Get to know Pistons beat writer Rod Beard: #StartWriting was wrong just this one time

The Detroit News

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: Pistons beat writer Rod Beard, who can be followed on Twitter @detnewsRodBeard.

►1. I started at The News in 1998 as a freelance writer, covering high-school sports. It’s been one of my favorite things to cover because it’s the true essence of sports, with kids playing for their neighborhood school — or only school, in a small town — and trying to win a state championship. Those trips to all parts of Michigan, and traveling to Ohio to see a high school junior named LeBron James play against Detroit Redford, are the foundation of my writing career.

Rod Beard was an extra on "Detroit 1-8-7."

►2. One of my favorite reporting experiences was going undercover to try out for a pro football team in the All American Football League, something of a 2000s version of George Plimpton’s “Paper Lion” story. My editor told me the day before tryouts, so I didn’t have time to get in shape, but I ran a respectable 4.9 seconds in the 40 and none of my times stood out as poor in the other drills. Best of all, I got to wear No. 80 like my favorite player, Jerry Rice. At the end of the tryout, we were separated by college and all the Michigan players started asking each other who played on the same team with me — and that’s when I had to fess up and start interviewing them for the story.

►3. I was a contestant on the syndicated game show “The Weakest Link,” which was hosted by George Gray (not the Anne Robinson version). I answered more questions correct than wrong and I was the “strongest link” in one of the rounds, but I was the last one voted off before the final round — because the two women were scared I would win.

►4. Before I started on the Michigan basketball beat, my editor said that there weren’t high expectations, but it was a promotion for me. A couple years later, they were in the NCAA title game. I helped with the Tigers in 2012, and they made it to the World Series. He put me on the 2012 Lions beat coverage — and they made the playoffs, but the championship drive didn’t continue there.

►5. One of my favorite teams to cover was the 2013 Michigan team that went to the championship game. The personalities on that team, including an outspoken Trey Burke, a reserved Tim Hardaway Jr., stoic Jordan Morgan a yet-unknown freshmen Caris LeVert, Spike Albrecht, Nik Stauskas and Mitch McGary made for a fun ride, including a No. 1 ranking midway through the season. Burke’s shot against Kansas, the blowout win over Florida and the title game versus Louisville were unforgettable.

Rod Beard got the Michigan basketball beat, and all of a sudden Michigan got good.

►6. In 1999, I was hosting an open-mic poetry set at Café Mahogany in Detroit and a college friend called and asked if I could get her and her friend in that night. When they arrived, I realized I knew her friend from 10 years before. I performed a poem for her friend, we started dating then — and we’ve been married for 18 years.

►7. In middle school and high school, I loved math and I didn’t like writing — at all. I was in an activity called Academic Games and won several national championships in a game called Equations. After re-learning all the grammar basics and how to construct sentences properly in a grammar game, I got a better feel for how to write well, and I started writing for my high school newspaper.

►8. My first class at Michigan didn’t get started on time because there was a line of fans who wanted to meet or get autographs from Chris Webber, who was in the same class. After about 15 minutes, the teaching assistant asked everyone to wait until after class so that we could begin.

►9. I came up with #StartWriting because when I was covering Michigan basketball, I wanted to let people on Twitter know that I wouldn’t be tweeting so that I could finish my game story. In the years since, it’s become more popular and people have T-shirts and mugs with the hashtag on it. The earliest #StartWriting came in a Pistons game against the Wizards on March 14, 2016.

There has been only one incorrect #StartWriting: Super Bowl LI, in which the Patriots overcame a 28-3 deficit to beat the Falcons, 34-28, in overtime. So, at least I’ve been perfect in basketball.

►10. My younger son is an avid baseball fan and he and I are working to visit all of the parks in the Major Leagues. We’ve completed 13: Detroit, both in Chicago, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Milwaukee, San Francisco, San Diego, Cincinnati, Anaheim, Seattle, Philadelphia and Toronto. His top three parks are San Francisco, San Diego and Cleveland.

Rod Beard enjoys baseball road trips with his son. Here's Cleveland.

►11. I know all the prices, rents and hotel costs for all the properties in Monopoly. When I was a kid, we played multiple games every day during the summer. When it got warmer in the afternoon, we played basketball, football or baseball.

►12. My favorite music artist is Prince and in college, I bought all of the CD’s — and still have them — for every album, through 2000. I also have accumulated some rare imports and concert shows from around the world. My favorite album isn’t Purple Rain — it’s 1999 — but I’ve watched the movie at least 40 times.  Have you purified yourself in the waters of Lake Minnetonka?

►13. One of my favorite movies is “The Usual Suspects” because of the smart writing, camera work and use of suspense. I’ve seen it at least 20 times and there were times that I could recite entire scenes from it. The same goes for “The Color Purple” and “A Few Good Men.”

►14. I was an extra on an episode of the “Detroit 1-8-7” TV show around 2010. I was a police officer guarding a cast member in a hospital. The scene was clipped in the actual airing, so it wasn’t much air time, but it was a cool experience to see how much work goes into putting together a TV show, even to see how extras are cast and used.

►15. My alma mater, Renaissance High School had the worst basketball team in the Detroit Public School League when I was a student there. Watching them ascend to win state titles in 2004 and 2006 was one of the unbelievable turnarounds of my writing career.

The latest from Rod Beard

Coronavirus stalls Pistons' Christian Wood at pinnacle of his career

Pistons' Blake Griffin to donate $100,000 for workers at Little Caesars Arena

Pistons proceed with 'abundance of caution,' follow NBA directives during shutdown

Previous installments

Get to know UM beat writer James Hawkins: No, he's not related to Jim Hawkins