ESPN the Magazine senior writer David Fleming had some interesting and unexpected experiences involving his latest feature, “How Reche Caldwell Googled his way from the Patriots to Prison” in The Magazine’s WNBA20 issue on newsstands today.
Fleming, as he describes in The Mag’s “Behind the Pages” interview, was immediately taken aback by the sign pictured above. Heading to FPC Montgomery (Ala.), Fleming said he “was expecting Leavenworth. Instead, I found a rather lovely waterfront campus that was every bit as nice as my hotel at Vikings training camp years ago, the one that gave me a wicked case of fleas. . . I went looking for a sinister and dangerous criminal, but the story I uncovered was very different and far more interesting.”
And no fleas.
Fleming spoke with Front Row about the feature that has garnered immense attention (see tweet below):
How exactly does one do a prison interview?
I wondered the same thing in August when Caldwell originally agreed to talk. We had to wade through six more months of red tape and prison bureaucracy before the actual interview, so in the meantime I got great advice from my older brother who is an FBI agent, and [senior writer] Shaun Assael, who is the best in the biz at these kinds of stories: You’re only allowed paper and pen inside the prison, no electronics of any kind.
I was expecting a nerve-racking environment and a tense conversation through thick glass. But it was nothing like that. At the minimum-security prison camp in Montgomery, we were allowed to chat face-to-face sitting in office chairs inside an attorney’s room. About 20 minutes into the interview Reche was relaxed and laughing and had his boots [“untied Timberlands,” as Fleming describes in the piece] up on the desk.
What was the impetus to do the story?
Senior writer, Sam Alipour and senior editor, Jason Schwartz brought Caldwell’s story to my attention. They had suspected an increase in the use of the drug Molly (MDMA) by athletes and the idea was to see if Caldwell was somehow connected to this trend, or, if he had any valuable insight on athletes using this particular drug. The story went in a totally different direction from there, of course, and I love when that happens.
This story’s a great example of the rare, team-like atmosphere with The Mag’s awesome writers and editors. Sam selflessly allowed me to take his great idea and run with it and Shaun went above and beyond the call of duty helping me get up to speed on reporting this kind of piece.
— chad millman (@chadmillman) May 13, 2016