Story by Daniel Tate
As I drove to the Noodles and Company in Sugarhouse, Utah to meet up with Andy Larsen, I found myself talking out loud. I had even turned the radio down without even really meaning to. It was as if I was on my way to a very important test and I was trying to cram in as much information as I could before walking into class. The whole week leading up to this interview I was totally laid back about the whole situation, but as time drew near those nerves of mine began to set in. I was not nervous to meet up with Larsen, as we had met and talked multiple times before, but I found myself more nervous to talk with him as a professional and not just two fans talking about the team we cheer on.
“You’re the right guy to do it. You’re young, but professional. You’d be a good fit. You would receive credentials, free ticket to every game, you get to interview the players, and you have the opportunity to have your work published on ESPN.com. It was a big deal. I remember fist pumping.” Listening to Larsen speak these words I could still see the young, excited fan boy in him. At the wise old age of 24, Larsen has accomplished so much, but it could be said that he has been that lucky guy who was in the right place, at the right time to get where he is today.
Today Larsen makes a living, as a sports writer for KSL.com, but it was not always sports writing or even sports that was a passion for him during his adolescent years. It was actually mathematics. As I sat listening to stories of his childhood, this new information about his passion for math was somewhat surprising, but was also not surprising at all.
I first became familiar with Larsen through Jazz stats. Do not fear college students; this is not some kind of new math term that you will need to learn to become a successful sports writer or a math professor. You see Larsen and I are big Utah Jazz fans, and it was our passion for the team that brought us together. I first spoke with Larsen like most of us do these days on the social media web site Twitter. At the time he was writing articles for SLC Dunk, which covers the Utah Jazz for SB Nation. I really enjoyed reading his work, but there was always one thing I had a hard time comprehending about his articles and that was the stats. His articles were always heavy on Utah Jazz stats. I eventually sent a direct message to Larsen asking why he always felt the need to include so many stats in his articles and he replied with the generic answer of him wanting to give readers all the detailed information and then providing stats to back up his words. However it was this new information I had learned during our interview that provided me with what I felt was the real answer to my question.
So he is a math nerd. But how exactly does a math nerd end up with such an amazing sports writing job? “I got grounded and my mom said I couldn’t use the computer unless it was for school activities and so I figured I would just have to make my schoolwork fun” Larsen explained when asked how he first got into sports writing. He went on to tell me how he had an upcoming math presentation and he decided to mix in some baseball stats to give the presentation a little extra zing. While doing research for his presentation he began reading articles written by Nate Silver and random post on the web site Baseball Prospectus. Larsen recalls these articles as really being the spark that really got him interested in sports writing. However unlike the common sports fan that reads articles to just get updates on there favorite teams, Larsen was much more interested in how these writers were mixing in stats (aka math) into their writing. Thus in lies are answer to the question. The math nerd becomes a successful sports writer by finding a unique way to mix in his passion for mathematics into text that sports fan will find interesting.
Larsen graduated from Westminster College in 2012 with his degree in mathematics and it was not long after that he was given the chance to show off his writing skills to a much larger audience.
In May 2013 Larsen was approached to become the new managing editor of Salt City Hoops, which is the ESPN Truehoop blog for the Utah Jazz. Larsen accepted the offer and was on cloud nine. Before accepting the offer Larsen was a Jazz season ticket holder who went to every Utah Jazz home game. With his new job he would now be going to every game, every practice, interview players, and interview coaches. It was a dream come true, for a man who had never really dreamed of sports writing.
With two years of managing editing under his belt, Larsen was once again given the opportunity to move up in the sports writing ladder. In May 2015 Larsen accepted a sports writing position with KSL.com, one of the top news stations in Salt Lake City. In just a few short years, Larsen had gone from a teenager who decided to bring baseball stats into his math project, to a respected sports writer.
As my time with Larsen came to an end I was happy to learn some new things about a man I consider a friend and even some one I consider a role model in a way. Here was a man who had a passion for math since he was a young boy and he was able to mix in his passion into a successful career. It was also very refreshing to hear how calm about everything. Throughout the whole interview I never felt he was stressed about anything that came up throughout his life. When I asked him about this he smiled and recalled feeling very confident going into each new experience. Confidence was the key for Larsen’s writing and it should be the key for anyone looking to keep his or her passion alive while looking for a successful career.