Sam Smith says he’s living out the “ultimate journalistic fantasy” after leaving the news business. The former Chicago Tribune sports writer, who gained a national following—and, at times, citywide scorn—for his relentless, guileless coverage of the Chicago Bulls during the Michael Jordan era, is blogging hard again about the Bulls—for the Bulls.
It’s an odd wedlock, to be sure, and one that justifiably arouses suspicions about what the writer had to give up in order to keep practicing his trade. To hear Smith tell it, he has bridged the holy divide between journalism and public relations with his integrity and incredulousness intact, and with more freedom than he had before. Of course, things are glorious in Chicago these days, with the Bulls enjoying their best season since Michael Jordan won his sixth championship in 1998, so the team and its blogger-in-chief acknowledge that their relationship isn’t currently being stress-tested.
In March, when I met the sixty-three-year-old Smith near his home in Aurora, Illinois, he had just returned from Miami, where the Bulls’ season-sweeping road victory over the Heat had sent him off on a 2,365-word soliloquy. It was a typical Smith offering: long and obscenely thorough, less a recap than an elucidation of the season as seen through the various subplots of a single game. Among the many things he enjoys, post-newspaper, is that there’s no editor to chop up his sentences. “Now, if you read me you know me a little better,” Smith says, “because now you can hear my voice better.”