For the second Sports Media Guy interview, and the first featuring audio, I got the chance to chat with Tim Graham of the Buffalo News. Tim is a Bills' writer who's probably best known for breaking the story that the Pegula family would buy the Buffalo Bills, ensuring the team's future in Buffalo — as well has his super-snarky Twitter feed.
(As always, full disclosure that my sister works with Tim at The News).
You can download or listen to our full conversation, which lasts about 38 minutes. Highlights are after the jump:
On what he was doing New Year's Eve when Bills' coach Doug Marrone opted out of his contract.
"I actually was told by a very good source, and this wasn’t wrong, I don’t think, it just illustrates how surprising this development was, I was told at 2:30 in the afternoon by one of my best sources of all time that nothing was gonna happen and that everything was status quo and I don’t have to worry about it. I think there might even have been a reference to “go ahead and start drinking if you want for New Year's Eve." So I kind of sat back for a little bit and didn’t obsess over the possibility, but it was still in my mind that it could happen. But yeah it was … I was expecting to not have to work, but still that nagging doubt in the back of your mind that something’s gonna happen and you’re not prepared for it was still going on. And then finally it was reported by Chris Mortensen I think that Doug Marrone was going to leave and then it's just a full court press. You try to find out as much information as you can from all your different sources through all the different ways that you would get confirmation or try to get some color, get any kind of details for a story. So right about that time, maybe a little bit later, my wife and kids were going to a New Year’s party in the neighborhood, and I think I was given a salute and they headed out the door and I’m sitting at my laptop at the dining room table and I waved back and said "I’ll see you in 2015."
On covering the sale of the Bills, and competing with national reporters on that story:
"I really took a lot of pride in my coverage of the ownership stuff and not really getting beaten in general on that. But when it came time for the Pegulas to seal the deal, the closer it got to completion, the more nervous I got that one of the national guys was going to find a way to get that story first. I wanted to be the one who broke the news to the Buffalo Bills fans that the Pegulas had bought their team and their team was staying. So no matter how dominant I may have been in covering that story, if I didn’t see it at the finish line or cross the finish line first, then that would have really bothered me. Now, part of it is ego. But I think the biggest part of it is I write for the Buffalo Bills fans and I want to be the one to give them their information."
On the importance of that story to the community
It was the biggest sports story in WNY history. I think it was bigger than going to four straight Super Bowls, because if somebody else buys this team and moves it, than they ever have the chance to win the Super Bowl, and the Bills leave town without ever having won a championship. ... I recognized it was probably going to be the biggest story I've ever covered throughout my career, even decades from now, probably. So I wanted to do it well. ...
It was a very anxious time for me. Because it was the first thing I thought about when I woke up in the morning, and probably the last thing I thought about when my head was on the pillow of what’s going on with this story, how can I cover it form a different angle, what is gonna happen tomorrow, a mental checklist of all the people I need to check in with. It’s just, you were constantly on. I worked a lot of off days. It was uncanny - you were talking about New Years Eve and Marrone's decision, it was uncanny the things that would happen on my days off. But I was I never thought for a second "You know what? I'm off today." I knew I was the guy covering this story and I wanted to cover it. I knew it was that important
In hindsight, what stands out about that story?
The tweet, when I was able that morning, when the agreement was in place and I was able to report it first, that was me hitting the finish line not having to worry about a national reporter or somebody else having it fall in their lap, that I covered this thing from start to finish and did a great job on it, and that was just a moment of relief No. 1.
But about I don't know how much longer it was, maybe 20 min later or so I flip on WGR and I listen to the people call in and just the elation, the relief, the emotion coming through the speaker on my radio, it just really finally hit me how big this story was. I sent out another tweet that’s probably my favorite tweet I've ever sent:
I hit the send button on that and I just felt happy for the people of Western New York, genuinely happy but then also to think that I played some part in delivering that message to them that made so many people happy. Not my reporting, but just to be able to be the guy to poke his head out there and say "Hey just wanted to let you know, Bills are sticking around forever,” I’m not the story but it was just a thrill to be able to let people know that."
On whether or not the Toronto bid for the Bills was hurt by having Jon Bon Jovi as front man:
I think it was Bon Jovi was destroyed by the fact that he was connected to Toronto. I believed Bon Jovi’s letter. I believed him. I came to know enough that was going on in this process that Bon Jovi would not have moved the team, but by that point, it didn't matter. People were not going to believe him, and perception was reality in this situation.
On dealing with Twitter trolls:
A lot of people see the way I interact with people on Twitter and will tell me look man just ignore those guys why are you wasting your time getting so worked up. And I think people miss the point. I do it because I enjoy it. I get entertainment value from it. And my general policy is if it makes me smile or if I think something's funny, then I do it. And a lot of these things that people say to me that I respond to, I not angry by them, its teeing up a chance for me to be entertaining becase I know theres a large segment of my followers who get a kick out of it. So that’s really all I’m doing.
On Big Hero 6 and kid's movies
I think that based on my experience with having an 8- and 6-year old, kids' movies, since I stated watching them, are better than a lot of movies that are made for adults, I find myself laughing - talking about The Lego Movie, Big Hero 6, not necessarily Frozen - Well no Frozen was good. Toy Story 3. Fantastic movie. The movies that are made for kids aren't really made for kids anymore. I think they’re written for adults and they are packaged in such a way that kids will enjoy them through the animation, for the slapstick nature of things. I'm loving kids movies. I look forward to taking my kids to movies cause I know I’m gonna enjoy them too. It's not like when my parents would take us to the movies and my dad would sit int eh back of the theater and smoke a cigarette. I look forward to this.