One of the best and most sustaining things about being a sportswriter is the sense of camaraderie you have with your colleagues. And one of the best things about that is that your colleagues aren’t just the brothers and sisters you see day-in and day-out, but the friends you make going from event to event to event year after year.
A lot of us are drawn to similar things, too. And one of those is Bruce Springsteen.
It’s such a trend that Drew Magary once wrote an article for Deadspin mocking it.
Just the same, I contacted a few to try to get at what it is we, the sportswriters, find so appealing about Springsteen.
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Dirk Chatelain, Omaha World-Herald: “I don’t think I’ve ever actually known a factory worker. I’d never been to New York City or the Jersey Shore. But I related to those songs. They were generally about small towns and big dreams, and that’s kinda who I was and wanted to be.
“People mock Springsteen’s working-class lyrics juxtaposed against his enormous wealth. But I don’t think he ever forgot where he came from.
“Nor did he ever embarrass himself. He was as authentic and humble as a Bruce Springsteen could be. He resisted the hype rather than embracing it. And he could laugh at himself. As silly as it sounds, you always felt like you could have a drink with him and it wouldn’t be a big deal.
Dennis Dodd (formerly of The Star), CBSSports.com: “The Boss’ ability to convey so much emotion, so many images within the limits of a song verse is what makes him a favorite of sportswriters. No blog, no Instagram, no Snapchat can capture what Bruce says in his brilliant words. Oh, plus the music is great.
“A few examples …
“Badlands”: Poor man wanna be rich; rich man wanna be king; a king ain’t satisfied ‘til he rules everything.
“Point Blank”: You pulled my jacket off and as the drummer counted four / You grabbed my hand and pulled me out on the floor / You just stood there and held me, then you started dancin’ slow / And as I pulled you tighter I swore I’d never let you go.
Chatelain: “I only became a Springsteen fanatic after I bought ‘1975-85 Live.’ Bruce has this ability to raise the intensity level higher, higher, higher and — just when you think he can’t go higher — he does. It’s exhausting to watch. But it’s sort of a religious experience.”
K.C. Johnson, Chicago Tribune, says though his fandom has waned with Springsteen’s growing popularity, he still appreciates the art.
“In an age of superficiality and immediacy, Springsteen offers substance and commitment. His writing makes you think. His investment in live shows makes you sweat. And he strives for genuine connection with his audience, making it a communal experience.”
Todd Jones, Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch: “The first concert I ever attended was Springsteen’s final show on the River tour in 1981. I was 16. The power of that performance has never left me.
“That crackling night in Cincinnati, and the many times I’ve since seen him perform, has always made me feel that the moment matters. Be alive. Be passionate. Strive to be great. There is magic in the night. Feel it. Live it. Rock on.”
Liz Clarke, (who has seen Springsteen about 150 times), The Washington Post: “We may write primarily about victors, but if we do our job properly, our reporting, our thoughts, our reflections, our lens is turned equally on those who come out on the losing end.
“Yes, the victor may get the headline. But for each victor there is a loser, often multiple losers — those who may have struggled just as much, if not more so, but fell short. Maybe the defeat deepens their resolve and spurs them to greater success. Maybe it culls them from a roster. Maybe it crushes them.
“For all but a few athletes — the Roger Federers and Michael Phelpses — defeat is invariably more a part of their resume than triumph. I don’t believe sportswriters tell the story of defeat enough but instead unwittingly spin a myth that every high school star gets a college scholarship, goes to the pros and is rewarded with riches and fame.
“That’s the rarest of narratives. That’s feel-good, pop music; it’s great fun, but it’s an escape.
“Far more common is the story of defeat: The harsh way that sports winnows the field, tells athletes they’re not good enough. They’re too slow, too weak, too old, too mentally frail. Like life, sports is unrelenting and unforgiving. It is the striving that is compelling. It’s the aspirational quality of athletes that makes their journey worth chronicling.
“This is the landscape of much of Bruce’s writing — that of the loner, the man who starts out with a dream, a romantic dream in his head, and ultimately comes to terms with what the world does to it.”
Michael MacCambridge, whose books include “America’s Game: The Epic Story of How Pro Football Captured a Nation” and “Lamar Hunt: A Life in Sports”:
“Springsteen believes that there is heroism in the living of life, and the giving of maximum effort, regardless of whether you ultimately win or lose. Listen to the last two minutes of the title track from ‘Darkness on the Edge of Town.’ That same notion is the bedrock of sports — in the game, the glory.
“In the end, what informs both Springsteen’s music and team sports is the idea that through challenges we find our truest, best selves. If you’ve ever watched your favorite football team hold together through a 1-5 start and rally to make the playoffs, you know what he’s singing about.”
Dave Matter, St. Louis Post-Dispatch: “As sportswriters we work in a precarious industry, never knowing how long these gigs will last. We see Bruce on stage at 66 — at his very best with endless energy and creativity — and there’s inspiration there. If he can keep going this strong after so many years, why can’t we?”
David Ramsey, Colorado Springs Gazette: “Springsteen is sincere, which is one of the great virtues. He has no use for cynicism. He’s a true believer in love and redemption and diligent work and the power of really loud music. When listening to his best songs — ‘This Hard Land,’ ‘Badlands,’ ‘Thunder Road,’ ‘Two Hearts’ — it’s impossible to feel old.”