Sports Culture

No one asked for my opinion on sports but here it is anyways.

FOR ME recreational activity that included any type of ball movement or hand eye coordination was something only posterized in U-12 AYSO action shots. Athleticism was never a describing characteristic nor a passion. But in the past four to five years, having not played a sport since I was 15 (I’m 26), I became a spectator and ultimately, a consumer in sports capitalism.

In the first half of my twentieth century decade I admit I was only interested in sports because I was day drinking at live events with ex boyfriends. But now in my middle aged twenties I can truly affirm that I love the Rams, I love the Dodgers, I love the Lakers, I am torn between Real Madrid and Juventus; I hate the Angels, I hate the Warriors, and I absolutely hate with all my heart FC Barcelona.

Now its hard to break away from that “she only likes that team because that’s her boyfriend’s team” thing BUT a girl is trying.

I would like to say however Los Angeles teams are very near and dear to my heart, refer to Los Angeles, I love you.


In the beginning, God created man. Man in return, created football. Yes, American football and yes, fútbol. Man then became obsessed and confrontational in pop warner and then in high school and especially in college. When that wasn’t enough, man gave us the NFL to help every other grown man express their emotions by crying, laughing, hollering, and even degrading their professional football team or becoming a professional athlete.

As you know, in many ways the National Football League is problematic. 1) It turned peaceful protesting of police brutality into messy ass drama that has since been misconstrued indefinitely. 2) It has a very lenient protocol on misogyny and harsh punishments on cannabis. 3) It has proven brain damage in its athletes across the board and now is endangering retired professionals into obesity.

The list is mini but also mighty. Oh and lets not exclude how NFL cheerleaders are also underpaid and overworked. If dancing/cheering has always been side by side with football, then why don’t cheerleaders earn a living income when they go professional?

But the game must go on. For the people. For those who believe in faith, family, and football. But I digress. Once the Rams made it to the Super Bowl, I was the first to post on my my story about how we deserved this after a brutal call in last year’s playoff game against the Saints. I was also the first to to be the “WooHoo” girl in Denver against the Broncos when my boyfriend’s family didn’t know what they were getting into when they invited me. Not to mention, I was also on the cusp of kicking some Eagles’ fan ass when she kept yelling WHOSE HOUSE after they beat us at home when they weren’t even nearing the postseason.

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The NBA, however has treated me differently. When the Lakers starting five once consisted of Tarik Black, Jordan Clarkson, Wesley Johnson, Ryan Kelly and Jeremy Lin, I was writing game recaps for an internship I don’t even know how I got. For the most part it was written word vomit as I didn’t quite know how to organize my thoughts just yet. But I became very decent at writing briefs on player’s haircuts. When I worked at a restaurant during Kobe’s last game, my tables and I bonded over what essentially became his Yard House retirement party. The shots were ordered, the 60-points were dropped, the tears were flowing from the bar patrons. Is was the ending of one era and the soon to be beginning of anew. The day we drafted Lebron James, most of Los Angeles was torn down the middle but I was ecstatic. Thank you LeBron James for exposing America for what it is. Athletes are citizens of this world and have every right to express their views, so please continue to negate how players should just “shut up and dribble.” LBJ has provided more opportunities for students in Akron, Ohio than the president has to this country, i.e. Betsy Devos. And dare I say, he’s even reigniting showtime in the purple and gold?

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Honestly, I don’t even want to talk about the Dodgers.

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Last but not least, the sport I love most, soccer. Or maybe just Cristiano Ronaldo. And maybe just European soccer after-the-fact.

I lived a good life being a Real Madrid fan. Things were simple and easy-going, los merengues were winning back to back to back Champions League, and hey, even threw in a Liga title before Zidane made his debut. I attended a live game at the Bernebau and did the Ronaldo “SIUUUUUUU” when a last minute header saw the back of the net. I was in Spain when Portugal won the Euros against France. I had bragging rights over PSG, Juventus and Barcelona. But most importantly, I saw Ronaldo win his fifth Ballon d’Or.. rejected Messi’s quest for his sixth. I was happy. Enlightened. Euphoric.

