The SportswriterAt first, Jake Appleman '06 only pretended to be a sportswriter. Then, he actually became one.
“I had to do a senior project in high school so I sent a letter off to the Knicks beat writer at The Record (in Bergen, New Jersey),” said Appleman. “We decided that I would tag along behind him and do a kind of day-with-the-Knicks story. You know, pretend I was a sportswriter.”
The pair's mentor-disciple relationship was cemented when Appleman attended a Knicks game on his own and finagled his way into the media room at Madison Square Garden.
“I just thought I'd say hello. I think he was amused. Afterwards, I walked around the lower bowl of Madison Square Garden, taking it all in, and I thought, I know what I want to do with my life. It really was at that moment I decided to become a sportswriter.”
At Kenyon, Appleman landed a gig covering the Lords football team for the Collegian. “Jay Helmer, my Collegian editor, knew that writing about a Kenyon-Hiram game might mean more to me than a poli sci essay. He allowed me to begin the process of finding my voice.”
But he wasn't done sending out cold letters or knocking down doors just yet.
“As a kid, my favorite magazine was SLAM and I used my Collegian work to approach (contributing) editor Ryan Jones about covering the Cleveland Cavaliers for them,” he said. Appleman wouldn't take no for an answer. “He was insistent and hyperactive,” Jones recalled. “But he was also clearly smart and very funny. He talked my ear off.” And that's how Appleman landed a Cavaliers correspondent gig with SLAM in his sophomore year—which happened to coincide with LeBron James's rookie year with the team.
Appleman is grateful to anyone at Kenyon who ever loaned him a car for his Cavalier road trips.
“The first time I went up was really a test, I think,” Appleman said. “I didn't have credentials and they wouldn't let me in to cover the game so I bought tickets and sat in the stands and recapped the game anyway. After that, I guess they figured the kid was legit.”
In a short time Appleman has become a successful freelance sportswriter, working often for SLAM.com, NBA.com, the New York Times, and several other publications. The twenty-nine-year-old insinuated himself into the Times' freelance sports rotation through a master stroke disguised as a European vacation.
“I arranged to stay with a friend's parents in Madrid, which is where I studied abroad,” said the Spanish major. “It was during the NBA lockout, and I offered to write stories for the Times on NBA players who were exploring their options in Europe. They liked the idea of me paying my own way.”
Appleman received a dozen assignments while he was living in Spain, including a story about a down-trodden soccer club, Levante, who nine games into the season was in first place for the first time in 102 years.
“The Spanish media picked up on the story and I ended up doing at least twenty television, radio, and newspaper interviews. I felt like I was in an episode of The Twilight Zone.”