Bethel Professors find hobby on NBA.com

March 11, 2014 | 11 a.m.

Jim Beilby and Peter Kapsner are educators by day, superstar sportswriters by night

Sports | Jared Nelson

professors-nba.jpg

Jim Beilby, left, and Peter Kapsner, right, are professors at Bethel and work for NBA.com covering Timberwolves games. | Photo for The Clarion by Kristine Schmidt

Whether students choose to believe it or not, Bethel professors do have lives outside of lecturing and grading papers, and some of them are quite intriguing. Professors Jim Beilby and Peter Kapsner spend many evenings on press row at the Target Center, covering Timberwolves games for NBA.com.

Beilby began covering games in 2003 with an organization called Sports Ticker, but that job was eventually bought out, and he had to give up his duties. However, Beilby had made connections with
people from NBA.com that led to an opportunity for him to cover games for the league’s website.

The Timberwolves have 41 home games per season, and Beilby is responsible for making sure each game is covered, so he often outsources the duties to people like Kapsner.

“We handle online content,” Beilby said. “We’re responsible for the pregame blog, which says, ‘If you’re gonna watch the game, here’s what you should look for.’ We do the post game notebook too, which is a list of key information from the game.

Kapsner’s stint as a writer for the sports page of his high school’s newspaper is the only sports writing or journalism experience for either of the men. Their interpersonal skills and connections are what have allowed them to have a spot in the industry.

There was no reason I should’ve been hired [by NBA. com],” Beilby said. “I’m just a writer who has been published in the academic world and who was pretty knowledgeable about basketball.” He added that the interview process consisted of just an email, and if you want to make it in the sports-writing business, “it's very much about who you know,” which is how Kapsner got the job.

With four kids and growing responsibilities at home, Beilby has been forced to take a lighter load this season, which is Kapsner’s first full season on the job. Kapsner admits that he’s still learning some of the tricks and gets a little star-struck interacting with multimillion-dollar athletes.

“You just gotta do your job and dial that back,” Kapsner said, “but it’s tough when I’m standing there a few feet away from LeBron James, trying to get my head around that while trying to listen to another interview.”

Beilby recalled his first interview, where he was uptight and skittish talking to Toronto Raptors superstar Vince Carter after a rough shooting night.

“He was totally cool about it,” Beilby said. “He told me to have a good day and patted me on the back. I’ve lost a little bit of the star-struck thing. It’s starting to become the case where opposing coaches and players recognize me, and that’s a little weird.”

Both of the men really enjoy the experience of talking to NBA superstars and coaches, getting to know them a little better than a casual fan.

For the most part, the players are pretty willing to talk to us,” Beilby said. “They realize it’s a business and if people don’t have access to the players they’ll lose interest. The players and media relations staff, all the way up to the owner, are very interested in helping us do our job.”

Kapsner added that he was surprised at how much winning and losing matters to the players, and how different an interview with a player is after a loss compared to a win.

Despite relatively low pay and 20-30 nights during the winter away from their families, Beilby and Kapsner still love their jobs.

“This is our bowling league,” Beilby said. “It’s the best hobby I’ve ever had,” Kapsner added, “and i t's not even c lose.”

Their work can be read at www.nba.com/timberwolves after most home games.

 

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