As journalists, we’re taught to be objective. When it comes to sports, that means you can’t root for a team when you’re on the job.
But writer Mike Spofford doesn’t work for a newspaper or magazine. He’s a reporter for the Green Bay Packers. And being excited with the Packers do well is part of the job description.
Journalism began as a hobby for Spofford. When he was 13 years old, he wrote for the Chicago Bears as an intern. Since 2006, though, he has been been contributing to the Bears’ NFC North rival the Packers. He travels with the team, going to games, interviewing players, and creating content for the Packers’ team website.
“I’ve always enjoyed the challenge of trying to tell a good story well, in a way that captures the readers and makes them want to keep reading,” Spofford says. “If the story and the presentation aren’t interesting for the writer, they won’t be interesting to the reader.”
He provided some sound advice for young sports and journalism enthusiasts who might want to follow his path.
“Learn how to write hard news first,” he says. “Be able to tell a story, including all the relevant facts, accurately. No factual errors. No proofreading mistakes. Then take that story and make it shorter. Tell it in fewer words. Be brief while keeping it accurate. If you can be a news reporter who gets the facts straight and can write clearly and concisely, then you can move on to features and more creativity. The basics of news reporting are a part of any feature story, no matter how creative that story might be.”
Bringing together my interests in writing and sports and getting paid for it, sounds like a dream job. So I wanted Mike to tell me the real deal: Was it all it seemed from the outside?
“The best part is being there for the big games,” he says. “Seeing and writing about a big game in December or a playoff game in January, live and in person, is always exciting. That thrill never wears off. The worst part is probably the lack of down time during the season. Once training camp starts in late July, you don’t get many days off for the next six months or so. A Saturday before a Sunday home game might be an off day, but if it’s a road game that’s travel day. You can get a few days off during the bye week, but that’s about it. By the end of the season, whether it ends after 16 games or after the Super Bowl, you’re pretty exhausted.”
Despite some of the tough stuff, there are some very interesting things that happen during the season. One of the very best is getting to interview athletes. And like most journalists, Spofford likes to talk about one his favorite interviews of all time.
“Several years ago, I went around the Packers’ locker room and asked each of Aaron Rodgers’ receivers for the most memorable pass they’ve caught from Rodgers,” Spofford remembers. “Greg Jennings, Donald Driver, Jordy Nelson, James Jones, and Jermichael Finley all gave me their thoughts. I then went to Rodgers and asked what he remembered specifically about those plays involving each player. It was a fun piece to write.”
I left my discussion with Mike feeling inspired to continue writing. His success shows getting an early start and working hard as a kid can pay dividends — both on the field and off.