Wednesday, June 20, 2007
Dan Shaughnessy Interview
Despite being a high-profile member of the Boston Sports Media, Dan Shaughnessy is rarely on the BC fan radar. It wasn't until I found out that he was writing a book about his son (current BC Baseball player Sam Shaughnessy) that I pursued him for this interview. (His publishers also graciously sent me a copy of the book. I enjoyed it and you can read my review here.) In this exchange we talk about Sam, BC sports and of course blogging.
[In the past my interviews have been via email. This was an old fashioned taped Q&A, so forgive any punctuation issues in the transcript.]
ATL_eagle: How did you first bring up the subject of a book with Sam? You reference him knowing about you writing it, but did you ask his permission? Did you worry about getting him involved?
DS: Yes. We talked about it. I asked if he had a problem with it. He said, “no.” He’s not really committal on a lot of things like that. He kinda shrugged, “Yeah. Whatever.” You know how guys are?
Then I told him that before I sent the manuscript to the publisher he would get to read it. We sorta had a deal that I didn’t want him to change anything or be mindful of it during the year. Just live his life normally. And basically that was true. It wasn’t like I was taking notes. Life just went on normally and I was keeping the thing on my own in real time. He had final right of refusal (as did everyone in the family). So the manuscript went to Sam in late June and he read it overnight and he had a couple of tweaks.
I was amazed at what he left in. The things he took out were very minor and really were kind of money issues. So nothing…nothing really major came out.
I would not have sent this thing out without him seeing it. That’s certainly his life. It was the same with my cousin. There’s that powerful introduction with my cousin and the wake…
ATL_eagle: His son with the drug abuse?
DS: Yeah. I went to lunch with my cousin and showed him the chapter and made sure he was okay with it, ‘cause it’s such a private moment. You don’t share those kinds of things unless it is okay with the family. And Nicky was okay with it. He thanked me for it and he and his wife were happy with it.
ATL_eagle:: And I thought the stuff about Sam, especially the “teen” stuff – things you mention about his potential depression or getting in trouble here and there. Typical teen stuff, but I thought it was pretty brave of him to share and for you to share.
DS: Yeah. The book really wouldn’t work if it weren’t honest. It’s gotta be warts and all. Everybody’s got issues. Everybody’s got stuff in their house, you know?
The book is not really about Sam. The book is about the generic experience of being a parent and the high school experience and what this is like for everybody. Sam’s the vehicle through which we tell the story but I think if you don’t have warts and all, the perception is that “oh, this guy is writing a book about his kid because he thinks he’s a really good player.” Nobody wants to read that. Everybody thinks their kid is really good at something.
ATL_eagle: Now you mention the book was about the high school experience. Moving onto the college experience...in the book you reference Sam wanting to potentially be a small fish in a big pond versus going to a smaller school. And you talk about your daughters struggling for playing time and at bats at the college level. How was the first year of Sam playing Division I baseball and not seeing much playing time been for you as kind of his biggest fan?
DS: Well I think it is frustrating for everybody. Sam knew what he was getting into…and that was a big-time, DI program in the ACC. Freshman don’t see a lot of playing time. And he was ultimately redshirted. And it was frustrating for him and for me.
I think for the parents of a lot of people that is the experience when you take that route. Unless you are a superstar, which Sam is not. You aren’t going to play as a freshman and then you gotta try and fight your way on, which is what he is trying to do now.
ATL_eagle: Over the years many BC fans have pegged you as “anti-BC” because of your Holy Cross ties and the occasional quips you’ve made. Then I was surprised to find out you’re the son of a BC grad. Now that Sam is at BC, how has your perspective on the school changed?
DS: Well my dad went to BC (as you referenced) and I was planning on going there. Events sort of forced me into selecting Holy Cross.
You know, hey, the people at UMass think I’m anti-UMass…
It’s like when you hear the World Series broadcast, the fans in both cities always think the announcers are against them. So, no, there’s no anti-BC bias. They bring big-time college football and basketball to our region and without them we certainly wouldn’t have big-time college football.
I like the way they go about their business over there. I think Gene [Defilippo] is top shelf. It’s really a great experience.
Every kid I’ve met there is a happy kid, so I am very impressed with everything they’re doing.
ATL_eagle: You mentioned big-time football and big-time basketball…BC is obviously trying to upgrade its baseball program and facilities. And that’s been a hot button with the Brighton residents. You’re a long-time Newton resident. From a BC grad and BC student perspective it seems like we have the worst town-gown relationships in Boston. Harvard, Northeastern and BU can kind of do what they want without objection. Why do you think BC gets so much antagonism from Brighton and Newton and the locals, especially something like the new baseball stadium which wouldn’t be that big of an impact in the neighborhood?
DS: I’d quarrel with the distinction that BC gets a hard time. I think the people at Harvard would certainly say they get a hard time. But I also think that BC is bordering communities where people have money and they have means and they have voice and they have clout. It’s a little different if you’re bordering Chestnut Hill, Brookline, Newton as opposed to bordering Allston, where perhaps the constituency is not as loud and powerful. And [Allston] is more transient. Those factors go into it.
It doesn’t surprise me what BC goes through. A lot of people have been living in these regions a long time. When the school expands, you’re going to get that.
ATL_eagle: The Greater Boston area is clearly baseball obsessed. You’ve obviously got the Red Sox, the Cape Cod League, really strong youth leagues. The real exception is the support of college baseball. Do you see any situation where college baseball will catch on beyond the students and parents who are supporting these teams?
DS: Not really. I think that’s fine. Hey, it’s college baseball in the northeast. The weather is not going to change.
It’s hard enough for basketball, football and hockey. They certainly have a niche but given what’s going on with our pro teams, they don’t get what you get at Clemson or Ohio State (college towns). It’s always going to be a struggle and the big time sports feel that. The quote-unquote small-time sports are just not going to generate the kind of interest.
It’ll be nice when the ACC tournament goes through Fenway Park. You hope that the Eagles make the cut that year. But I think those are like the Olympics…it’s a once every few years event but on a day-to-day basis, I don’t think you’ll see it take hold.
ATL_eagle: One last question and being a blogger, I have to ask about this. I asked Bob Ryan about blogs and the future of the industry a year ago. He jokingly waived the white flag. Now the guy went out and got his own blog. And you famously mocked Curt Schilling’s blog. What do you see as the future of this new medium and how it effects sports writing and sports coverage?
I think it is nice for everyone to have a voice. Pete Hamel has a quote (and I had him on the radio last week) and he said, “blogging is therapy but it’s not journalism.” And that’s from Pete Hamel.
Certainly there’s just no editing process. There’s no vetting of material. I draw a real line at anonymity versus people having their name on there like yourself…I assume you do since I am talking to you.
ATL_eagle: Funny enough, I started off with just a nickname. Then the Atlanta Journal-Constitution featured me in their College Football Preview and I unveiled myself and now I write for AOL too with a byline.
DS: To me, except for the editing process, that’s legit. And that’s where it’s going. I just don’t have a lot of affinity for anonymous tough guys who kill everyone and we don’t know who they are. It’s just too easy. It’s the new crank phone call at that level. But when a name’s on there and they stand behind what they write then I think it’s great.