As part of our ongoing Meet the Commenters series, we will be adding a new wrinkle and getting to know the beat writers who cover Kansas. And yes, I did borrow this idea from Royals Review.
Thanks for taking time out of your schedule Matt. Let's start at the beginning. Where did you grow up? What did your folks do? What was your family like when you were growing up?
I grew up in Stilwell, Kansas, about 30 minutes south of Kansas City. My dad is in the heating and cooling business and my mom worked various jobs throughout my childhood. My folks are awesome, as is my older sister. They're terrific people for tolerating my extremely awkward and temperamental childhood.
When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
Freshman year of high school. It was an accident, really. I was in an art class I quickly realized would not gel well with my left brain, so I transferred into the only class that was open during that period -- journalism. I was hooked from the outset. I truly can't imagine doing anything else, and if I had to, I would probably suck at it.
What writers have influenced you?
I love sports columns. On a national level, Bill Simmons was huge for me (and a lot of folks my age). Locally, I really loved the contrast between Joe Posnanski and Jason Whitlock when I was younger, and Sam Mellinger does great work, too. Since I've moved to Topeka, I've learned a lot from great writers like Kevin Haskin and Jesse Newell (among others). Copy editing and, in the process, reading all the content in The Capital-Journal for three years made me a much better sports writer, I think.
Where did you attend college? What made you choose that school?
I went to Johnson County Community College (for longer than I'd like to admit) before transferring to the University of Kansas. I went the JCCC route because of the saved money, but I can't say enough good things about the journalism professors there and the exceptional student newspaper. I spent a lot of sleepless nights working on a product I was really proud of with The Campus Ledger. I went to KU mostly because of the in-state tuition and the School of Journalism's great reputation.
What are the best and worst parts about being a sportswriter?
Covering events is obviously cool. Before I got the KU beat, I had the opportunity to cover the Royals' last two postseason runs for The Capital-Journal, and that was a surreal experience on a lot of levels. From a writing perspective, just sitting down and hammering out a feature story, going through the editing process with your peers and finally publishing the story for the world to read is a really rewarding thing.
I'm obviously lucky with what I do for a living, but if I had to pick something that's been a struggle getting used to it would probably be the 24/7 news cycle and basically being constantly on-call. A coach could get fired, a player could transfer or somebody could do something stupid on social media, and I might miss it by several hours because I'm in a theater watching Captain America: Civil War. It's something I think I'll get used to (and better at), but right now it's just an adjustment.
When you aren't traveling around Big 12 country or chasing down leads at the last moment, what do you like to do in your free time?
I guarantee you this will be the dullest answer of any sports writer you feature, but here goes. I love watching Royals games and have since 2003. The last two Octobers have been a refreshing extension to those summers. I'm a big documentary, history and trivia fan, so it isn't uncommon for me to be awake at 4 a.m. watching a two-hours PBS special about James Garfield on my phone (this actually happened recently). Video games also consume a lot of my free time, although not as much lately. I don't drink and, truthfully, get kind of anxious when I'm somewhere with a lot of people in a small space, so I'm not a huge night life guy. But if I can find a low-key bar that serves good waters and has a Taco Tuesday special, I'm there.
What piece of writing or article of yours are you most proud of and why?
I haven't really had a chance to sink my teeth into the KU beat yet, so I'd have to say the summer opportunities I've gotten to write about the Royals have produced my best stuff. I wrote a feature on Wade Davis a couple summers ago before he really got rolling, and I'm proud of that. I got a chance to talk to Mike Sweeney early last summer about all the brawls the Royals were getting into and his own brouhaha with Jeff Weaver and I think turned out well. I'm really looking forward to this fall, though.
What's your best, funniest, or most interesting story from your time covering KU?
Again, I haven't had much time on the job yet, but there are a few stories that stick out. I remember the UConn locker room during the NCAA Tournament, with media and players crammed into a sardine can-sized locker room and basically unwillingly getting to second base with each other, and one UConn player chucked his phone to a teammate over several media members. When everyone went to leave... nobody really could, because we were all shoulder-to-shoulder. Like I said, I don't do well with a lot of people in a small area, and I'm pretty sure that would've been considered a fire code violation in most states.
Your readers might appreciate this story more. Chipotle catered for the media meal before the Oklahoma State game on Feb. 15 in Lawrence. Wayne Selden and Brannen Greene spoke with the media after the game, and when they were done, they left with a few of the hours-old leftover burritos. About an hour later, Selden returned on a hoverboard and left with another five-or-six burritos. "Perry wants some," he deadpanned as he rolled away. His balance on that thing was remarkable.
Any advice or words of wisdom for aspiring sportswriters?
Quick hits: Have realistic expectations after graduation. If you don't get a writing job right away, working on a desk and copy editing your peers' content will make you a better writer. Build an online portfolio throughout college. Read. Contact local newspapers for stringing opportunities, even when you're in school. Build meaningful relationships with people you respect in the field (I hate the word "networking" because of how impersonal and phony it sounds, but I guess that's what this would be classified as). Don't post anything regrettable on social media, but if you do, be prepared to block off a good 12 hours to go through your entire Twitter history like I did.
I'd be happy to go into more detail on any of those or just provide more general advice to anyone interested. Just hit me up.
Anything else we might not know about you
I've got a really nice bookcase my father built me that, as of now, has no books on it. Instead, it displays a Nintendo 64, Pop! Vinyls of the The Rock, Squidward and the Pink Ranger, and seven box sets featuring the complete Dragon Ball Z series. I am a dork and I don't make smart decisions with my disposable income.
Any pets: No, but at some point I will own a corgi
What kind of car do you drive: 1996 Jeep Grand Cherokee (with 275,000+ miles logged)
Favorite movie: Guardians of the Galaxy or Batman Returns
Favorite tv show: It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia
Favorite beer or thing to drink: Mountain Dew
Favorite band: Led Zeppelin
Favorite food: Breakfast stuff
Favorite KU player to interview: Landen Lucas makes my job easier
Favorite Big 12 road venue: Austin, Texas
Least favorite Big 12 road venue: Still feeling them out
First concert: Does "Sesame Street Live" count?
First w-2 job: McDonald's
Best athlete seen play live: Buddy Hield