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Give writing for sports a try

Everyone might not love them, but sports are worth reporting on

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A month ago, my colleagues from The Spectrum and I were given the opportunity to cover the Mid-American Conference Tournament. I sat courtside on press row as the confetti fell on the men’s basketball team for winning its third MAC Championship in the past four years. It was an amazing moment to not only be there for, but to report on as we got the privilege to interview the team right after such a historical moment. You could see the genuine feelings of happiness and accomplishment on everyone’s faces. Seeing real human emotion like that in sports is what makes covering them so great.

Despite only having three people on sports desk, I love what I do. The Spectrum is one of the rare places where you get to cover sports very few reporters are looking at. It’s an environment with 16 Division I teams, the passionate fans of True Blue and plenty of news to cover from the DI cuts in April 2017 to the unused rowing equipment sitting by Tonawanda Creek. It is an opportunity to write on the $35 million Athletics program that is becoming more prominent throughout the country. It’s also a one-of-a-kind opportunity you have as a student to report and have a potential audience of 30,000-plus people.

Some see it as “just a game,” but to athletes, coaches and staff, it is the embodiment of all the work they put into the team.

The Spectrum taught me how to find the story and the emotion, even in sports I am not very familiar with.

I was able to write a profile last year on then-UB swimmer Mason Miller. When I first wrote it, I failed to capture what was so important about Miller. I wrote he was breaking records, but I never asked why. My senior editor sent me back, telling me to be direct. I realized not to ask the questions that just cover broad topics, but the specific ones I know I need an answer to.

Miller was candid, telling me he never thought of swimming as a top priority in high school. Once he joined UB and met head coach Andy Bashor, he saw the potential in himself. He credited the team, saying the family-like atmosphere brought the best out of him in the pool. Miller would go on to break several school records before the men’s swimming and diving team got cut in March 2017.

Even a year after UB cut four Division-I teams, there has never been a better time to write about UB sports. We have never been better in our top revenue earning sports and all directions point to even more improvement. It would be a shame if anyone who is seriously interested in UB Athletics missed the opportunity to report on these upcoming years.

All of UB’s best teams, except women’s basketball, are retaining most of their best players. Men’s basketball head coach Nate Oats is guaranteed for another year after signing a contract extension till 2023. Football head coach Lance Leipold is already gearing up for next season coming off a year where the Bulls were bowl eligible. Women’s basketball head coach Felisha Legette-Jack has not taken on another coaching job like many have feared she would.

If UB can keep the heads of the coaching staffs that turned each team into the talented rosters we have today, the school will have a lot more winning seasons ahead of them.

If you thought the second round of the NCAA Tournament was good for the men’s basketball team, I see them going further next year.

The team managed to get almost 8,000 people into Alumni Arena this season, so the interest is growing. If football can get off to a hot start, I can guarantee a lot less empty seats come November home games. After their bowl eligible season, the players have what it takes to be the best team in the MAC. And if the women’s basketball high-class coaching staff stays together, they can make another team of UB greats.

Maybe UB sports is not your cup of tea. They weren’t mine when I started.

One of my favorite stories I’ve done had no ties to any UB team. Last April, I got to cover UFC 210 at the Keybank Center. It was amazing to do one-on-one interviews with fighters, including UFC light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier. And after that, I got to watch the UFC for the first time live in-person. It was an amazing experience to learn and made the entire event that much better to attend.

Earlier this year, I wrote about UB’s most revealing fan, UB Naked Guy. The story to me is the funniest thing I have written here and was a solid piece about one of UB’s more playful figures.

If you are interested in writing for The Spectrum but don’t know if you have the time, send an email and we can start you as a contributor — no crazy workload, just a chance to learn the skills you need to report on sports.

But if you read all this and sports still isn’t for you, I get it. It isn’t for everyone, and there are still three other great desks at The Spectrum to write for. If writing seems dreadful, our multimedia desk is always looking for videographers and photographers to cover events.

For everyone else though, 2018 looks to be UB’s best year in sports. I hope you’ll seriously consider joining The Spectrum for the ride.

Thomas Zafonte is the senior sports editor and can be reached at: thomas.zafonte@ubspectrum.com and @Thomas_Spectrum


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