ESPN sportswriter Howard Bryant spoke to St. John’s University students on November 8 in the Little Theatre about his career. Bryant has written two books, entitled “Shut Out: A Story of Race and Baseball in Boston,” and “Juicing the Game: Drugs, Power, and the Fight for the Soul of Major League Baseball.” He is currently working on a third book– a biography of Hank Aaron.
Bryant, who said he wanted to be a journalist since he was 12 years old, explained it takes a lot of focus, determination and a great sense of self to be successful in the journalism field.”It’s not enough to know what you want to do,” he said. “You have to know how to get there.”
As a child, Bryant took an interest in both video games and sports, according to his sister Tisa Bryant, a faculty member at the Institute of Writing Studies at St John’s, who spoke at the event.
“I think it’s wonderful that he’s been able to turn his childhood interests into a career,” she said. “He is able to work in sports because he’s good at it and has always been passionate.”
Starting in 1991, Bryant began working for The Oakland Tribune and covered events at high schools in California. His first assignment was an interview with Jason Kidd, now a professional basketball player, who was 16 at the time.
Bryant said that he saw the passion that Kidd had for his sport and knew that one day Kidd would play for the National Basketball Association (NBA).
Bryant called players like Kidd “winners of the gene pool” because they have a talent which makes them who they are.
He mentioned other famous players he has interviewed, such as Sammy Sosa, Mark McGuire, and Roger Clemens. Bryant said that sports writing is a great business to be in because he gets to watch baseball for a living, but also reports the news to the fans.
Bryant also spoke about the steroid controversy that has become so prevalent in the MLB.
He noted that many players’ bodies were changing due to the use of steroids and growth hormones to make them better athletes so they could “have an edge” in their game.
He explained that it was tough “writing bad things about people [players] you like” during the time he covered the controversy. Nevertheless, Bryant said that everyone benefited from his coverage of the steroids controversy because the players and teams made more money and “the writers got a chance to write something that had never been written about.”
According to Bryant, the new generation of ball players is dying earlier than the older generation due to the use of steroids.
In addition, Bryant feels that journalism has changed due to the emergence of the Internet, which did not exist when he started in 1991. Now, Bryant said that journalists need to diversify themselves to be able to write on the Web, talk on the radio and be on television.
He encouraged students to have “the self-confidence to be different, branch out, write what you care about and immerse yourself in the subject.”