Turning the tables, athletes grill Tom Hsieh ’08 for April Fool’s Day

To celebrate the spirit of April Fool’s, Yale athletes get to strike back at The Yale Daily News. Men’s basketball players Chris Andrews ’09 and Matt Kyle ’08 come back to question Thomas Hsieh ’08 about his writing and tenure at the News, while women’s tennis captain Lilian Nguyen ’09 puts in her own two cents.

LN: How do you decide what angle to go on?

TH: Because we’re at a school with a lot of different individuals, and especially for college athletics, every athlete is so different. These are people you go to class with, sit down in the dining halls and eat with and see all the time — unlike pro athletes, where you see them on TV and have that distance. In a sense, professional athletes don’t seem that real. With college athletes, it’s so much easier to get in touch with them personally, to find out what drives them and what their story is because every athlete has his or her own story to tell. From there, it’s a matter of just sitting down with that person and having a genuine and sincere conversation to find out what makes that person tick.

CA: So you mentioned that every athlete has their own story and that you and your editors do a great job of creating angle-driven stories. With that said, if you had to write an angle-driven story about yourself, what woyuld that story be?

TH: In some ways, it would almost be similar to your story, when we were talking about how after you got injured, you got to start seeing a lot more of Yale. When I came in as a freshman, I was really focused on walking onto the football team and wanting to play football in college. That took up a lot of my freshman year. I didn’t really have the chance to get involved in freshman activities. I missed most of Freshman Olympics because I had to run out to spring ball. After I stopped playing, it was a chance for me to start realizing what Yale had to offer me and to start getting involved with different organizations such as the YDN.

MK: Being involved with the YDN, do you feel like the time you’ve spent here has been rewarding and, if so, how?

TH: I think it’s a lot more rewarding now that I don’t have to be here five nights a week. Last year as a [production and design] editor, it was a lot harder and more stressful. But yeah, it’s been great. If you asked me four years ago whether I liked writing or not, I would have said I hated writing the most of all the things that I could do. Being able to write has allowed me to express myself and meet a lot of interesting people.

MK: Earlier in the year, there was an up-and-down arrow thing on the bottom of the YDN, and I just wanted to know who wrote the one about me — because it seemed like it was from a certain angle. It called me: “Where’d that come from Matty?” And I was like wondering, “Who could this be? Is it a man or a woman?”

TH: Well, that question would be better for my editors. You can e-mail them or call them. I’ll give you their numbers after this interview.

LN: How do you decide who you assign to a certain team?

TH: Before every season, the editors sit down with the reporters to assign beats. It’s more of interest, and whoever has more experience will get the tougher and more intense ones, like basketball in the winter.

[Editor’s note: Another thing I would add is that, as Tom mentioned earlier, on this campus specifically, you have a very close interaction with the athletes. That can be both a good and bad thing. So we try to stay away from assigning someone to a team when they come to us and say, I have 12 friends on the team and sourcing will be fantastic. Well, that’s probably true, but it also means that as the season goes along, and maybe you become better friends with these people, you will not be able to have the same lack of bias in reporting.]

CA: Have you ever had problems with players perceiving your words as too harsh?

TH: That hasn’t happened to me specifically. When I wrote an article on football coach Siedlecki in the fall and talked about how he was a solid coach in spite of us getting crushed by Harvard, I know that there were people who were thinking, “Seriously, is this article a joke?” I think that in any article that’s going to be personal and reflect your opinion, someone’s going to agree with it and someone’s going to disagree with it. Sometimes it can be sort of unfair, I guess, if I’m talking with a player and a negative message comes across from what he’s telling, and I put that in print. I think it’s more of how I perceived it at that moment. I’m not out to get anyone and make them look bad. I’m not going to misquote people. I’m going to tell it straight — in terms of this is what I got, and this is what reflected our conversation together.

CA: If you could change anything about Yale sports, what would it be?

TH: It would be how Yale Athletics reaches out to students. Whenever you watch on TV, at the big schools and big conferences, students just pack their arenas and stadiums. It’s been one of the disappointing things about coming here. Going out to football games, you probably get a couple hundred students out. There just hasn’t been that cohesive student support. I’m sure at your basketball games and tennis matches, it’s the same thing. So for me, it’d be to change that mindset in order to make athletics a more central part of student life. When I go back to the University of Maryland to watch their games, it’s so much more exciting when the stadium is packed and the Comcast Center is at full capacity.

MK: What’s your favorite sport to cover at Yale?

TH: I have a bias towards football just because I grew up playing football. It’s the sport that I know the best.

CA: Who is your favorite Yale athlete since you’ve been here? Who would you most like to see play?

TH: Wow, that’s a hard one. I guess I’d have to say Jeff Monaco ’08, an offensive lineman on the football team. He’s one of my best friends, and we hang out all the time outside of class. He was definitely one of the first people who reached out to me when I walked onto the team. The thing I love about Yale is that it’s not so much star-driven, like you’d see at USC or Ohio State. Everyone has the chance to contribute.

LN: Have you seen every athletic team play?

TH: Unfortunately I haven’t. I try to go to every single football game. I think I’ve missed only a couple. This year I’m trying to see every team play at least once. I’m not there yet, but I’m getting close.

LN: Have you seen women’s tennis yet?

TH: Not yet, but I will.

MK: For the record, I’d like to retract any and all associations with the up-and-down arrow thing. I loved it earlier in the year. I wasn’t sure who wrote it but now that I know, it makes perfect sense.

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