In this age of the Internet, fast paced news and anonymous sources we must not forget that sports media remains a people business.
We forget that sometimes. Some reporters become walking note pads. In other words every conversation is on the record and they do not get to know athletes and coaches as people.
We forget that sometimes.
In the movies reporters get scoops by making phone calls 24 hours a day and seven days a week. That happens sometimes. I am willing to bet that most of the news coming out of Washington and the Donald Trump administration is generated between a source and reporter who know each other and have a good relationship.
At least that was the way it was for me. That began when I was a young reporter covering the University of Michigan football team. I met some boosters from Grosse Pointe who claimed to know about the insides of Michigan football. I did not believe them at first until a series of things they said were happening actually happened.
We had a good relationship. They were nice and trusted me and I liked hanging around them. Our relationship began years earlier when they played for Grosse Pointe North and Grosse Pointe South. Or their sons played for North and South.
They remembered my prep reports and we became buds.
One day I got a phone call from one of the dads who said Bo Schembechler and the school were in negotiations for Bo to become athletic director. It was one of my first major scoops and I began the nickname “The Michigan Mafia.”
I called Bo’s office to tell him what I knew. I got through to his secretary and she relayed the message to Bo. He angrily shouted: “You tell Foster he runs that story at his risk.”
A few days later I attended a press conference where Bo was named AD. He saw me and laughed, saying “I had to scare you a little bit. I was not ready for the story to come out.”
I broke a story that Bad Boy Piston Mark Aguirre was talking to the Mexican basketball team to play for Mexico in the 1992 Summer Olympic games. Do you know how I got the scoop?
One day Aguirre made fun of reporters for wearing gym shoes all the time. I went off on him saying we wore gym shoes to chase your ass around all the time. Aguirre got a good chuckle out of my tirade and later said “Why you go off all the time? You know you are a little crazy.”
The other reporters left his cubicle and we shot the breeze for about five minutes. Then he mentioned the talks with Mexico. He was eligible to play because his father was born in Mexico. I then interviewed him and had an exclusive story in The Detroit News.
The rest of the media got the story the following day, but I was already working on a story saying Aguirre did not want to play for Mexico.