Daniel Horton called me out for something I had written about him in a Daily article.

Jess Cox

In an article I described a collared shirt he wore as “metallic.” Daniel told me several times the description was “ridiculous.”

I guess I should have said silver.

Briefly after our informal exchange, we rose from our seats along the corridor of courtroom four at the Washtenaw County Courthouse.

Daniel pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor five minutes later.

This guy hates my guts.

Understandable, since I covered his criminal trial. I’m telling people who will never meet him what kind of shirt he’s wearing while his life is on trial. I’d hate me too, or, at least be so annoyed with my presence that I’d have to make a critical remark.

But I wasn’t entirely sure how personally to take the comment until I found myself face to face with Horton again — about a month later — outside of Wendy’s in the Union.

We made eye contact.

I saw his body slowly swing away from an engaging conversation.

I turned to appease the situation, thinking: Dan must still hate me.

And then, while I awkwardly searched for words, he extended his hand to shake mine.

We talked about the hockey team and his summer plans. And then we wished each other the best of luck.

A classy move.

Another life lesson learned. And I’ve heard these types of stories over and over from my colleagues at the Daily. I’d like to share some of them with you.

One of the perks is getting to interact with the athletes and coaches (Michigan or non-Michigan) — a relationship in which there lies a mutual respect. Well … most of the time.

 

“(Hockey player) Mike Woodford said to me once, ‘Tell him to go fuck himself… yeah, go fuck yourself man,’ after I wrote a story that said he hadn’t played much to start the season,” hockey writer Ian Herbert said. “But later, he came up to me and shook my hand.

“Milan Gajic is always pretty hilarious to talk to. He always speaks his mind and has fun with reporters. He shoots pucks at reporters who are standing behind the glass and then comes off the ice and goes, ‘Oh Jeez, not you guys again.’ ”

And sometimes, the coaches will say that you asked a stupid question, like softball coach Carol Hutchins did to staffer Jamie Josephson, or a player will mock you like Michigan women’s basketball player Kelly Helvey did to beat writer Matt Venegoni.

Other times, they’ll hug you in the locker room after a game or write you an e-mail saying how much they appreciated an article.

More importantly, you’ll gain the truest perspective of a person. It’s all about interaction.

Said staffer Ellen McGarrity: “Last summer, while interning for ESPN The Magazine, I was sent to a party at Sony Recording Studios to interview Ron Artest. One of the vocal groups he manages — Allure — was having an album release party and Ron was promoting the group. The crazy thing about it was that Artest is actually the nicest athlete I’ve ever interacted with. What struck me about the interview was that he treated me as if I were an equally interesting person. So, of course, I was shocked when just a couple months later, he was put on probation from the NBA for his aggressive actions at the Palace. It just made me realize that athletes and celebrities in general often have many more sides to them than the media decides to show us.”

What drives us is not the personal joy we take in meeting these famous — or not-so-famous — people, but, even if only for a brief moment, humanizing them. Most of us fail to realize that athletes are extraordinary beyond just the physical; they are some of the wisest, most inspiring men and women to walk the planet.

And we get to ask them questions.

Staffer Jack Herman can attest.

“One of the most inspirational people that I have interviewed here was Michigan boxing coach Christian Roux. He could not walk as a child, and through boxing he not only managed to learn how to walk but boxed his first match like a year after he started training.  Then, he coached a group of brothers who won a ton of Swiss and European championships and then coached one of the brothers to become a world champion.”

At Michigan, these people are all around us; Olympians like gymnast Elise Ray and swimmer Peter Vanderkaay may sit next to you in your early-morning psychology lecture; national champions like wrestler Ryan Bertin or runner Nate Brannen may meet you at the UGLI for a group-project; even future NFL stars like Michigan wide receiver Braylon Edwards may party with you at Scorekeepers.

All of them have pushed themselves further than you can imagine. All of them have inspired young kids. All of them have a story that needs to be told so that you can realize, “Well if this person beat the odds, maybe I can too.”

As clichéd and sappy as it sounds, we are all here because of each other. Never in my life have I seen such an eclectic group of students — of all races, genders, personalities, religious affiliations, whatever — assembled to work together to create such a massive, tangible piece of work. On a daily basis.

“(I’ll miss) everything,” said Ian Herbert, the Managing Sports Editor. “The late nights — here until 2, 3, or 4 a.m. and then going home and not quite wanting to go to bed yet because I’m still giddy from the nightside. I don’t think I’d get that at my next job.”

Giddy because of staffers like Jack Herman, whose brutal honesty and easy-going nature makes us all cry with laughter when he tells stories of high-school hijinx and hookups.

And most of us — even Herbert, who’s our boss — never even considered joining the sports staff as underclassmen.

“I did computer science for almost two years before I started at the Daily and for another year before I realized CS wasn’t for me,” Herbert said. “I remember calling my dad my first semester after coming to the Daily crying because I didn’t think that I could do CS, English, my job that paid me money so that I could pay rent and buy food, and the Daily all at the same time. He told me to quit everything else before I quit the Daily, and that was probably the best advice I ever got.”

And some of us just wanted to find our place at such a large university.

“I thought that it would be a good extracurricular, and I love sports,” Venegoni said. “I figured it would be pretty easy and fun. Well, two years later, I’m still here and it’s not as easy as I thought, but it is a blast. Plus, I wanted to leave some kind of mark on this place (Michigan). I figured that, if I was ever lucky enough to get a column, I could be unique in some kind of way.”

Of the 30 sports staffers, about 10 to 15 of us want to pursue sports journalism professionally. Venegoni, a pre-med student, cut his Christmas break short to cover a Michigan-Michigan State women’s basketball game. Basketball beat writers Josh Holman, a future lawyer, and Brian Schick, a future history teacher, traveled to Georgia Tech on a Tuesday night to cover a men’s basketball game. Just this past weekend, softball writers Seth Gordon, 25, and Kevin Wright, 18, drove to Wisconsin and Minnesota to cover the team.

Where else on campus can freshmen and seniors bond so tightly, save for a fraternity party?

All of us have sacrificed to cover events at some point. But, as Detroit Free Press baseball writer/Daily staff mentor John Lowe likes to say, “The Daily is your real education.”

It truly is.

I’ll let the words of my colleague and friend, staffer Dan Bremmer, bring you down the back-stretch.

“Michigan-Michigan State football game this year. Standing two feet away from the pylon for overtime was amazing and looking back at the student section when we scored and won the game — I don’t think I’ll ever forget that.  It was so intense during overtime that I could barely even stand up — my knees were shaking.”

Can’t feel that way sitting in class reading the Daily, can you?

So, why not join us.

 

Eric would like to thank John Lowe for everything he has done. Eric can be reached at eambinde@umich.edu.

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