Sarah Stephens won the amateur all-around title for mule riding with Lizzy.

Sarah Stephens won the amateur all-around title for mule riding with Lizzy.


Remember how I used to write about NFL players and other famous people?

There were people who were classy and nice (Philip Rivers, Darren Sproles), people who were ambivalent (LaDainian Tomlinson, Marcus McNeill) and people who were mostly jerks (Shawne Merriman, Antonio Cromartie).

Or going back to the late 1990s, a person who was a major, major jerk: Hello, Ryan Leaf!

This past week, I met up with someone who is the amateur world champion in her sport and it was a terrific experience. It’s probably because none of the silly sports athlete ego junk is in play.

That’s your cue to read here about Sarah Stephens in the Meridian Press: Champion Mule Rider. The story about Stephens and her mule, Lizzy, also ran in the Idaho Press-Tribune.

The woman won the amateur all-around championship for mule riding last May and basically nobody knew until I got wind of it. And you know what, I put in the same type of effort into the reporting, interviewing and writing as I did when I was writing about sports legends like Meadowlark Lemon, Tony Gwynn and Joe Montana.

The story about Stephens won’t end up in the Congressional record like my award-winning concussions project in 2007 that prompted former NFL lineman Brent Boyd to be invited to testify before Congress. But it reminds me of one of my strengths that I don’t get to use in my current writing/editing gig — my ability as a storyteller.

It’s a lost art in today’s sports journalism era where too many writers or far more concerned with their tweeting ability, often paying half-attention during games. The quality of sports game stories has dropped considerably and that’s a shame because they need to be better than ever to keep the attention of today’s two-second, attention-span crowd.

So I’m perfectly fine writing about people like Stephens — in addition to her riding ventures, she co-owns WilliB’s Saloon in Northwest Boise — and not talking to coaches who lie (Hi Norv Turner!) or having to deal with silly egos (backup clowns like Billy Volek) or the innocuous behavior of nobody folks like pro sports public relations dorks.

You see, I like it more when the writing, reporting and interviewing process is fun. You know, like writing about Sarah Stephens.



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