On Air: A Discussion with NPR Sports Correspondent Tom Goldman

Mario Santos-Davidson, Sports Writer

Tom Goldman, father of current Whitman senior Eve Goldman, is a sports reporter for NPR. I recently had the pleasure of speaking with him about his career as well as the exciting events he has been able to cover throughout the years.

Goldman began as a news reporter with NPR and eventually transitioned into sports as an associate producer in sports for the program “Morning Edition”, although that was not always the plan.

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“I never saw this happening. I was always a huge sports fan, I loved playing sports growing up, sports were a real bonding thing with my father and me, but really I got into news first. I consider myself less a sports reporter and more a news reporter who does sports,” Goldman said.

As the position grew, he tried convincing NPR to devote a full-time role to sports. Ultimately, NPR created the position and Tom Goldman became the network’s first ever fully designated sports reporter in 1998. Since then he has been NPR’s sole sports correspondent. And while it is impossible to keep up with everything that goes on in the world of sports alone, he has learned what he needs to be concentrating on.

“I try not to let it get overwhelming, because I am basically trying to cover the entire world of sports,” Goldman said. “I try to think of what I am focusing on and how that can benefit our network. I am watching the country, I am watching the world. I am looking for trends, and I am very aware that doing sports at NPR is different than doing sports at ESPN,” he continued.

One of the biggest differences between Goldman’s NPR reporting and what you could find at a place like ESPN are the longer-term stories following a player or a team who might not be as widely known. One such story occurred two years ago, when he spent six months following the Canton Charge, an NBA Development League team. He explained the benefits that following a team for this long can have.

“It was really a first effort to go that deeply into a subject and the benefits were immense. By the end of it, we got stuff from players that we would not have gotten had we just dropped in, as reporters usually do, for a few days. We showed that we were in it for the long run and it yielded great results,” Goldman said.

These stories of athletes who compete at a high level, but not quite the highest, can resonate with a larger portion of the population, something Goldman strives for.

“That represents so many more people than the professionals who we idolize and revere. You have a better chance of connecting with listeners and readers than you do covering a professional athlete who is so far out of reach,” Goldman said.

While going into a story this deeply can yield fantastic results, it often entails a lot of time travelling. As a husband and father of two, this travel took away from family time. In addition to the long term stories, as the lone sports correspondent, Goldman has to travel for practically every big event.

“October was always the worst, because that is when their birthdays are and it always coincided with the World Series. I can’t tell you how many birthdays I missed because of the damn World Series,” Goldman said. “Sadly, I don’t have to balance it as much because both my kids are now in college. Max, my youngest, is now a freshman at University of Oregon and Eve is a senior at Whitman,” he continued.

These trips do take away from quality time with the family, but he has also been able to witness some pretty incredible moments: multiple World Series, the Masters, Malcolm Butler’s interception of Russell Wilson in the Super Bowl, Mark McGwire’s record setting sixty-second home run in 1998, multiple Summer and Winter Olympics, the NBA Finals. The list goes on and on.

“I can’t tell you one was the best, but you add them all up and they are some pretty exciting moments,” Goldman said.