GoldenBlogs Interview With Jonathan Okanes

Many thanks to local journostud, Jonathan Okanes, the Contra Costa Times embedded reporter with the California football team.  He reports back the interesting information of the day!  And every Thursday at 1, he hosts a ever so lively live chat that we populate with inane names and even more inaner questions.  Sorry about that, Mr. O! But JOkanes has looked past that and been willing to answer some of our questions.  So very kind, Jon.

Mr. O has been kind enough to write a short biography for us:

I am originally from Concord, graduated from Ygnacio Valley High School in 1988 and UC Santa Barbara in 1992. I did some sports radio work for about a year in Santa Barbara before coming to the Antioch Ledger Dispatch in 1993. I worked at the Ledger Dispatch (which is a part of the CC Times chain of papers) until 1998, when I moved over to the Times. At the Times, I've done just about everything. Beats have included Stanford football, the Sharks, Cal basketball and now Cal football. But I've also covered the A's, Giants, Raiders, 49ers and Warriors on a semi-regular basis over the years.

 Behind the fold, find out the answers to your burning Okanes questions.  Bee Tee Dubya, if your questions continue to burn like that, can I suggest Valtrex?


I had trouble finding a photo of Jonathan Okanes; this is the best I could find via

1.  What do you love the most about your job?


Probably the drama of sports. I've always said I'm just as interested in what happens between plays than during plays.

2.  What do you hate the most about your job?

It can make for a challenging lifestyle, especially if you have a family. Working nights, weekends, travel, etc. can make it hard sometimes. I am married with two little boys but my family is very understanding and supportive.

3.  How do you draw the line with reporter and columnist?


The way I see it, the beat writer is to identify with the team but not openly opine. You can provide insight without editorializing.


4.  How often do you learn items you cannot divulge to the public?


Now and then


5.  Were you a Cal fan before you got this job? 



6.  Which college did you attend?


UC Santa Barbara


7.  What got you interested in sports journalism?


I actually was more interested in sports broadcasting. When I got to UCSB, I immediately joined the sports department at the campus radio station. All of the other guys there were also working for the student paper, so I decided to give it a shot as well.


8.  What interested you in joining the Contra Costa Times?


They were willing to hire me!

9.  What kind of a difference in the offensive scheme does the new offensive coordinator bring. Is it for the better or for worse?


I don't see much of a difference. There might be a few wrinkles here and there, but not any major changes. Even though Jeff Tedford isn't calling the plays on gameday anymore, he's still heavily involved with the offensive game plan during the week.

10.  Which offensive player has the most potential? Defensive player?


Obviously, Jahvid Best is megatalented. He seems to be able to do just about anything on the football field, as last season's play at gunner suggests. I think Cameron Jordan is a potential star. He runs like a linebacker but is almost 300 pounds and already seems to be putting things together.

11.  If there was one thing you could change about the game-day experience of Cal football, what would it be?


That's a hard question for me to answer because I spend most of it in the press box so I am not exposed to a lot of the other things going on.

12.  The Pac-10 venue you most enjoy visiting is _______ . Why?


Seattle. It's just a beautiful city with a lot to do. If you can tolerate the rain, it's great.


13.  From what you can gauge, how do players learn to handle being "football stars," with sixty thousand fans screaming at them once a week, and being regular college kids with homework and classes and parties?


 They seem to handle it well. I think after awhile, they just get used to it.


14.  This is sort of a pessimistic question. I don't know the exact number, but it seems like the average college team has 80-110 roster players. In a very good graduating class, 4-5 players might be drafted. 3-4 will get signed, 1-2 might start that year, and maybe 1 will start consistently year in and year out. How focused are the players on making the NFL and ONLY making the NFL? That is, how many of them are looking only to have a career in the NFL, and how do they wrap their heads around the odds that it just might not (in fact, probably will not) happen? With the amount of time and dedication the players put into the team, do they ever consider that the NFL just won't be in their future?


I probably haven't had enough discussions about the NFL with enough players to give you an accurate answer. I will tell you that covering basketball for four years, it seems like every basketball player, down to the walk-ons, was convinced he could play in the NBA.


15.  Fifteen years ago, the "media" consisted of newspaper and TV. Players could fairly easily be sheltered from sensationalism and press-related distractions pretty much by not watching the sports report and not reading the papers. Now, in addition to these the world has 24/7 ESPN, internet, cell phones, blogs, blackberries, blueberries, and chuckberries. Sports information, hype, and distraction is available to everyone, all the time. Has the coaching staff adapted to try and completely shelter the players from the media? Or is there more of an attitude that "it's there, they're gonna see this ridiculous media, might as well prepare them for it." How do players deal with this constant barrage of media?


The coaches haven't sheltered the players at all. They are still very accessible. I can tell some players tire of it, and they're welcome to decline interview requests. There have been a few players who have basically stopped doing interviews from time to time, but for the most part accessibility is pretty good.


16.  In press conferences and interviews, Tedford seems more or less unshaken by the events of the past 2 years, in spite of the fanbase calling for, at times, just about everyone affiliated with the team's head on a spike. Does the fanbase (or donorbase, w/e) register at all with him, or are we more or less unwanted distractions? Is he conscious of the vitriol? Does it faze him? (I know he has said that it doesn't, but from what YOU have noticed personally, does it?) That said, is he conscious of the praise he receives?

He is aware of what goes on and what is being said. I think he just figures it comes with the territory of being a coach. Believe me, it could be a lot worse if he was in another part of the country.




Mucho, mucho thanks to Jon Jon!  He is a great reporter and we link to his work every day.  Leave thanks in the comments or tell him how you really feel.  Go Bears!

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