So when the bosses are in the athlete She asked me to write this welcome letter to introduce myself as a new writer at Jets, I tried to devise something that would fit the team I’m covering right now.
Instead of writing a straight introduction, I turned to someone who knows me better than anyone else, for a Q&A to help our subscribers really get to know me and get a sense of what my Gates coverage would look like.
This is it:
Here is a copy of that one on None:
So, who are you?
This is your first question?
sigh. Just tell me who you are and what our “Zack Rosenblatt, Jets writer” subscribers get.
They assign a person to write detailed, compelling, and informative stories about the Jets and the characters in and around the organization. I’ve been writing professionally for nearly 10 years now, spending the first half of my career in Tucson, Arizona, covering everything from college basketball and soccer to the Arizona Daily Star rodeo. (I also once wrote about the lumberjack contest.) I’ve covered the Sixers (briefly), the Eagles (for a little over two seasons) and the Giants (over the past two years) for Star-Ledger. I’ve always worked hard to dig deep and find the most interesting angles that haven’t been written yet. And I love telling stories about the people in and around an organization, what makes them tick – and how they got here.
I will continue to do all of this in the athlete.
Give us some examples.
For the past two years, I (like everyone) have had to get creative because of the pandemic. It still baffles me that I spent two years as the Giants beat the Star-Ledger writer and never stepped into a Giants locker room. Honestly, I’m so glad I got through it – although I’m even happier to be back in the locker rooms this year – because it forced me to think outside the box (and out of the team building) to find interesting stories. (And that “interesting” part becomes especially tricky when you’re covering a bad and ineffective team like the 2021 Giants.)
In 2020, an assistant coach for Giants told me that Leonard Williams (do you remember him?) became obsessed with deep-sea fishing in his spare time. The image of a 300-pound man holding a spear underwater and killing a fish struck me… At that point, Williams was tired of answering questions about not turning his stress into bags (a familiar subject for Jets fans), so he was thrilled when I opened our singles home and asked him about Deep sea fishing. He turned open about how the activity helped clear his mind after all his struggles with the Jets and start his career at the Giants, along with why he feels the Giants employees unlock his talent better than anyone else on the Jets. In his mind, at least.
Another interesting one: last year during joint practices with Brown in Cleveland, someone – the athleteDan Duggan, I think — Joe Judge jokingly asked who was the best Philadelphia-area Catholic high school player in the early 2000s, or Browns coach Kevin Stefansky? Instead of taking the bait, the judge gave a real answer (and a detailed poll report) on a man named Brett Gordon. I tracked down Gordon that afternoon and it turns out he didn’t play football after college and is now a software developer in Philadelphia. He certainly wasn’t expecting a phone call from a reporter about his high school football career after 20 years.
There have been other stories like this from the past few years that fit the mold of What I Want To Do On The Jets athlete. I’ve also written about Dave Gittleman’s past as a high school driver education teacher, Eli Manning coaching the fourth-grade girls’ basketball team in retirement, and most recently the story of the flashy daysuit worn by Jermaine Johnson of the Jets.
These are the kinds of stories I get excited about writing as I fly to the beat of the planes.
Yes, but what else do you do?
everything. During bootcamp – and during the season – I will get detailed feedback and tips from the training. I always try to satiate those with details and information that fans can’t get just by watching the rehearsals from the stands or checking out Twitter. Beyond that, my coverage will look like it’s NFL coverage the athlete: in-depth analysis, notebooks, columns, questions and answers – all results.
I think I’m really excited to interact with our subscribers, do mail bags and really get to know the Jets fans (and others) who interact with my stories. At my last job, they disabled the comments section a few years ago, so I can’t wait to get back to hearing what readers think about what I’m writing other than the usual angry emails and tweets.
These are New York sports fans. Are you ready to scream, like, all the time?
Well, I once had the vultures covered.
But yeah, I’m not only ready, but I welcome it. I’ve loved interacting with Giants fans for the past couple of years – and they were often grumpy. A mentor once gave me advice that I have carried with me throughout my career. He told me to look for criticism rather than run from it, and to walk into my editor’s office and say, “Tell me why this sucks.” I think this applies to more than just my editors. I welcome criticism from anyone, especially if it’s constructive – but more so if it’s funny.
What’s the funniest thing an angry fan has said to you?
I once got an email saying, based on how many times I criticized Dave Gettleman, he must have said something mean to my mom.
Well, did he do that?
No, Dave Gittleman didn’t say anything to my mom. It was just a bad GM.
Well, you’re covering planes now. Enough of the giants. Tell us something about planes.
Whatever comes to your mind.
Larry David Jets fan part “Curb Your Enthusiasm” still bothers me. One of my best friends is a huge fan of the Jets, and he’s always sad. I’ve covered some of the past/current jets of my career, including (over the top of my head): Leonard Williams, Josh McCown, Vinnie Curry, Will Parks, as well as future Hall of Famers like Eric Tomlinson, Corey Ballentine and Deontay Burnett. Eagles covered in 2018-2019 as well when Joe Douglas was still around – and also worked to help cover both Robert Saleh’s introductory press conference and Woody Johnson’s first media rally after returning from four years later.
How do you know that Gates beat former writer Conor Hughes?
Connor and I are friends. He has much better hair (and more) on his head than I do. We are both obsessed with Marvel movies. We both love Pizza Joe. He plays golf. Me, no. We’ve technically worked together for a while at Star-Ledger before the athlete I cleaned him. But I followed his work long before we became friends, and I know I’ve got a big shoe to fill this rhythm the athlete. I’ve gained quite a following here and I just want to continue building on what I started. I also can’t wait (can’t wait!) to start podcasting on the Jets too with Tim McMaster and Marissa Dunn.
Let’s end it here: Why do you want to work at the athlete?
I’ve been wanting to work here since it started in 2017 and a good friend of mine (Ari Wasserman) was hired to cover Ohio. He told me all about it, and I became obsessed with the idea of working for a company that was so focused on giving its subscribers the kind of high-quality sports writing that I wanted to get into this business in the first place.
I wanted to become a sports writer before I even knew I wanted to be a sports writer. As a kid – starting in elementary school – I read the sports section of the Courier-Post and the Philadelphia Inquirer every morning before school. On my birthdays, my parents got subscriptions to ESPN The Magazine, Sports Illustrated, SLAM, and other magazines throughout my childhood. I used to take them all with me in the car. I am now having a navigational challenge (I never know how to get anywhere) because I was so attached to everything I was reading that I never even looked out the window.
People have asked me “If you weren’t a sports writer, what would you be?” And I have no answer. That’s all I wanted to do.
Through this post, I’ve also seen a chance to cover the Jets which should, at least, be fun to watch this season – and maybe even win a few games if Zach Wilson becomes the quarterback they need. This should be a fun young team, with an interesting coaching staff, and I’m excited to be sympathetic to the fan base and learn the ins and outs of this organization.
I am eager to prove that I belong to the athlete.
I can’t wait to get started.
(Photo: Brad Benner/USA Today)