Then like a soccer ball to the nuts, Ronaldo leaves Real Madrid to join Juventus… only months after scoring a bicycle kick against their beloved Buffon. But I can’t hate. The Italians were in the stands giving the GOAT a standing ovation. A spectacle and contender for UEFA’s Goal of the Season. I was at a bar in Universal Studios with my Messi-loving boyfriend, I was losing my sh*t.

Now we (me) are Forza Juve, but still wish the best for Madrid. Still have no luck with my Mexican national team. But things are looking up in L.A., considering what LAFC has cooking up next season….


What is a true fan? What separates a know-it-all “name me five players” from someone who genuinely cares about a team’s advancement towards a championship? The answer is class. Sometimes fans aren’t born into families where sports were practiced every weekend or had parties for the Super Bowl. Sometimes we tag along a little later in life and we learn by watching, listening, and even reading if we never had those opportunities to physically play growing up.

I love sports. I love it so much that sometimes I still cant believe that I actually give my money to these people. It

Below is an actual video of how it feels like to talk to me when discussing sports.

 

Winters is Coming

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Los Angeles Lakers Point Guard Lonzo Ball and Serena Winters/ Source: @serena_winters

The morning the Los Angeles Lakers were to return to Staples Center for one of the last preseason games, sports reporter Serena Winters sat in front of her Starbucks attired in gym clothes with a Robeks smoothie at hand.

“I’ll get [to Staples Center] at 4 p.m.,” said Winters. “When I get to the arena usually I’m around the court talking to people, watching what’s going on, seeing D’Angelo Russell shoot… We then do a pregame media availability for [Head Coach] Byron Scott [then] the game starts at 7 p.m.”

Winters, 27, is the lead field reporter for the sports writing blog, LakersNation.com. Her 24/7 schedule revolves around the team of purple and gold as she also contributes to Time Warner Cable’s SportsNet: Access Lakers and radio shows like The Beast 980 AM.

“Once the game ends around 10 something there is then head coach post game availability,” said Winters. “Once we finish that up, it’s past 11 p.m., we go back to the interview room, my camera guy and I, and get a post game story. We post videos around 12:30 a.m. Send video links to [our editor-in-chief]. Maybe we get lucky it’s around 1 a.m. but usually around 2 a.m. is when I get home. Then the next day I wake up and its practice at 11 a.m. so I drive to El Segundo to get more stories from players.”

At 5-foot-5 and 115-pounds, her petite toned frame can be contrasted against the 6-foot-6 athletes weighing well over 215 pounds; but her confidence in the sport equates to theirs. Winters, a Huntington Beach local, grew up in the world of sports where her niches were basketball, golf, and track. She also excelled in academics throughout high school and college, earing a 4.8 GPA at Huntington Beach High School and graduating Magna Cum Laude at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Winters was raised an only child. She was kept very active throughout her youth. Her parents put her in theatre classes when she was younger and her father would have her read to him aloud to discover new words. Alongside being a tri-varsity athlete in high school, Winters was also part of the Model United Nations where she and her club members would take on the role as economic leaders of a specific country and debate against other mock leaders of different clubs.

Chris Evans, Winters’s mother, said one facet in raising her was that she wanted her daughter to act appropriate for her age.

“A lot of things kids do in today’s world, I think that all needs to be very well watched,” said Evans.

Winters’s father passed away when she was 12 but both she and her mother credit him for her involvement in sports.

“When I was kid I think most of my pressure came from myself,” Winters said. “I felt pressure to get straight A’s and be the best athlete but my parents were really supportive. My dad always wanted me to be smart so everything was more to please my parents.”

Her piercing blue eyes and contagious smile broke into a laugh however when she spoke about her competitiveness, but her freckled skin and owl shaped glasses aren’t too threatening.

“The first thing that comes to mind about Serena is that she is always very hardworking,” said Jeff Payetta, 26, her boyfriend of four years and childhood friend. “She was always very good in school, which I can’t say the same for myself.”

