Get to know MSU beat writer Matt Charboneau: From waxing cars to waxing poetic
Editor's note: As coronavirus sweeps the globe, shutting down so many entertainment options including sports, we thought this would be a good opportunity for you to get to know a little bit about us. Up today: Michigan State beat writer Matt Charboneau, who can be followed on Twitter @mattcharboneau.
►1. I didn’t grow up wanting to work in newspapers — I was convinced I’d be playing baseball professionally — but I did read the newspaper regularly as a kid. Each morning, I’d pour my bowl of Frosted Flakes, sit at the table and read whatever Mike Downey wrote that morning in the Free Press before heading out the door to the bus stop. It was probably the summer before sixth grade when the Tigers were on their way to winning the 1984 World Series when I really got sucked in. After that, I read Downey’s replacement, some whipper snapper named Mitch Albom, and as I went through high school I followed all the prep sports. Also on the morning table at my house were The Detroit News and The Oakland Press. Who knew I’d work at both? I was at the Oakland Press for three years after graduating from Michigan State and have been at The News since 2006.
►2. I’ve also worked at the Lansing State Journal, the Flint Journal and a tiny weekly paper called The Reminder in Ortonville. Throw in a summer interning at Channel 7 in investigative reporting and all of it combined doesn’t add up to my now 14 years at The News. Speaking of, I said "No" to a job at The News three times before calling back a week later and asking if it was still available. Man, what a smart move. I was lucky they still wanted me, and by 2010 I was covering Michigan State.
►3. Since my baseball career clearly didn’t pan out, I had to do something with my life. The first plan at MSU was to be a teacher until a friend of mine took me to a job fair. I spoke with the late Bob Gross, a prep writer then at the Lansing State Journal. By the next week I was answering phones and covering high school games. It was the best education I could get and I knew after just a few days I didn’t want to do anything else.
►4. I almost walked away from journalism. Luckily, I’m a bad businessman. Back in 2000, I bought a car wash with my in-laws. I’d worked in car washes during high school and summers in college and had quite a bit of knowledge, believing that within a couple years I’d walk away from newspapers. I learned some valuable lessons, but four difficult years later we sold the wash. I sold car-wash chemicals for another year or two and my days in the industry were done. Oh, and the whole time I was still a newspaper guy.
►5. I’m a music lover — though the rap music my kids listen to these days I struggle with — and Pearl Jam is my clear favorite. I haven’t seen them live nearly as much as I wish, but did get to Chicago in 2018 for the second of two shows at Wrigley Field. Believe it or not, the first concert I ever went to was Debbie Gibson at Pine Knob (it will always be Pine Knob to me) when I was 15. My best friend, Rob Grennier, and I both went. Yes, we were smitten with Debbie. What can I say?
►6. I grew up in Waterford and went to Kettering High School. Trust me, it’s always better to be a captain than a Corsair. There’s been a couple of athletes roll through that were just a bit better than me with Kirk Gibson, Pat LaFontaine and Jim Miller at the top of the list.
►7. Speaking of Gibson, he is at the center of my one true moment in this job of being in awe of the subject I was talking to. This business takes the fan out of you pretty quickly and dealing with those in the spotlight is no big deal. But a few years ago Gibson was having a golf outing for his foundation at Warwick Hills in Grand Blanc. At the time, I lived a few minutes away and went over to do a story. For about a half-hour it was just me and Gibby riding around in a golf cart. I felt like I was in sixth grade again.
►8. I’ve covered some of the biggest events in sports in my career, from the Final Four to the Stanley Cup Finals. But I’m a giant golf nerd which means the highlight of my career to this point has been covering the 2004 Ryder Cup at Oakland Hills. The Americans got smoked and I’ll never forget when U.S. captain Hal Sutton was asked on Friday evening if he contemplated losing Saturday. The atmosphere was unlike anything I’ve experienced and if my bosses are reading this, I’d be more than willing to go to Whistling Straits in September, assuming they’ll be playing.
►9. I never thought I’d cover a basketball game on a boat, but sure enough, that’s where I was in November of 2011, on the deck of the USS Carl Vinson in San Diego when Michigan State played North Carolina. What a night. Shook hands with President Obama and remembered thinking how the timing as perfect as raindrops fell maybe a half-hour after the game ended.
►10. I’ve covered Tom Izzo for 10 years now, and there is never a dull moment. There’s no BS with him and I’ve always appreciated that. He laughed when I told him about the first time we crossed paths. It was sometime in the winter of 1998 and everyone was recruiting Dane Fife at Clarkston. I worked at The Oakland Press at the time and went to one of Fife’s games. The place was packed and when I pushed open the door to the gym it slammed into someone. It was Izzo. I said, "Sorry," and went on my way. After the game, I went into the locker room to talk to Clarkston coach Dan Fife. He ended his conversation with Izzo, told Steve Fisher to hang on and did our interview. Who knew I had that kind of pull?
►11. After years of eating poorly and using odd work hours as an excuse not to exercise, I’ve become a CrossFit guy. Since January I’ve been jumping on boxes and swinging kettlebells. It’s awesome, but nothing will stop me from drinking too much coffee.
►12. Most random celebrity sighting at a sporting event — Rob Lowe at the first and second rounds of the NCAA Tournament in Tulsa, Okla., in 2017. He was apparently there shooting a documentary about “The Outsiders.” As a big “West Wing” fan, I just wanted a picture with Sam Seaborn.
►13. My parents still live in Waterford and get the paper every day. Anytime there’s a Michigan State story written by someone other than me, my dad calls wondering why it wasn’t me. He’s always been my biggest fan.
►14. I have three awesome kids and I’m married to my best friend. It took us both a while to find each other, but between Cori and I, we have six kids ages 9 to 19. It gets crowded at times these days, but believe it or not, we love the chaos. Now, if my dad would stop making “Brady Bunch” references.
►15. I spend most of my summers at softball fields around the state and other parts of the Midwest. My girls have both played travel softball for years and I love nothing more than watching them play. I’ve coached at times, too, but I relish every moment together with them. I’ve been to far more auto shows than I ever imagined either as my son has always been a car buff. I hope this summer we can get out on the golf course more, too.