The Overhead Compartment with Jeremy Schaap

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Everyone was born to do something. Michael Jordan was born to play basketball, Pablo Picasso to paint, Beyonce to sing. Jeremy Schaap was born to tell stories. Known for his in-depth coverage of stories that range from subjects who persevere through tragedy to hard-hitting injustices around the globe, Schaap has seen it all and delivered the words and pictures to his viewers as few ever have before. Schaap, who joined ESPN in 1994, is about to re-launch the magazine show he helped make successful, E:60, which has been on the air for ten years and for the first time will now have a permanent day and time, Sundays 9 a.m. ET. The Overhead Compartment was thrilled to catch up with this award winning journalist to get a few insights into how his mind works and what it’s like to cover everything from the Olympics to the working conditions in Qatar.


The Overhead Compartment with Jeremy Schaap starts now…..

OC: You literally grew up in the sports media. How have you seen it change most?

JS: The quality of interaction between athletes and the media is entirely different now than a generation ago. The athletes are walled off now, even in their locker rooms and clubhouses. In general, the relationship is more adversarial. That’s a function of a lot of different factors, including increased professionalism on the part of the media. The question is whether it benefits sports fans.

OC: Among your specialties are the long format, magazine pieces for E60. How long does a story generally take to report and produce?

JS: It depends. Some of the best stories I’ve worked on were turned around quickly, in a matter of days. Others have been reported over the course of years, like the Qatar investigation we aired in 2014. Some require months of reporting before we shoot anything. Others are delayed because the story keeps changing. But, in general, our stories, from beginning to end, from the first phone call to the last edit, take a few months.

OC: What are the most important issues facing sports today?

JS: I think we are just beginning to understand the effects of head trauma on athletes. The story is still in its infancy. The issue isn’t about to be resolved.

OC: What is the challenge to credible journalism in this age of social media?

JS: The challenge is maintaining standards and professionalism in the face of the immediacy of social media. Reporting requires time. Tweeting doesn’t. Reporting relies on layers of editing and fact-checking. Tweeting doesn’t. The temptation to be a star on Twitter—to react immediately, to be cheeky, to build a brand—often runs counter to the fundamentals of journalism. People starting out in the business are being asked to be pundits before they’ve really learned the fundamentals. That’s dangerous.

OC: Which sport (or sports) tend to produce the most interesting athletes?

JS: Boxing. Boxing is the hardest sport. Boxers are risking more and usually rewarded less than other athletes. It’s just the fighter in the ring, risking everything. Humiliation is always possible, not just injury or defeat. They might not be inherently more interesting than any other athletes, but what they do is more interesting, to me, anyway, and because they risk so much they tend to be more open about themselves. I think they are easier to reach.

OC: If you had to pick only one sport to report on, which would it be?

JS: I love covering international sports events, such as the Olympics and World Cup. I grew up obsessing over baseball—but I never get to cover the games these days. Don’t make me choose one.

OC: Your travels have taken you all over. What was your favorite city?

JS: I’ve been lucky to spend a lot of time in Paris, covering everything from the World Cup to the French Open, the Euros and the Tour de France. I am an eater, so there’s Rome, too, and all the usual suspects, like London and Barcelona and Montreal and Tokyo. Of the more unusual suspects, there are Lyon and Turin. In both, the food is insane.

OC: What do you do in your downtime if you have any?

JS: With three young kids, downtime is their time, for the most part. Aquariums, natural history museums, trips to the playground—anything with the kids is fun. I also spend a lot of time immersed in books about the World War Two era, fiction and non-fiction.

OC: What was the most memorable Olympic moment you witnessed in person?

JS: I’ve covered eight Olympic games, but I have seen very little of those games in person. I was typically either working in the broadcast center for one of the rights-holders or, for ESPN, standing in a scenic location reporting on things going on in the arenas. I try to see at least one event live and in person at each games and in Beijing I did see Usain Bolt lead the Jamaicans to gold in the 4 x 100-meter relay. That was awesome. So was the gold medal men’s hockey game in Salt Lake City in 2002. Canada’s first gold in the event since 1952. That was great and I interviewed Mario Lemieux afterwards. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman pulled him out of the Canadians’ party to do it.

OC: Has there been any improvement in the circumstances surrounding Qatar?

JS: I am hoping to return to see for myself. At this point, I would say there has been minimal improvement.

OC: What will your next book be and when can we expect it?

JS: Good question. I am open to ideas.

OC: You’re a New Yorker, what’s the one thing a visitor must not miss?

JS: This is embarrassing, but as a native New Yorker I have never visited the Statue of Liberty or the top of the Empire State Building. I think that’s fairly typical, actually. When people come in from out of town, I say, “Walk through Central Park.” The park is essential.

OC: Top three restaurants anywhere in the world?

JS: Now that’s tough. But here goes (these are not good choices for people who hope to avoid bypass surgery):

Patsy’s (New York City)

Wolfgang’s Steakhouse (New York City)

Barney Greengrass (New York City)

OC: First thing you do when arriving at a hotel in your room?

JS: Charge my stupid phone.

OC: Complete the following sentence: I never leave home without:

JS: My microphone and digital audio recorder. You never know when you’ll have to record an interview or track a script.

Jeremy Schaap, please use care upon departure as items may have shifted in The Overhead Compartment during our journey. Thanks for choosing us for your travel tips! Have a wonderful day!