Winters created an extensive portfolio during and after her college career. Her list of internships range from working at ESPN with the Jim Rome Is Burning show to working in the social media department on Fuel TV, to reporting color commentary for the men’s basketball team at UCSB, and eventually interning with the Lakers.

While she was commuting from Huntington Beach to Santa Barbara, Winters’s income came from valeting at the Hyatt in Newport Beach.

Always looking for her next move, she applied to Lakers Nation and was again, taken on as an unpaid intern. Her previous connection with the Lakers allowed for one-on-one interviews with the players while she attended practices. Winters eventually earned her spot as a full time reporter for Lakers Nation in October of 2012. She proved her worth over the next year to Lakers Public Relations and was given season credentials. This move gave the sports blogging website a major push into the media industry.

The website currently claims a following of 2.5 million on Facebook and a community of nearly 350,000 followers on Twitter.

However, there is a backlash for new media reporters from old media reporters. Winters says that coming from an online world there is still a divide in people who are stuck on traditional media.

“Even though they are friends of mine, like newspapers [reporters] … I feel like they are talking behind my back,” said Winters. “[I’m] still at the forefront with online media because a lot of people still ask me advice for video or YouTube. Whether or not you like it, media is clearly changing.”

Winters cracks a smile over the negative connotation of online media because it’s something she hears on a daily basis. But she says that despite the criticism, no one works harder than her.

Because of her role as a reporter, she does not consider herself a PR representative for the Lakers. She has yet to write something specifically the team has asked her to do but she chooses to avoid family issues. She reports on facts, gameplay and quotes said by the team to provide context for Lakers Nation.

In one post-game availability conference Winters took heat for asking a decisive question.

“I had a PR pull me aside and threaten to take my credential away … I was told that it wasn’t my place to ask that that question,” said Winters.

The question was when she asked Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant what he thought of his ESPN ranking of 40 out of top 500 players in the NBA last year. The five time NBA champion replied with “they’re a bunch of idiots”

The response generated a heavy news flow for sports media outlets and commentators. Winters held her ground for asking a fair question that produced a good answer. She writes what she knows based on certain things; commenting and critiquing players’ performances rather than coaching decisions.

Winters and her videographer Andrew Martinez, easily work over 40 hours in a five or six day work week to provide nonstop information for one of the country’s largest fan base. The two spend more time with each other than their own friends and family. Martinez has been working with Winters for the past two years and says he learned much from her.

“I’ve never been in sports media,” said Martinez, 28. “Serena is like a mentor to me… She helps me understand the journalism part of it all.”

Winters says being a woman in the sports industry faces its own obstacles in itself.

“As a female I feel like it takes so much more to build respect, especially in a male dominated industry,” said Winters. “A male in this industry can make one mistake and it’ll blow over. As a female you can work five to 10 years, but you make one mistake and your reputation is over.” Winters dresses, speaks, and works in a specific style to make herself professionally presentable.

In her experience in the sports industry she says one of the most difficult parts is managing other personalities. Winters labels herself as a perfectionist and when it comes to getting her job done correctly, it is her utmost priority. If someone else is not reciprocating the effort, characters begin to clash .

“In a male dominated industry it becomes more challenging to ask why does this get done improperly. There are no open conversations, they get defensive,” said Winters. “It’s personal. Men just want power… I’m not sure if that’s what it is, but men want power.”

Her stern belief is that she does not want others to out work her and while some may view this as unappealing, many respect her for it.

“There is this intimidation factor working with her because she knows what she is talking about,” said Martinez. “But once you start talking to her she’s laid back and funny and the intimidation factor goes away.

“What I like best about Serena is that she is very talkative… she makes it a point to make a person feel special,” said Payetta. “She also has an excellent choice in food.”

A medium rare steak filet or yellowtail sushi tops the list of Winters’s favorite food.

When Winters is not practicing Muy Thai or competing against her boyfriend in golf, she likes to relax with her English Bull Terrior, Bruno.


***This story was written in 2015 as a feature profile assignment for a college course. I worked briefly with Serena as a previous intern for LakersNation. She was kind enough to take time out of her schedule to give me a lengthy two-hour interview for my assignment.