9 Questions for Ann Killion
Hailing from Marin gives one a license to choose whether to be San Francisco Giants fans or root for the Oakland A’s. Be a 49er Faithful or a member of the Raider Nation. Everyone has opinions about Bay Area teams — imagine what it’s like for it to be your job to let people know what you think about them. Ann Killion grew up in Mill Valley in a household where Bay Area team allegiances were split but ended up, as a sports columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle, in a position where she covers them all. (Older brothers Tom, the famed woodcut artist, and Paul, an attorney, also live in Marin.) She’s also co-written two books: Solo: A Memoir of Hope, with soccer star Hope Solo, and Throw Like a Girl, with All-American pitcher Jennie Finch. This past fall, she was on hand for every game of the post season as the wild card Giants marched on to claim their third World Series crown in five years.
1. What’s it like living as an adult so close to where you grew up? After my parents sold the house I grew up in, I felt like my toehold in Marin had been lost. So I was thrilled to be able to find an affordable house and be able to raise my kids in my magical hometown.
2. Were you a sports fan as a kid? I was, and my dad was a huge sports fan. Of the three kids, I was the only one who really connected on the same level as him. It was a way to bond with my dad. He was always a National League guy and always a Giants guy. In my house, if we’d had a shrine, it would have been to Willie Mays.
3. What drew you into sportswriting? At Tamalpais High School I was the sports editor of the Tam News, only because nobody wanted to be the sports editor.
4. In terms of your career, was there the idea that there was more opportunity in the field because there were so few women sportswriters? That was part of the attraction, that it was kind of pushing the boundary. Plus I always thought the best writing in a newspaper was in the sports page. And there was opportunity then. In the mid to late ’80s people were looking around their newsrooms and going, “Oh, look — everyone’s a white middle-aged dude.” It was a good time to be applying to unconventional jobs.
5. What are the essential differences between being a daily writer and a columnist? As a beat writer, you were supposed to know everything about one specific thing. Live and breathe with that team and just report the news. As a columnist, you have to be versatile enough to cover just about anything. You can’t just be wedded to one sport. You have to be willing to put yourself out on the line and state an opinion and take the heat that comes with that.
6. What has it been like seeing the landscape change in regard to women covering sports? I kind of surfed the wave after the pioneers broke ground and were the first ones in the locker rooms and everything. The ones that had to sue and fight battles. It’s changed but then it hasn’t changed — there still aren’t that many women. I have a big thing with ESPN, in that the men on the set look like they’re going to work, in a suit and tie. The women on the set look like they’re going to a cocktail party.
7. Where do you see women making a difference in terms of covering sports? I was really proud that at (NFL) Commissioner Goodell’s press conference explaining the Ray Rice thing — and it was shocking considering the resources and PR people that are available to this man, that he came off so poorly — that the hardest questions being asked, by far, were from women.
8. What’s your favorite part of the job? That every day is different. That I’m still surprised by things. I went to Pittsburgh on September 29th for a game on October 1st, and I could have been home on October 2nd. And even though I was home for part of the time, I wasn’t mentally home until October 30th. Never in my wildest dreams would I have said, “Oh, yeah — the Giants are going to win the World Series.”
9. What’s that ride like? It’s pretty crazy. It’s exhausting. It’s exhilarating. Not as exhilarating as it is for the players. But it’s exhilarating because it’s so unexpected. It’s fun. It’s intriguing. You’re booking flights. You don’t know if you’re going to go. Are we going back to St. Louis for Game 6? It’s crazy.