Miami Heat Q&A: What would Erik Spoelstra write about his team if he followed in his grandfather’s footsteps

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra has done OK for himself despite not taking up his grandfather's profession.

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra has done OK for himself despite not taking up his grandfather’s profession.

MIAMI – Watson Spoelstra was a longtime sports writer for the Detroit News who spent many years covering the Detroit Tigers.

Because of that, his grandson, Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, grew up a Tigers fan.

Erik, though, never followed in his grandfather’s footsteps (a move that has turned out OK for him), but he does have an appreciation for the profession his grandfather was in from 1945 to 1973. ‘Waddy’ served as president of the Baseball Writers Association of America in 1968. He died in 1999 at age 89.

I spoke with Spoelstra about his memories of his grandfather’s job for our latest Q & A installment.

Q: What are your fondest memories of your grandfather being a sportswriter?

ES: From an early age I was a Detroit Tigers fan because of the family connection. We were well aware of his career as the Tigers beat writer and my father (Jon, a former executive for the Trail Blazers, Nets and Nuggets) was a big Tigers fan. We always watched Tigers game.

Q: Did you ever think about becoming a sports writer?

ES: It cultivated a family of writers but I’m the only non-writer. But I majored in communications with a journalism emphasis to honor my grandfather. My father has written several books. My sister is a writer. My dad and my grandfather always put an emphasis on reading and writing. When I was trying to decide on a major the only thing my dad recommended was I really learn how to write. He said that will be a skill you’ll need in whatever field and profession you choose.

Q: From what you remember and heard about your grandfather what was the relationship like between the writers and players back then.

ES: It was much different. I heard stories about how my grandfather really felt like he was part of the organization and I definitely had it imprinted on me that you had to dress the part and my grandfather dressed in a suit and tie every day. But that’s what writers did.

Q: So how do we dress now?

ES: He would be ashamed of you guys.

Q: You have said writers back then were the good guys. Are we now the bad guys?

ES: It’s a different profession now. There’s more of an emphasis on creating a story that stands out. So it’s competitive. In order to stand out you have to be controversial.

Q: How did your grandfather influence so many people once he got out of this business?

ES: I came across more people in my life that knew my grandfather for what he did after he retired, which was start the Major League Baseball Chapel, which is still around to this day. I come across people all the time that say they knew Waddy Spoelstra and how he influenced their life in a positive way. That’s always motivated me to try do more to make a difference in people’s lives because I think he did that after he retired.

Q: Talk about your grandfather’s relationship with Denny McLain and the story about McClain throwing a bucket of ice water on your grandfather?

ES:  My grandfather was close with Denny McLain. Denny McLain threw a bucket of ice water on another writer (Jim Hawkins of the Detroit Free Press) because he wrote something negative. The next day his teammates were saying ‘that’s easy to do to somebody you don’t like. You’re close to Waddy, you won’t do it to him.’ So Denny McLain said, ‘I’ll do it to anybody’ and dumped a bucket of ice water on my grandpa. Here’s what sucks, they ended up suspending Denny McLain for it. My grandpa went the next day to the organization and said, ‘I have to get my suit dry cleaned and you guys have to pay for it.’ Instead of paying for it, they ended up suspending him.

Q: If you had followed in your grandfather’s footsteps and were covering the 2016-17 Miami Heat, what would the storyline be?

ES: The great second half resurgence.

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