I was young, about 22 years old, working my first job as a small-town sports writer in Oconomowoc. I had not yet cut my college hair. I looked like a hippie. So it’s no wonder that when my time came to interview Barry Alvarez on U.W. Football Media Day, in 2000, he took one look at me and walked away before I had the chance.
Last in line behind bigtime sports writers, if I would have had the confidence to walk straight up to him and ask a fairly decent question about Badger Football, I have no doubt that Barry Alvarez would have been my first big interview.
I was prepared. I studied and researched Badger Football. But I didn’t have the guts. He sensed my fear. He saw my hesitation. He handed me a huge life lesson.
Because when Barry Alvarez walked away, I vowed that my fear would never get in the way again. It’s like what Bohdi says in the cult-classic film Point Break (1991): “Fear causes hesitation, and hesitation will cause your worst fears to come true.” Never mind that Bohdi robbed banks. This is good advice. Barry Alvarez would probably agree.
The next year, I had another chance. Now working in Oregon, it was media day for Oregon State University Football. Dennis Erickson, who had coached the Seattle Seahawks, was now head coach at Oregon State. Waiting in line to interview him, I thought about Barry Alvarez. When it was my turn, I stepped up, looked Coach Erickson in the eye, and asked him something about football. He gave me a zinger.
Joe Forward, Saint Louis Univ. School of Law 2010, is a legal writer for the State Bar of Wisconsin, Madison. He can be reached by email or by phone at (608) 250-6161.
I left the newspaper business for law school, but I still think about Barry Alvarez. I thought about him recently before I interviewed Amy Walter, a heavy hitting political analyst (former political director at ABC) who will speak at the State Bar of Wisconsin’s Annual Meeting and Conference (AMC) in June, and he’ll come to mind again when I interview Paul Clement (former U.S. Solicitor General), another speaker at the AMC.
I thought about Barry Alvarez when I interviewed Karl Rove (President G.W. Bush advisor), Robert Gibbs (former President Obama press director), Bryan Stevenson (renowned public interest lawyer), and Egil “Bud” Krogh Jr. (White House lawyer under President Nixon).
These people – and many of the Wisconsin lawyers and judges I interact with every day – are much smarter than me. But Barry Alvarez taught me to approach them without fear. And that principle applies to new challenges that lawyers face every single day.
Everyone has their Barry Alvarez, no matter how young or old, no matter how seasoned or inexperienced. New situations and circumstances, professional and personal, create fears that must be overcome. Prepare. Work hard. Don’t be afraid of your Barry Alvarez.