Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) of the NFL Network is in the business of breaking news about the NFL.
Even during football’s off-season, there is never a dull moment on the beat. We caught up with Ian on a pretty interesting day from a football news standpoint, which included breaking news that certain players on the Dallas Cowboys, including Ezekiel Elliot, had tested positive for COVID-19.
When Rapoport is not out breaking football news – and even when he is – he is Max and Jude’s Dad. Max is turning 7 and Jude is 5. With Father’s Day approaching this weekend, Rapoport has been thinking a lot about how this difficult period for the world has also been a special time for him as a parent.
— Leah Rapoport (@TheBanktress) March 19, 2020
We talked about the silver-linings of the past three months of quarantine, how he’s thinking about this Father’s Day differently than ever before, his approach to balancing a demanding phone-always-at-the-ready job with being a present father for his boys, talking to his kids about big difficult issues like being anti-racist and social justice, and, of course…Rob Gronkowski.
Thinking About This Father’s Day Differently…
“This year – I feel like the last three or so months has been painful in a lot of ways because of the quarantine and the pandemic and everything the world has gone through, but it has been an unbelievable gift to be around them all the time. This Father’s Day for me takes on even more meaning than usual for that reason.
They are literally a part of every second and as I think about Father’s Day, this is going to be a special one. It kind of wraps up and symbolizes the year.
Even with all the bad that has gone on in the world, the silver lining is that I’ve seen my boys more than ever, and that has been incredible.”
In terms of actual physical gifts, one thing that we should underscore – mainly for Max and Jude’s benefit – is that Ian is definitively not opposed to receiving the traditional but much maligned tie as a gift:
“I do actually like ties as gift; I know they’re frowned upon. But I do wear one for a living. And traditionally, my kids would always go with my wife to a nice store and pick out a tie for me based on what they’re into. So whether they’re into trucks or sharks at the time, I’ve gotten ties with wheels on them and shark ties.”
Working from Home…With Kids
Like many of us, Rapoport has basically been in the house for the past three months straight. His Westchester, NY-based quaran-team of four includes his wife, Leah, and their two boys. Max is almost 7; Jude is 5 years old.
“I work from home ordinarily, I have a home studio in the basement. So I’m really conditioned to wake up, check my phone, make a call here and there, make breakfast for the boys, either walk or scooter/bike with them to school together and then I’m working until they’re home later.
To me a lot of the quarantine was sort of the same; in some ways, for me, it was normal. I walk downstairs to go to work. What has been incredibly different is that the kids are here all the time. Normally, when I’m working by myself, I would have no problem just staying in the basement. Here, with them here for the last three months, I found myself wanting to come up all the time.
Or it wasn’t abnormal to be on the phone with an NFL head coach or a general manager or owner, and one of my kids just walks into my office and says hello. And that’s not so embarrassing anymore, and that’s actually not such a bad thing! Because everyone else’s families are there too! Those kinds of things that we used to cringe about earlier are normal now! Like I just did a Zoom call with Joe Burrow and at the end my kids walked in because they like him and wanted to say hi, and he was totally cool with it.
Maybe that’s one of the reasons this year’s NFL Draft resonated so well. It’s always good to be reminded of the fact that these are human beings; the people you cover or that you watch on TV. They’re not just faceless nameless people on the field. And that’s true of coaches and GMs too. You got to see their houses and their family, and all of that was really cool. I feel like family has been a much larger part of all of our lives during the past three months for all of us, mine included, and that’s a good thing.
I’ve never been shy about introducing my family members to the people I cover – mostly because I want them to be a part of everything. And there’s been so much more of that.
The other thing is because we were doing distance learning for three months, my kids were home working on assignments and school projects at the dining room table, and for me, when I had time off or vacation it wasn’t off for vacation. It was school. It was different from the usual off-day, because you don’t just head off to play golf because they’re in school.
It has been unbelievably fascinating and fun to first of all get to see them so much more and also to get to see how they learn and what they’re doing in school and what they like and are interested in. I never expected that part of it to resonate with me, but I’ve gotten such a kick out of watching them learn.
“In my line of work, I’m never quite able to put the phone down, and everyone has kind of come to grips to that.
