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‘I’ve never been afraid to call it like I see it’

Tomorrow 1News launches an exciting weekly newsletter for sports fans. From the Sidelines, written by outspoken and passionate sports anchor Scotty Stevenson, offers a mix of smart analysis and honest opinion on Monday mornings. Before the launch, Scotty shared a bit about his life, both on and off the sidelines Emily Simpson.

I wanted to do what I do from the age of ten. I watched the first ever Rugby World Cup and while most of my friends dreamed of becoming All Blacks, I thought Keith Quinn had the best job in the world.

I’m not really into listening to myself. I’ll hear highlights and my usual thought will be, “What could I have done differently there?” As live sports commentators, our voices are tied to the historical record of the sport, so without putting too much weight on it, I take that responsibility seriously. Of course I made mistakes sometimes, but I don’t regret them greatly. I have never woken up in the middle of the night and thought “that was a mess”.

Scotty Stevenson at a Patron's Dinner at the Rugby Foundation NZ, Hilton Hotel, Auckland, last year.  Photo: David Rowland.

My sons? They never listen. They receive continuous commentary from me on their lives, so my work is not interesting to them. They are not big sports guys, they like other things and I appreciate that. I love that we have three boys in our household (myself included) who all have different interests and passions.

I’m a big preparation guy. I never know what’s going to happen in the game, but I always want to have something I can lean on and talk about with some intellect and understanding. Researching the players, knowing their names, going over the details – that’s important.

You do get your favorites. A lot of. I loved Marty Banks, your typical footy fighter, he was such a champion and it was always a thrill to talk him out. And Wyatt Crocket! I like to support the underdog. He was written off and played more Super Rugby matches than any other player.

Canterbury's Wyatt Crockett, a Scotty favourite, plays for Canterbury against Waikato, Waikato Stadium, 2011. Photo: Anthony Au-Yeung

You see players with a supernatural character but what resonates most are the employees. I think we have a strange relationship with the concept of talent. We assume that some people are born that way, but I don’t think it will get you far in life unless it’s combined with a serious work ethic.

You have to have that chemistry with a co-commentator. Some are seriously funny, some are incredibly analytical. Especially in cricket, you spend a long time on the road and you get to know your colleagues well.

Katey Martin is sensational. She has always been very funny and has a very busy mind. She is also incredibly analytical. It’s no surprise that she has carved out a niche here and internationally. Frankie Mackay is a deep thinker and the most authentic human being you will ever meet. And Rebecca Rolls is an amazing woman, steeped in mana and a great passion for sports. We normalized their voices. Now it doesn’t matter whether there’s a man or a woman behind the microphone and it’s one of the things our commentary team is proud of.

Kate Martin.

Cricket or rugby? I love both. I have experienced some special moments in both sports, as well as in many other sports. It’s often the little things: Buller won his first national trophy in 2012, and we sat in a commentary box in Westport as locals hauled cold tubs of crayfish and whitebait up the ladder for us.

I grew up in the little towSouth of Ruakaka, just south of Whangārei, Bream Bay was my go-to spot. It was beautiful, we loved it, we had the illusion of freedom. But growing up in a rural town, you always knew someone’s mother was watching.

"Deep thinker" and White Fern Franie Mackay.

At the end of fifth grade I was sent to a boarding school, Auckland Grammar. I went from a mixed school with 300 children to a school with 2000 boys who all looked like they had been dipped in an inkwell. It’s hard when you’re older and all the age groups are set, but it was worth it and I felt privileged that my parents had the resources to make that decision on my behalf. I did another year of high school in South Africa. It was 1995 and it was refreshing to be there during that time of change. I met people who I am still friends with thirty years later.

My mother came to New Zealand early 1970s, which was pretty brave. She had met my father when he was teaching in South Africa. It would have been a huge cultural shift – from Durban to Whangārei in the 1970s, she certainly noticed the differences. She was a rare South African in New Zealand at a time when opposition to the Apartheid regime was growing. We knew all about apartheid growing up. I had grandparents who had witnessed its instigation. Things certainly didn’t sit well with my family.

Most commentators are storytellers in heart and soul. The action unfolds and we tell a live story. At school I was always involved in speech and debate, and writing was always something I was drawn to. Summers were for Surf Life Saving or water polo, winters for hockey and then rugby. As an adult I opted for more social pursuits, but I played club and representative rugby until the age of 19, when injuries and repeated concussions forced me to put the boots away.

Scotty Stevenson, pictured on Breakfast, is no novice in sharing his views on sport.

I limit myself quite a bit to run these days. Trail running. Usually alone. When you’re on the road you just want to get it done, but when it’s a trail you’re in nature, you have a thermos of coffee and you can make a day of it, it’s mental as well as physical health. Running is something I picked up quite obsessively about six years ago. I try to run most days. Or shake. I’ve never really been a gym person. You won’t find me under a barbell. I am not overly restrictive in my life. Enjoy your beer and go for a run. I would hate to be obsessed with dieting. I love cooking. My specialty? Bearing in mind that I have teenagers with limited tastes, so there are a few dishes on the rotation, but my roasted salmon with a beurre blanc is simple and delicious.

My favorite sportswriters are probably American. Norman Mailer was fantastic, Grantland Rice, Wright Thompson, there are many more. Sports writing may fall into the gray, but there is never a lack of color among these writers. American tradition conceives of the idea that a sports story is a human story. It’s not just facts and statistics. I think it was Tom Robbins who said, “Never be afraid to trade your cow for a handful of magic beans.” Having written several sports biographies myself, I don’t read many, but Andre Agassi’s Open would be one of the best. Because of its sheer size and scope, Daniel James Brown’s The Boys in the Boat is one of the greatest stories.

I’m looking forward to writing a newsletter that explores the topics people can enjoy on Monday mornings. People with a passion for sports have hard and fast opinions – there’s no shortage of them. I’ve never been afraid to call it like I see it, so I will continue to do so.

Click to subscribe to From the Sidelines and get smart analysis and unbridled opinions on sports tomorrow and every Monday at 5am.