Post Watch: Harlan Would Rather Write About the Real Hot Dogs – Washingtonian
The other day, We’ve Got Heart brought to the Natmosphere’s attention a Washingtonian magazine profile of Chico Harlan, Nationals beat writer for The Post. I was able to read it this afternoon. In that profile, “Post Watch: Harlan Would Rather Write About the Real Hot Dogs,” Harlan told reporter Harry Jaffe of the Post Watch section that “I don’t like sports — I am embarrassed that I cover them” and “I can’t wait to stop.” It is a means to an end and a paycheck.”
Those statements did not go over too well in some quarters for understandable reasons. My take — whatever, though it explains the initial level of coverage he provided when he took over the beat last season. It struck me as being written by someone who was cocky and probably too into himself. However, Harlan has improved and if he is doing it despite not liking his job, well that speaks well to his professionalism. He still tries to hit you over the head with snark sometimes, rather the nuanced writing of his predecessor Barry Svrluga,who had his own Washingtonian profile in 2005 (just an image, the link died).
Harlan has already apologized on the Nationals Journal blog and I am not even going to bother parsing it out. I see Harlan’s point and add that being sportswriter never had much appeal to me or at least not after I read Boys of Summer by Roger Kahn. The classic book about covering the 1952-53 Brooklyn Dodgers detailed his coverage of the team and among many insights, reveals that he tired of the extensive travel, endless season, boredom and tedium that is the beat writer’s life. Kahn also noted that no matter what he did after his days on that beat, people wanted to talk about the Dodgers which frustrated him. Baseball is probably the hardest sport to cover though if you like to see your name in print, there may be no better beat — in 2005 Svrluga led the Post for number of stories published.
What will happen to Harlan, I cannot say. I have a feeling his superiors will grumble1, fans will bombard him in his next chat and he might have a few tough days in the clubhouse. Then a few players will tell him off the record that they feel the same way about playing baseball as he does about writing about it. Oh and by the way, Harlan, while there are probably 75 or so MLB beats in American newspapers (maybe more), but I bet there are even fewer food writer beats these days.
Also, in this month’s Washingtonian is “Heavy Hitters,” an article with a big photograph of Frank Howard that talks about D.C. baseball sluggers.