I’d say there’s a couple things I try to do to keep it in balance and be present as a Dad:
When I need to work, when I’m in my office with the door locked – so they don’t run in on TV like Jude did a couple years ago – I usually will work when I’m down there or when I get a phone call, I will go down to the office. When I am on the phone, I try to leave the room. It doesn’t help anyone if I’m there but on the phone, and they don’t know if Daddy is engaged or not. But, they know when its important – when I’ve got to take it, I’ve got to take it.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) November 7, 2018
They understand what my job is. They know my job is to break news. When I get beat on news, they will ask ‘Why did someone else break the news?’ They will wish me luck when I go downstairs: ‘I hope that you break some news today.’
When Jude was 3, and I was explaining to them what my job is for the first time. And I was telling them that my job is to break news, to break the biggest news I can. And Jude responds with ‘When I break news, I smash it.‘ So my wife made a t-shirt of that, which I’m actually wearing right now.
So they’re very much a part of my life. When stuff happens that’s important, I come up and tell them. They want to know it all. They’re all in, and they get it!
The other thing I should mention is that I try very hard – when I’m not engaged in breaking news, talking to sources – when I’m not really working, I go to incredible lengths not to just be on my phone, scrolling through things.
When I’m working, I’m working. And when I’m not, I’m present. When I’m with them, I put the phone down, and they know that when I pick it up, it means I have to take it. Because they can tell. They’ll say ‘Daddy, get off your phone.'”
Talking to Your Kids About Big Issues…
During this same time period, there’s obviously been a lot going on in the country, in terms of the anti-racism movement and issues of social and racial justice. A lifelong focus for all of us as parents is on raising good humans and making sure they are aware of what’s going on in the world, and Ian and Leah are very focused on that as parents, despite their boys still being so young:
“One thing we can’t do is we can’t pretend it’s not going on. We’ve always been really up front with the boys about life and lessons you hope any kid would learn. We try to teach them, for example, not to comment on people’s appearance.
When George Floyd was murdered and the protests became the biggest story in America by far, my wife and I had a discussion about how to talk to them about it and what to say – and then Max, my oldest, asked us about it. So we ended up, in a very organic way, sitting on the couch and discussing it. And we discussed how we have to treat everyone the same regardless of the color of their skin.
‘What happened to him?,’ he asked.
‘He was hurt very badly.’
‘Did he die?‘
‘Yes, he died.’
And teaching them that police officers can be very good and they can protect us, but some have not been so good and how unfair and not right it is.
Watching them take it all in and understand and talk about how bad it is to hurt someone and how wrong it it, and watching them come to the realization that some people do make judgments about others based on what they look like, I think they were a little surprised by that. Because I don’t think they see it a lot. And I could tell that they were shook.
There are so many issue about race, about treating people properly, and for kids it’s so important to reenforce that people need to be treated equally, of course.
All these issues are going to come up in life and we’ve taken the approach that we should be discussing it with them.”
Athletes Using Their Platforms to Speak Out …
Another thing we are seeing a lot of these days is a blurring of sports stories with non-sports stories about larger social and cultural issues and athletes – as well as non-athletes – speaking out:
“One big thing is how much of a voice people really have. Players have a voice and they can speak out.
That’s something we passed on to the boys too – if it’s important to you, if you believe in it, say it. And that’s becoming more accepted.
The lesson – and Max has never been shy about expressing his opinion anyway!- but the lesson is important: that you have a voice and that what you say matters. The importance of that has become so apparent during this news cycle.”
The Most Fun Story You’ve Ever Broken?
“My boys got to meet Gronk [Rob Gronkowski], because he was on my podcast. It was in the city, so I brought them with me. And he was incredible with them. They were telling him all about how they lost their teeth; it was great.
They like Gronk. [Who doesn’t!?]
So when I broke that Gronk was coming back to the NFL and that he was going to the Bucs, that was the most fun. But the funniest part about that one is, they didn’t care, because Leah had already broken the news to them and they had watched it on TV.
I was so excited to tell them the news, and Max literally said, ‘Yeah, we know. Mama broke the news, and we saw it on TV.‘
And I said, ‘Well, do you know who he’s playing for?,’ and he said ‘Yeah, the Bucs. With Tom Brady.’
So, yeah. OK. Glad I could contribute.”
Photo Credit: Ian Rapoport (with permission)
From 2017, but seems evergreen:
— Leah Rapoport (@TheBanktress) June 18, 2017