With a track record that includes 36 Final Fours, eight Indianapolis 500’s, 11 Super Bowls and around 35 major college football bowl games, the 31st Olympiad in Rio de Janeiro was just another step on a long flight of stairs for Malcolm Moran.
Moran, Director of the Sports Capital Journalism Program at IUPUI, took two graduate students, Rebecca Harris and Frank Grogola, to Rio over the summer to cover the Games for the U.S. Olympic Committee.
Though Moran’s days of covering major sporting events for the New York Times, USA Today, and the Chicago Tribune are past, he now gets to mentor future beacons of the business. Although he admits covering events for a publication has its rewards, Moran says being able to guide students is even more fulfilling.
“The role … that I was in in Rio,” said Moran, “[is] just so much more fulfilling and rewarding because it’s not an overstatement to say this is a life-changing experience.”
Even at an event as large and prominent as the Olympics, Moran says one of the most important lessons he could pass on was not forgetting the little stuff: eating a good breakfast, valuing all the precious sleep you can get, making sure to pack a snack in your bag. Those seemingly insignificant things become “glaringly important.”
How students manage fatigue is also on Malcolm’s mind. Better rest means a better chance at succeeding in that day’s tasks. And the tasks, whether known days in advance or just minutes before, are nothing small to tackle.
As Moran and Grogola waited in a long line at Olympic Stadium to get on the elevator to go up to the press seating, which was on the fifth floor, they decided their best chance to grab a spot in the limited seating would be to walk up the stairs. Unfortunately, the fifth floor wasn’t the final destination. From the sidewalk outside the stadium to the top row of seating in the press room, Moran’s iPhone health app told him they had walked up 27 flights of stairs.
Then there was Harris, who had the opportunity to cover tennis player Rajeev Ram, a Carmel native who was competing at the Olympics with Venus Williams. It was otherwise a day off for Harris, but it turned into anything but that when wind pushed the event back. Eventually matches were rescheduled and relocated, but the relocations weren’t announced. Harris sat for a few hours before she realized Ram’s match had already been played.
“You wouldn’t know it by reading the story,” said Moran.
Harris, freelancing for the Indianapolis Star, spent her day off on a seven-hour adventure.
“Malcolm was instrumental in getting information about the player to me for B-matter to lower my stress level,” said Harris, “as well as giving encouragement through the seven-hour ordeal.”
Other challenges were known months in advance. That included the heavily publicized Zika threat. Because the games took place during Brazil’s winter months, though, humidity was low and the sunset came early, meaning the mosquitos weren’t very active.
Still, Moran felt the concerns were called for.
“I think the warnings were healthy because people had to be prepared for it,” said Moran.
Another point of navigation was the possibility of street crime. Moran and his students were lodged in a nicer neighborhood, but crime was far from unheard of in other places.
“You definitely had to make sure you were careful about your belongings,” said Moran.
Moran says he heard stories of people going into a buffet by Olympic Park and then having their bags stolen when they got up to get food.
Some reporters wouldn’t even leave their laptops at their work stations when they had to leave to get quotes.
Utilizing the buddy system when traveling and, as Moran had stressed, managing the day to minimize fatigue—or at least the effects of fatigue—helped lead that life-changing experience.
Moran, who says he tried to keep it light in the midst of heavy pressure, wasn’t short on advice for his students. One of the most valuable tidbits was how to write when Harris and Grogola were trying to operate on not enough sleep.
“When you sit down to type and there are three computers in front of you, type on the one in the middle. That usually works the best.”