I never saw Rob Bellamy play hockey at the University of Maine – his last year in Orono was my last year covering high school sports.
But last spring, one of Bellamy’s videos landed in my inbox – his cover of Ray Lamontagne’s “Trouble.” As I watched the video at my desk, I thought of something – in general, we don’t really know much about the athletes we cover, watch or read about. There’s a defined line between being friendly with someone and being friends. No, let me rephrase that. If you’re a reporter in any medium, there’s a very defined line between asking questions and getting to know a subject personally. Most of the time, you can’t cross it. And in the same light, your subject probably doesn’t want to cross it.
Yet in showing his music to the world, Bellamy put his passion out there. It’s not an easy thing to do, to open yourself up to others, to their opinions and, potentially, to scrutiny.
Working on and writing this story brought up another issue – a coworker asked another coworker about this story, “Why is this important? Why is this even in the paper?” (The newsroom is a strange incubator – someone else’s words will almost always get back to you.)
If you’re a reporter, there’s something to be said for generating offbeat, unique stories, ideas that come from “outside the box.” And at newspapers, even with the online component becoming crucial in the news cycle, these kinds of stories are diminishing – smaller sections, smaller staffs, smaller budgets, smaller windows of time to do quality work …
Likewise, the media and the fans make athletes very one-dimensional – and athletes sometimes don’t make themselves multi-dimensional, maybe out of defense for themselves. When it seems like everyone wants a piece of you, you don’t want to give away a lot about your true self.
Besides, isn’t music a universal thing?
At Maine, Bellamy was a fearless right wing known for his aggressive style of play. But away from Alfond Arena he listened to music and thought about how he would write a song about his own personal experiences. Sometimes he recorded videos of himself playing the guitar and posted them on YouTube — videos he later took down. He’d sing for his friends and family, who encouraged him to pursue music. “I didn’t take it serious, though,” Bellamy said. “I had a lot of work to do. But I kept practicing and practicing, and I started playing in front of more people. People kept saying the same thing, and I thought, ‘Maybe they’re right.’ “