A sports writer’s musings: I finally covered an event alongside my biggest hero

In my first year studying journalism at MU, worlds collided with the longtime Post-Dispatch scribe at the SEC Tournament in St. Louis.
Men's basketball beat writer Bennett Durando with his father at the SEC tournament in St. Louis, Mo. in March 2018.

An hour before tipoff of Missouri’s eventual win against Tennessee in January, I was strolling toward the media entrance to Mizzou Arena with Vahe Gregorian, a sports columnist for the Kansas City Star and one of my biggest role models in journalism, who happened to have been available to graciously give this college student’s tired legs a ride that night.

As we were circling the building, Vahe turned to me and pointed something out.

“You know, it’s funny; I’ve done this probably a hundred times with your dad,” he said, referring to the walk into a venue to cover a sporting event. “Now I’m doing it with his son.”

This March, I got to make that walk with my biggest role model, my dad, for the first time.

This is where I should ask for your forgiveness, because this is not a story carrying any Missouri basketball news, nor is it a game recap, profile or feature of any sort.

This is about personal experience. So pardon me for momentarily ignoring the third-person veil between beat writer and reader.

Regarding that veil: When I go to cover an event, I’m there to bring information and insight to you, the person who is hopefully reading this right now either on our website or in a paper on campus. I’m not there for me. But that being said, journalists are still people, and especially as a student journalist who may not have his content read as much as professionals, every event is also a personal opportunity — an opportunity to surround myself with the process of game coverage, an opportunity to get better.

So covering the men’s basketball SEC Tournament in St. Louis a couple of weeks ago was of course beyond exciting in more ways than one — none more so than covering an event alongside Stu Durando for the first time.

Not shadowing him for an evening or waiting after a game for him to finish a write-up, but being independently credentialed to work alongside him.

So naturally, I couldn’t help but snicker when the long-time St. Louis Post-Dispatch scribe turned to me during one of the games, cringing to suppress an embarrassed laugh of his own, and asked if he could borrow a pen from me.

The tournament was full of those little moments; finding him multitasking in the workroom, finishing a story write-up while calling me over to share updates on the postseason exploits of his usual beat, Saint Louis University; turning to him and the rest of the Post-Dispatch crew to share in a moment of mixed hilarity and disgust at one team’s radio producer cheering on Press Row; meeting for a quick goodbye hug under the arena while surrounded by other writers before I departed for Columbia.

It’s due to him and my ex-sports writing mom (who ties him for that No. 1 role-model ranking) that I’m now an undertaker in this trade to begin with. They once founded a school newspaper while I was at Avery Elementary. I joined in second grade; I had nothing better to do. I loved it.

Over the years since then, I’ve followed my dad on work trips from his days on the SLU beat to the Illinois beat and back to SLU.

I learned from his and my mom’s experiences more than anything. I learned what it meant to be a sports writer, and I learned what parts of the job were most loved and least loved.

I learned that one of the most important — and most enjoyable — parts of being a sports writer is seeking out and telling unique stories. We are inherently compelled by a good story, especially one about family.

Covering the SEC Tournament with dad, I was lucky to be a part of one of those stories.

Edited by Joe Noser | jnoser@themaneater.com

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