Freeman Journal

For those of you expecting to read the Quick Chat transcript this morning, you're going to have to wait one more day.  With all of the game coverage I didn't have time to do the transcribing.  We probably don't need an extra 7-9 pages of material this morning anyway.

Despair not, however!  We do have something interesting for you.  You may have noticed that Joe Freeman has joined Jason Quick on the Blazers beat this year.  Now that you've had a chance to see his work we thought it would be nice to give you a chance to learn a little bit about him.  He was gracious enough to answer a few questions for us.  This is not your standard "So You Want To Be..." feature.  We've already done that for beat writers.  It's just a chance to get to know more about Joe.  Enjoy!

Blazersedge:  Give us the basics of your history.  How did you get here?

I've got a weird "history." I was born in Tallahassee, Florida but split time growing up between Tallahassee and Anchorage, Alaska. I know ... it's nuts. Long story short, my parents divorced when I was young, my dad moved to Anchorage and I shuttled back and forth through the years. But I went to high school in Anchorage and when you go to high school in Anchorage the prevailing thing on your mind is, "I've got to get the heck out of here when I go to college." It's cold, dark and there's not much to do. So most high school kids look at attending schools in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and California. It's as close to Alaska as you're going to get. Anyway, I attended the University of Portland out of high school in 1995 and graduated in 1999.

I had a brief internship with the Tallahassee Democrat in the summer of 1997 and then served as an intern at The Oregonian in the fall of 1998. My internship actually wasn't in sports, but when a part-time job opened up the next spring, the internship director recommended me, I got an interview and got the job. I actually started working at The O before I graduated college. I was pretty lucky.

Before I took over this beat, I covered every sport imaginable for the paper: hockey, auto racing, the Mariners, University of Portland men's hoops, cyclocross racing (don't ask), skateboarding, and on and on. I even had a brief stint as the prep sports editor. But I almost exclusively covered high school sports. It was a great way to get started in the business and learn about Oregon. I traveled all over the state, from Ashland to Burns to Coos Bay, writing about athletes and coaches and trends. There are a lot of great stories surrounding high school sports and there is a lot of passion from parents and fans. I not only grew as a writer but also discovered a lot about the beauty and culture of Oregon.

Blazersedge:  What was your initial reaction when you found you'd be doing the Blazer beat?  Just another job?  A little flutter of excitement?

When I first heard the idea was being floated around that I might be covering the Blazers, I had a mix of surprise, excitement and anxiety. I wasn't nervous about the job, but wary of the travel. I've been married for three years and I was a bit concerned about the impact travel would have on my marriage. But fortunately I have a very understanding and supportive wife. She's a big sports fan (played college soccer and softball, in fact) and she even worked a couple years at The Oregonian, so she understands the business. I'm very lucky for that.

Outside of that anxiety, I was very excited and eager to start the new beat. I've always been the kind of guy who shoots for the pinnacle of whatever it is I'm doing, and covering the Blazers is the top beat in the sports department, and one of the top beats, I think, at the paper.

Blazersedge:   If someone were playing a word association game with you and said, "Trailblazers" what would come to mind?

Work. Kidding. I'd probably say promise. The organization has made such a big deal about the future and we've fostered it because the Blazers really do seem to have a bright future ahead. Are they going to make the playoffs this season? Probably not. But I don't think they would have been a playoff team even before Greg Oden was lost for the season. But when these young guys grow and play together for a couple years -- and Pritchard is handed all that cap room -- the Blazers should be a factor in the league again.

Blazersedge:  You've spent a couple months in the saddle so far and have made some first impressions about the organization and its players.  What stands out the most for you?

This is my first foray into covering the league, so I don't know much about other organizations. But I can't imagine there being an easier, more accommodating franchise to work with. Kevin Pritchard and Nate McMillan are extremely accessible and forthcoming. The players seem to be genuinely nice and hardworking. And the public relations and communications staff is friendly and helpful. I can't speak to what things were like before I hit the scene in the spring, but I have heard horror stories about the previous regime. There has been a great transformation with this franchise on the court and off the court, and I think it has been overwhelmingly positive. I always tell people that I've got great timing. I landed this job at the perfect time.

Blazersedge:  What are some of the joys and challenges you anticipate as you work this beat?

The joys for me will be watching this team and franchise grow. Will it fulfill potential and become a league power? Will injuries continue to hinder progress? Or is everyone wrong and is this team simply not destined for a turnaround? I'm going to have a front row seat to watch all of this and I'm going to have an opportunity to chronicle the difficulties and milestones that accompany a franchise in transition. That's exciting.

The challenges are the challenges that come with the job: deadlines, fallout from hard-hitting stories, travel and the fact that I'll be working nonstop, essentially on call, until April. The biggest transition for me professionally is access. I love getting to know the subjects I write about and I love going behind the scenes to give readers and fans insight and candor they can't normally get. How great was it reading my story on Oden over the summer, learning that he was still living in his mom's apartment, still driving her Ford Taurus and still grubbing at Cheeseburger in Paradise? Well, I had to have access to tell that story. And that access is much easier to gain with amateur athletes.

Blazersedge:  What roles do you see yourself fulfilling in your position?  What do you want to accomplish?

I'm still getting to know the players and staff and people involved with the organization. And, really, I'm still learning about the league. The first few weeks (and to a certain degree, the first season) are about getting acclimated to the beat and finding a working rhythm. I'm very fortunate in that I get to work with Jason Quick, who is a good friend and one of the best NBA writers in the country. He's great to work with and I've already learned a ton from him during my brief time on the beat. We have different styles, but we hope to accomplish the same things: be the best at what we do and inform fans and readers about everything surrounding the team. We are the eyes and ears of readers.

Blazersedge:  What's your impression of Blazer fans so far?  Have you gotten much feedback?

Blazers fans are like any other sports fans (including myself). They're sensitive and passionate and inquisitive and they want to know everything about their team. And, yes, I hear from them all the time. I'm a huge Florida State football fan (remember, I was born in Tallahassee) and I live and die by game days (when I actually have time to watch). I read six Florida papers on the internet every day to stay informed. I know that some Blazers fans read my stories with the same fervor. Going back to the previous question, I think I'm doing my job if I'm satisfying these fans -- the ones who are as passionate about the Blazers as I am about the Seminoles.

Blazersedge:  Which will happen first, the Blazers winning a championship or you winning a Pulitzer?

This is a brutal question. I'm either crushing myself or crushing the Blazers. Can I say both will happen in the same season? No, I think it's safe to say the Blazers will win another championship long before I capture journalism's top honor. It's not like they hand those things out to sportswriters every year.

Blazersedge:  Anything else you want to say to the masses of Blazer fans out there?

It's an exhilarating time in Blazers history and it's a wonderful time to be a fan. Be patient and enjoy it.  

Thanks to Joe for spending some time with us.  Not only is his work top-notch, he's a stand-up guy as well.

--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com)

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