Not every basketball player goes on to the pros and not every CelticsBlog writer goes on to a job in sports. This is an example of a great guy that still loves the Celtics but took on a writing career outside of the world of athletics. Here’s my Q&A with Evans Clinchy.
1. What have you been up to since leaving CelticsBlog and what you enjoy about your current position?
To be honest, not a lot of sports stuff. I still follow the NBA pretty religiously, but I decided around 2014 that making a career out of basketball writing probably wasn’t for me. Around that time, I rebooted my life. I turned the basketball thing into a side hobby, settled into a steady day job writing marketing copy and relocated from Boston to the West Coast. I lived in Portland for a few years (covering the Blazers a bit while I was there), then moved again to Seattle, where I’m currently grinding away from 9 to 5 as a writer for a mid-sized engineering firm.
I miss the Celtics beat every day. But I like my current life quite a bit - it’s stable and predictable. The sports media industry, bless its heart, is not that. It’s nice to have a steady paycheck, as well as the freedom to watch the games (or not watch them) whenever you please. Basketball’s a beautiful game, and it’s a lot easier to appreciate it when your livelihood no longer depends on it.
2. Tell us how you got your start in the industry and what role (if any) CelticsBlog played in it. (Yes, I’m totally fishing for compliments here.)
That’s not a problem - the compliments are totally warranted! CelticsBlog played a big role in helping me get my life back on track.
So, I started out by working my way up as a student - I was a sportswriter and editor for my student paper in high school, then a sportswriter and editor for my student paper in college. I got a gig right out of college as a full-time beat reporter covering the C’s - this was in 2010, which was a crazy time to be just starting out. I was a wide-eyed 23-year-old kid who happened to stumble into covering an NBA Finals.
I worked at that job for a year and a half, then got laid off in mid-2011 when the lockout came. What followed was a period of confusion about my career and my life. I didn’t know what to do next, where I could turn, who I could count on. Jeff was an absolutely huge help, giving me a place to publish my Celtics ramblings and helping me get myself back on track as a basketball scribe. I didn’t stick with the gig forever, but I’ll always be thankful that there was a place for me at CB when there was.
3. Who are some of your idols and/or mentors in the media and what impact have they had on your career?
Two very different questions!
I idolize all sorts of writers. I read a ton, and I’m always adding new names to my running list of favorites. To rattle off a few, my favorite writers on the sports side include Zach Lowe, Kevin Arnovitz, Henry Abbott, Jonathan Abrams, Tom Ziller, Lee Jenkins, Jack McCallum, Mina Kimes, Jessica Luther, Dave Zirin, Ethan Strauss and Jonathan Tjarks; for politics and culture stuff, I’m partial to Ta-Nehisi Coates, Franklin Foer, Adam Serwer, Jonathan Chait, Adam Davidson, Ronan Farrow, Natasha Bertrand and Matt Taibbi. (I’m forgetting some, but that’s a start.) All of these men and women have a gift for crafting a compelling narrative and turning a beautiful phrase. They’re gifted reporters, analysts and storytellers, and they have valuable insights on the world. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read something by one of them and thought to myself, “Man, I wish I could do that.”
As for mentors, I’m really fortunate to have had some great editors at the various writing gigs I’ve had. Especially Jeff at CelticsBlog, of course; Dave Deckard and Chris Lucia at Blazer’s Edge; David Roth and Colin McGowan at The Classical; Matt Moore, Jared Dubin and Amin Vafa at Hardwood Paroxysm. They’ve all helped me find great story ideas, tweak my writing style and edit my work with a critical eye. I’m grateful to all of them for their help.
4. What has been the biggest thing you’ve learned along the way, and what advice would you give to aspiring writers and people trying to break into the sports media business?
I tried really hard to think of an answer for this question that wouldn’t sound like a cliché, and I failed. So screw it, here’s a cliché for you...
Put in the work.
It’s a buyer’s market out there for hiring sports media people - there’s not a lot of jobs, and tons of ambitious people gunning for them. If you want to stand out from that crowd and actually get hired (and stay employed once you’re hired!), you’ve got to have the drive to outwork everyone else. Watch an extra hour of game tape. Read an extra article; study a few extra stats. Do an extra interview. The readers out there are discerning, and if you put in the work to know your stuff as well as possible, it’ll show. The shares and retweets will follow. The writers who go places are the ones who make the extra effort to be knowledgeable and insightful, not just crank out content for content’s sake.
The internet has turned the sports media game into much more of a meritocracy than it once was. The best people rise to the top. To be the best, you’ve got to work hard and earn it.
5. Where do you see sports media headed in the future? What trends do you see and how would you like to see the industry adapt over time?
It seems pretty clear to me where the industry is going. It’s trending away from traditional print journalism and embracing new media formats that better fit people’s content consumption habits. This means more video, more podcasts, really more of anything that’s mobile-friendly and social media-friendly.
I get all of that, and I accept it. But to be perfectly honest, I kinda miss the old days. I liked it when people got their sports news from the written word! It was cool when people had the attention span to sit and read an article or maybe even - and I know this is gonna sound really crazy - an entire book. There’s nothing I love more than the craft that goes into a really good piece of writing, be it short-form or long, and it makes me a little sad to see that craftsmanship lose its value as the industry evolves. Times change, though. I’m doing the best I can to cope.
Awesome, thanks Evans!