Journalism Showcase

ESPN’s “Journalism Showcase” – July 21, 2017

Jeremy Schaap has been covering boxing legend Mike Tyson for many years. But Schaap says that Sunday’s interview with Tyson is unlike any conversation they’ve ever had, airing this Sunday morning on E:60 at 9 a.m. ET on ESPN.

“Originally it was going to be an interview about his new book, which focuses on his childhood, and his relationship with [his first trainer] Cus D’Amato. It wasn’t very complicated,” Schaap said. “But then he canceled his book tour because of his bad back, so he said, ‘Come see me in Vegas.’”

Schaap headed out to Tyson’s home in Las Vegas, Nev., where he had planned to interview Tyson about his trainer and father-figure D’Amato, the focus of Tyson’s book.

“Knowing that would be the emphasis, I enlisted the help of Brin-Jonathan Butler, a well-respected boxing writer who knows Mike’s story well, and he had questioned him in 2014 about an incident described in Tyson’s first memoir,” Schaap said. “Brin had asked Tyson whether he had been molested —and Tyson said yes, but he wouldn’t go much deeper than that. Together with Brin and several of my colleagues at E:60, we formulated a plan for the interview. We wanted Mike to feel comfortable going there, because I think it’s an important element of his story that we haven’t previously explored. We didn’t want this to be just another Mike Tyson interview but something more meaningful that could go deeper.”

Tyson certainly goes deeper with Schaap as he opens up about being molested as a child, something he has never discussed in detail.

“I think over the years we built a kind of rapport,” Schaap said. “I would like to think Mike had some respect for me because I would ask him tough questions and he didn’t shy away from them. If you ask him directly and if you’re an honest broker, he gets that.”

Schaap recalls a time when the late ESPN.com columnist Ralph Wiley had a conversation with him about how he interacted with Tyson.

“There was a time when he was still fighting when I was with him a lot, and I had done a number of pieces about Mike that I think were fair but on the harsh side. Ralph said, ‘The goal isn’t always to prosecute, but it should be to understand, to get him to open up.’ That affected the way I conducted my interactions with Mike over the years,” Schaap said. “Sometimes, you have to take on the role of a prosecutor, or at least an adversary, but sometimes the job is to ask questions that elicit honest response and that bring out the subject’s true emotions. Even after all these years, and not being a factor in boxing for 15 years, he’s still – you could argue – the biggest figure in the sport.”

Mechelle Voepel reflects on her story with WNBA All-Star Sue Bird
Sue Bird is self-admittedly private. But the WNBA All-Star opened up to espnW writer Mechelle Voepel about her relationship with girlfriend and U.S. soccer star Megan Rapinoe and more. The Seattle Storm guard joined Randy Scott on SportsCenter earlier today.

What was the original plan going into the story?
The goal going into the story was to say: Here is Sue Bird at 36, the oldest player in the WNBA now, and still playing at a very high level. How is she doing it? With the All-Star Game in Seattle – her home turf – it was a great opportunity to reflect on her career and her longevity, plus what she has meant to the Storm franchise.

I’ve interviewed Sue many, many times since she was a teenager at UConn. So we go back 19 years. I had not sensed before she was comfortable talking about her personal life. But she had been seen a few times in public with Megan Rapinoe over previous months, and it seemed like maybe she was ready to talk about that.

Still, I went into the story without any certainty at all that would be part of it. I was prepared to ask with the qualifier that if she didn’t want to talk about it, that was that. So, when I did ask, it was well into a long conversation about many different aspects of her career and life.

The strongest reaction to the story has been to Bird’s revelation that she is in a relationship with soccer player Megan Rapinoe. What other tidbits did you find surprising during the interview?
I would not say there were things that “surprised” me that Sue said, but there were things I learned. Such as how she did struggle at first with the decision of whether to finish her career in Seattle or perhaps return East. But once she made up her mind, she was totally at peace with that decision.

Also, how she acknowledged that she had come close to talking about her personal life before, but the timing had not felt right. It revealed how thoughtful she was in the process, but also how that is tough for someone who is very comfortable in her own skin, but doesn’t necessarily want to draw attention to herself.

– By Tara Chozet

Journalism on Display

  • Sunday’s SportsCenter SC Featured  will look at the life and career of ESPN news editor Claire Smith, the first African-American female newspaper reporter to cover Major League Baseball on a daily basis who will be honored Hall of Fame weekend with the J.G. Taylor Spink Award. Smith is the first female to win the Spink award. The feature will debut in the 10 a.m. ET edition of SportsCenter on Sunday, July 23, and will re-air in other editions of the program throughout the day.
  • On the day that Stuart Scott would have turned 52, (Wednesday, July 19), ESPN’s The Undefeated writer Justin Tinsley penned a heartfelt letter of gratitude to the deceased sports journalist whose work became an inspiration to Tinsley and his entire generation.
  • In addition to unsurpassed live coverage and a same-day SportsCenter special, the ESPN features unit put together several original pieces to add to the O.J. Simpson parole hearing coverage including “O.J.’s Life in Prison” and “Calculating O.J.’s Money.” Outside the Lines’ three-plus hours of live coverage also included sharp insight from commentators including Jason Reid, Kate Fagan and Howard Bryant.
  • Reporter Marty Smith has developed a reputation for his unique ability to gain access to players and coaches. From spending a weekend at Nick Saban’s lake house to hitting up the Vatican with Jim Harbaugh and the Michigan football team, Smith has seen it all. This week he is in China with soccer superstar Cristiano Rinaldo. SportsCenter will be airing various features from China all weekend on ESPN.
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