Meet Tracee Hamilton, New Sports Columnist
If you read Tracee Hamilton's columns during the past three Olympics--Alpha and Omega in Athens, La Dolce Vita in Turin, and Kung Pao in Beijing--you realized immediately that she really ought to be writing for a living. Well, wish granted. New Post sports editor Matt Vita announced last week that Tracee would join our roster of columnists this summer, joining Wise, Wilbon, Jenkins and Boswell. Yes, this sort of makes her the Sonia Sotomayor of our section, I guess.
During more than 15 years in Sports, Tracee has supervised, among other things, our Redskins coverage, our baseball and Nats coverage, and our Olympics coverage. She's also starred on Tony Kornheiser's radio show, perfected the lost art of budgeting newsprint space, and given me stern looks when I played too many throwing games inside the office. Since I sort of called this one--writing that Tracee "really should be a professional columnist" two years ago--I figured it was my duty to present a brief meet-your-new-columnist Q&A. Obviously, she'll have more to say about all this under her own byline very soon.
Have you always/ever wanted or planned on leaving editing and becoming a full-time writer, and if so, why? Don't you know that all writers are miserable?
I never thought I'd be an editor, truthfully. I had editing internships -- in fact, I accepted an editing internship at the Dallas Times Herald in 1982 and then was offered a writing internship at the Washington Post (which I had to turn down because in the Midwest, you dance with the one you brung you, if you know what I mean. Same thing happened before prom my freshman year).
But I always figured I'd write. I went to the Detroit Free Press as a copy editor but with a promise to be given a chance to write. I did; I helped cover the Pistons and was a sort of general assignment reporter for awhile. But then the department ran short of layout and copy editors and my boss called me in and said he'd heard I could lay out pages. I said I wanted to write and he pulled open a big file drawer brimming with resumes and said, "Here are all the people who want to write," and he pulled open a small file drawer with, like, two resumes, and said, "Here are all the people who can edit and lay out pages. Don't be an idiot." You could talk to employees like that back in the olden days. So I went back to being an editor.
This is a complete oversimplification, but if I were to classify our existing columnists' greatest strengths, I'd say Sally makes the sharpest arguments, Boswell is most in touch with the history and mindset of the D.C. sports fan, Wilbon has the national scope and expertise, and Wise takes us inside heads thanks to his uncanny personal connections with athletes. So, aside from wheat-probing stories, what do you think your angle is?
Well, I think you nailed that but reading your analysis makes me want a Guinness real bad. How am I going to wedge myself into that Rushmore of Writers? I guess I hope to give the readers some laughs and some strong opinions, which I'm told I have.
Since I already dropped that phrase, for readers who might not have listened to the TK radio show, what exactly is your history with wheat-probing?
Tony asked us one day about our best summer job and I said probing wheat. I forget sometimes that not everyone grew up in a small town in Kansas -- and certainly not Mr. Tony. Probing wheat means literally sticking a probe into a truckload of wheat while it's sitting on a scale. Then you take the wheat out of the probe and measure its moisture content. Then you send the truck to dump the wheat at the elevator. You write up a slip with the weight of the load (full truck minus empty truck) and the moisture content and give it to the driver. It's a good way to meet custom cutters. (Google it if you don't know.)
Not to suck up, but your Olympic columns were consistently brilliant, but were mostly written from inside depressing, generic, window-less offices. Do you plan on going out to actual sporting events now? Which sports?
What's the "Bull Durham" line -- "A player on a streak has to respect the streak"? I will probably stick with the depressing, generic, window-less offices. Maybe Dick Cheney's bunker is available.
No, I will sometimes go to actual sporting events and interview actual athletes about actual subjects. I don't think I can pick one target at this point. I don't want to plow the same ground everyone else does so well, certainly. And there is another farm reference.
Careful, non-comatose readers will remember that you're something of a Kansas Jayhawks fan. Can you describe and explain the nature of that fandom?
Oh, to try to quantify it would be to diminish it spiritually. And it would make me sound like a lunatic. I certainly do love the Jayhawks in a wonderful, painful way.
What are the best and worst sporting events you've ever seen in person?
Let's see, we've established that I've been trapped in a depressing, generic, window-less office for about 25 years, so what do you think? Maybe THAT'S what I bring to Rushmore -- fresh eyes.
Who's your favorite sports columnist of all time?
No fair. I can't pick anyone at The Post without picking everyone at The Post. And I love all of our columnists.
I edited Mitch Albom in Detroit for quite a few years and there were days I burst into tears at my desk -- from the way he told stories, I mean, not from editing Mitch.
I miss Tony Kornheiser's column. I miss Tony Kornheiser, period.
As the world will soon learn, you are also something of a TV buff, I guess would be one way to put it. If you could only watch one show for the rest of your life, which would it be?
"Buffy the Vampire Slayer." She handles that stake like a wheat probe.
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