BROOKE GLADSTONE: We're back with On the Media. I'm Brooke Gladstone.
BOB GARFIELD: And I'm Bob Garfield. Spring Training: a time to shake off the rust from a long off season, to forget the bitter end to last year's season, and to look forward to the possibility that, by golly, we could go all the way this year. Yes, hope springs eternal before April rolls around; the baseball beat writers covering the preseason can either crush the players' illusions or play along with their upbeat confidence. Drew Olson has faced this challenge again and again covering the Brewers for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel for the past 9 seasons -- the past 9 losing seasons. He joins us from a spring training game in progress down in Arizona. So Drew, no shortage of optimism down in the Cactus League!
DREW OLSON: What there is a shortage of is pitching, [LAUGHTER] but there's no shortage of optimism at these camps. No, let's face it, everybody's unbeaten, unscored upon and ready to start the season, so every year you're right; I mean teams grade their own paper too high when the season starts. You can't hide. 162 games reveals all your flaws and there's no hiding.
BOB GARFIELD:Well not only do teams grade their papers a little high. There seems to be some grade inflation every spring in every camp on the media side as well.
DREW OLSON: You know the funny thing - we were just talking about that in the press room today -that 75 percent of the teams in baseball have no reason for optimism so-- why crush 'em in the spring, the one time of the year that they try to have a ray of hope at -- you know nothing that we write would imply that the Brewers are planning a parade in October down Wisconsin Avenue in Milwaukee and that they're getting sized for World Series rings. We know what's going to happen, and we can see down the road, but you know it hasn't happened yet. It, it is a, a fine line that reporters have to walk.
BOB GARFIELD: And what would happen if you approached spring training in that you chose to bludgeon your readers upside the head with reality?
DREW OLSON:You're doing 'em a disservice I think, because you just squash everything that's going on here; it's almost like well why should they read it and why are you bothering to write it? I mean the Brewers are playing games -- people in Milwaukee want to read about these games. Like I said, everybody here is positive and feels good about what they have going, so the stories just have to reflect that, because never in my 15 years as a sports writer have I seen a general manager come out and say we are going to stink up the league this year and we don't have a chance. And if it did, it would be page one news and it, it would be like a man bites dog -- but it just doesn't happen.
BOB GARFIELD:Well because the ecosystem is the way it is, sports writers in the spring in every market function as a sort of, like-it-or-not, de facto marketing arm of the team.
DREW OLSON: Well, I mean what other business gets a page and a half or a page of free advertising that day? I mean there's no question but it's always been that, and it's marketing for the newspaper! We sell newspapers cause people want to read the Brewers! There's that symbiotic relationship between the teams and even covering a major league baseball game.
BOB GARFIELD:Do you look forward to when spring training is over and you can head north and just ditch the optimism and get back to reality and just start telling it the way it is?
DREW OLSON: I don't think once April 1st comes that we start becoming more critical, but the stakes go up and the situation changes, and the results and the stats aren't forgotten, and I guess in that way the coverage might seem more critical, but I don't know that as a writer you consciously say you're going to ramp it up and start crushing 'em just because the season has started.
BOB GARFIELD: I guess congratulation's in order because as of this interview, in the regular season, your Brewers are undefeated!
DREW OLSON:That's right. [LAUGHS] Well-- we get paid whether we win, lose, compete or stink. All we cheer for in the media is quick games. [LAUGHS] We have very simple wants in the Baseball Writers Association. That's pretty much all we need.
BOB GARFIELD: Thank you very much.
DREW OLSON: Yeah, you bet.
BOB GARFIELD: Drew Olson is a baseball writer for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.