Concussions, Rex Ryan and the Avett Brothers: A conversation with Tyler Dunne

I've been thinking of ways to give Sports Media Guy a bit of a reboot, and one of those ideas is "Sports Media Guy Conversations." It's kind of like a podcast, but not really a podcast. I want to have conversations with interesting people in this sports media world. I've got a couple of these planned, and hopefully they can be a relatively regular part of the site.

The latest conversation is with Tyler Dunne, one of the Buffalo Bills' beat reporters for the Buffalo News. I've known Tyler for a long time - he was one of my interns when I worked at the Olean Times Herald, and I was his law TA at Syracuse University. Tyler's one of the best feature writers in the business, and we talked about his approach to storytelling, how he balances feature writing with daily beat reporting, and other issues.

It should be noted: We talked today (Oct. 16, 2015), a day after something Tyler wrote about Sammy Watkins caused a bit of an internet kerfuffle. I discuss this in the talk, but Tyler respectfully asked not to talk specifically about this story until he'd had a chance to speak with Watkins at practice this afternoon.

Some highlights:

On concussions, and the NFL media’s responsibility to cover it.

I think we have to be honest, first of all. This is a big issue for the NFL. We should cover it, we should write about it. I mean, these are humans, these aren’t robots on a field that people can just plug into their fantasy football lineup. These guys an think, they have lives, and this is a dangerous game. Look, I played football. I loved the game. Some of the best memories I have in my life are down there at Ellicottville, playing at Ralph Wilson Stadium, all of that, I get it. I mean, I get that love for the game just overcoming all. I mean, that’s high school football. Definitely understand that. But at the same time, I think fans, readers, they see these guys as human beings with stories like this. Which they are. This is a dangerous profession. When you hear the story of Kevin Kolb driving down Southwestern Boulevard and fading into the other lane and nearly killing himself crashing into somebody because he was dazed and confused weeks after his fourth concussion in 2 1/2 years, that resonates in a very, very powerful way. And you know what? He’s not alone. We’re not cherry picking here, we’re not cherry picking players. And I think it’s important for that humanizing to be there in our profession because readers deserve it. The game deserves it and I think it makes the whole process better.

On Oral Histories It's a different way to do it. It’s basically like a bunch of players and coaches and everyone involved sitting at the bar talking about this game, looking back and sharing their stories, and that concept is really neat. It’s just different.

What it's like covering Rex Ryan It's fun. You obviously you never know what the head coach is gonna say or do. One moment he’s wearing Buffalo Sabres jersey at the microphone another he’s bringing up props. It makes the job fun, and I think the cool part about it, Brian, is that a team really takes on the personality of their coach, and you can see it in that locker room. Just a lot of colorful, fun, honest, open guys to deal with day to day, which it can be tough to find in today’s NFL. You don't always get such sincerity from players, whether it's Percy Harvin talking about dealing with what he did in Seattle and those fights with Golden Tate and Doug Baldwin, Richie Incognito talking about his past Odell Beckham’s throwing down throwing punches at all these guys some people saw them some people didn’t, very blunt on the subject. They know that the head coach is not gonna call them into the principle’s office and slap em on the wrist like some coaches might do in the NFL, and I think that can bee a good quality for a team to have, you know. We’ve seen it backfire in the past with teams but also Seattle’s been to two Super Bowl's in a row with that kind of liberating type of feeling in the locker room.

On seeing the Avett Brothers play at Artwork in Lewiston, N.Y. last month It blows my mind how great they sound live its like they’re in a recording studio. They opened with my favorite song, "Laundry Room." That’s number one, "Laundry Room," mark it down. I love the bet, the feeling you get with it, it's awesome, and to open with that, get the show started the right way, it just held true. It was great.