Mirin Fader, writer for Bleacher Report, joins the Women’s Hoops and Talks podcast to talk about her experiences covering a variety of interesting people. From observing LaMelo Ball in cold and lonely Lithuania (The LaMelo Show), to hanging out in a basement with the close-knit Antetokounmpo brothers (The Rise of the Next Antetokounmpo), to comparing lip gloss with the Las Vegas Aces’ Liz Cambage (Unapologetically Liz), Fader has immersed herself in the lives of the people she profiles to bring us their unique and compelling stories.
We learn what it takes to get to the heart of the stories she tells. What drives her to keep going even when things are going wrong? What is interesting about covering young players at the beginning of their careers? What is different about covering men and women? Why is it important that she not be a part of the story? From Trail Blazer rookie Nassir Little to Trail Blazer arch nemesis Bill Laimbeer, we covered so much in this conversation.
1:00 Icebreaker: If you could have any basketball player DJ your summer pool party who would you pick?
3:00 Introducing Mirin Fader and how she got into basketball and writing.
4:05 Fader writes long form stories about athletes.
5:00 What was it like writing the LaMelo show? She was a California girl who went to Lithuania in the middle of winter. It was really hard. Didn’t have access to the family, snuck into practices, didn’t have a translator. Her editor was a huge support for her, made her take care of herself.
10:30 What motivated her to keep going when it was so cold and bleak and dark and she was so far from home? It was her biggest shot she’d had and was determined to push through the obstacles. Felt a tremendous amount of pressure to prove herself and write a great piece.
12:30 Lasting images from the piece? LaMelo’s face when the camera was off. He never really had agency to do what he wanted to do. There was a big juxtaposition between when the cameras were on and the cameras were off.
14:20 A more recent piece that she wrote was The Rise of the Next Antetokounmpo, about Giannis’s youngest brother Alex. The piece is both remarkably similar and totally opposite of the LaMelo ball story. It was really different covering the two boys even though there were some surface-level similarities to their stories.
17:00 Some lasting impressions from the Antetokounmpo piece were that Giannis is so much more complex than people really know, and how hard it is to be a young person who is trying to make it in the NBA.
18:50 For the Nassir Little piece, it ended up more interesting than she thought it would be because he struggled. What do you do when the plan doesn’t go as you expected?
20:20 Fader feels like Portland will be a good place for Little. From profiling him she felt that he was very mature and he learned a lot from his year in North Carolina. A lot of young players have a lot of highlights but they don’t know as much about fundamentals. She likes talking to young players because their journey as they work through this is really interesting.
24:00 The beginning and the end of someone’s career are the most interesting to her. Especially as they are just taking off. Many of them are also excited to talk to a reporter because it is a new thing for them.
26:00 Regarding her recent piece, WHO GON’ CHECK THE LAS VEGAS ACES? Fader noted on Twitter that there were so many things she left out. What are some of those stories that didn’t make the final cut? Funny moments with Bill (Laimbeer), plus there was a lot more to the eyelashes story. It was really hard to lose those anecdotes.
29:00 As Blazer fans it is against our nature to like Bill Laimbeer, but he was such a good character in the story. What was he really like? He is someone who can let things go. “For the people in his world, he will do anything. He loves this team.”
31:00 What differences has she noticed about hanging out in women’s locker rooms and men’s locker rooms? There are some connections that she can make with women that just don’t happen with men, like sharing a favorite kind of lipgloss or talking about having kids some day. For the most part in men’s locker rooms she gets treated with respect, but even when that respect is there, there is just a different kind of comfort with women.
34:00 On why it is important to her to not be a part of the story.
36:00 She has sportswriters and non-sportwriters who she admires. Jeff Pearlman and Chrstina Tapper are two people who really helped her and provided support. “As much as writing can feel like a solitary activity, it’s not.” As you found your voice as a storyteller, who are some of the people who provided mentorship?
38:00 Visit her website to find more of her work.
38:30 Cookie talk!
Music used in the episode: “Happy Alley” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com) Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License