10:29 p.m. is, basically, “I have no idea what these guys are doing.” A minute later, after a dozen people explained the “Trap Queen” reference, I was like “Oh, that’s funny.” And because so many readers kept asking me “How did they use it?” or “What did they say?” I unloaded a bunch of quotes from the clubhouse. It was late at night, and it seemed harmless. By the next morning, it went viral, and I was being portrayed as a Midwestern rube.

I take my perceived hipness very seriously, Michael.

Anyway, it was nice to see my name in The Washington Post, and not just on a form rejection letter for job applications there.

One note on the World Series thing with Ned on TV: You’ve covered champagne celebrations before. These guys get so drunk, so quickly. The science seems pretty simple: Their bodies are spent and they need to replenish fluids, but instead of using water they are using alcohol. After 15 minutes, everyone requires Uber. That would explain Ned’s behavior there.

9. What are three stories that you read recently that you loved?

Good call here. We don’t want a reprise of the “First Team All Wags” situation. For the record, my starting five is Carig, Jorge Arangure, Joe Lemire, Nick Piecoro and Dancing Jimmy Wagner.

To answer your actual question:

  1. “The Exile Returns” by David Remnick. This is probably not what you’re looking for, because it’s a story written in 1994, but I recently came across it while re-reading Remnick’s 2006 collection called “Reporting.” It’s a profile about Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s life in Vermont and his decision to go back to Russia after the fall of the Soviet Union. The story displays all the things I love about Remnick’s work: The depth of his reporting, the wryness of his humor, the historical sweep, the subtle depictions of ego, the facility of the writing. Remnick is the GOAT.
  2. “The Prophet Motive” by Stephen Rodrick. Rodrick’s style is enviable, between the combination of his ease with the language and his ability to unmask the people he profiles. He doesn’t cut corners or pull tricks. He captures the way his subjects act, the small moments that reveal them. Guys like Rodrick and Bryan Curtis make it look easy, which causes hacks like me to shake my fist.
  3. “The Promise Keeper” by Lee Jenkins. Speaking of fist shaking. Fuck this guy, man. Jenkins is incredible. A great feature usually requires access and time, but he can get access to the people who do not give it – like LeBron, or the Spurs, or the Thunder – and turn around stories without much time. His chronicle of Cleveland victory in the Finals dropped like 12 hours after Game 7. He is a beast.

10. Every day, you tweet out the Dodgers lineup alongside a song title. Sometimes, the songs are quite obscure. How did that Twitter shtick start? How would you describe your taste in music? What should we be listening to?

Yeah, I’ve been trying to cut down on shtick this year, but I do enjoy this one. It started late in the 2010 season, out of boredom. I committed to it for the duration of 2011. I keep a Word document with all the lineup titles dating back to April 1, 2011 (I use “Beautiful Day” by U2 for every Opening Day). It’s like keeping a diary, only without going through the hassle of actually keeping a diary. I can look at a song and remember the city, usually, and remember what happened on the trip.

I listen to a lot of different music. Most of it classifies as indie rock or punk rock or emo. You should listen to Pinegrove, Moose Blood, Joyce Manor, The Hotelier, Nothing, Prawn and Cymbals Eat Guitars.


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