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Vol. 51, No. 3 March 2014 .pdf version
ESPN.com's Brennan wins Rising Star award
Before Eamonn Brennan entered into the blogosphere for the ride of his life, there was a USBWA-related event in 2006 that convinced him that becoming a sportswriter was in fact a journey that he wanted to take.
Back then, Brennan was an Indiana University student who was attending the USBWA's "Fullcourt Press," an event held for college students in Bloomington, Ind., just prior to that Final Four. Brennan won a writing contest that allowed him to attend the Florida-UCLA championship game held at the Final Four in Indianapolis.
Brennan was also at something of a personal crossroads. Other students at the Indiana Daily Student were having difficulty finding jobs. Entering law school was looking like a legitimate alternative option.
"Winning that award was a huge affirmation," Brennan recalled. "But it was also that weekend that Mike DeCourcy and Bob Ryan and a handful of other legendary USBWA writers were in Indy for a panel discussion. I hung out afterward. I remember Bob Ryan talking about how important it is to love the game and how quickly people get cynical and it can become just a job. And that if you don't love it, you shouldn't do it.
"And I loved it. I really did. I loved writing about sports and everything around it, and I thought hearing that, as much as winning any award, was my affirmation to follow through and really try to make it work."
Now the 28-year-old Brennan has another USBWA honor coming his way the Rising Star award, voted on by the four previous winners given annually to a member who is under 30 and has exhibited excellence in covering college basketball.
Brennan forged a non-traditional path to a career at ESPN.com that began in 2009.
After taking a class on Internet awareness, Brennan and a classmate created a blogsite that turned into jobs at AOL, Yahoo! and totally out of the blue as a 24-year-old ESPN.com.
Brennan, who admits that he wasn't much of a networker, acknowledges that this was much different from the usual landing an internship at a newspaper, hoping to get a prep beat that leads to something bigger.
"I kind of got to short-circuit that process," Brennan said. "I don't think that would have been possible even 10 years ago. I don't think I was so brilliant that, a hundred years ago, I would have been given a column. I don't think that's true at all.
"Being out front (of college basketball blogs) was more about luck than any ingenuity on my part. It certainly helped."
Brennan said he could have been happy to be strictly a fulltime blogger at ESPN.com.
But his sports editor, Brett Edgerton, immediately began assigning him to features, columns and game stories as well.
"It drove home the point early that (those skills) were going to be required," Brennan said.
Brennan also credits managing editor David Albright, colleges editor David Duffey and current and former colleagues Dana O'Neil, Andy Katz and Pat Forde for being mentors.
"I owe an immense debt of gratitude to them," he said.
Four years ago, Brennan said he would have called himself a blogger. Today, he calls himself a basketball writer, one who wants to become better at writing features and columns, developing sources and breaking news and reporting on longer stories.
"It's hard to pinpoint one thing," he said. "I want to be better at all of it."
One year ago, Brennan took first place in the USBWA's best writing contest for his game story/spot news on a buzzer-beating shot by Duke's Austin Rivers in a game against North Carolina.
Bob Ryan might be happy to hear that Brennan still finds it a thrill to cover a Final Four, among other things college-basketball related.
"It sounds kind of cheesy, but I'm still, even now, feeling like, Man, this is really cool,'" Brennan said. "I'm in this thing with people who, not too long ago, I was reading. And I thought those were the coolest people and, man, wouldn't it be awesome to have that job?"
Yes, he discovered, it is.
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