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"What Are We Doing Here?": Mike Reiss & "Reporting for Clicks"


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#1 soxfan121


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Posted 10 February 2012 - 11:19 AM

From Mike Reiss' most recent chat at ESPNBoston:

I have been having some internal philosophical debates in my head about what media is these days. What are we trying to accomplish? When I got into this business, I thought we were supposed to tell people what they needed to know. Now I think we're trending in a dangerous area where we report based on what will get clicks. It bothers me...... I'm not perfect, but when I see a company soliciting publicity for dropping a boatload of Butterfingers in Boston and thanking Wes Welker for his drop -- and then some report on it to give that company exactly what they want (publicity) -- it makes me shake my head. What are we doing here?


First, IMO, Mike Reiss is the best sports reporter working in the Boston market and it isn't even close. He works his ass off, rarely presents a personal opinion as "news" and never misses a story. He isn't sensational or controversial and he doesn't do anything to "get clicks" - he just does his job, reporting the daily news from the Patriots/Foxboro in detail and without spin.

Second, he raises a very interesting philosophical debate - what is his primary job function? Is it to report the news or is it to generate "clicks" through spin, "hot sports takes" or the generation of (Tanguay voice) "controversy"? A quick review of Reiss' twitter feed shows football - lots and lots of links to stories, answers to questions and little attempt to sell himself or his latest effort. If you want to know what happened, check with Reiss. If you want to know WHY something happened (and what it means!) then go to Curran or Borges or Bedard - guys with an opinion/agenda and a vested interest in "getting clicks".

What's your reaction to Reiss' lament?

#2 bowiac


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Posted 10 February 2012 - 12:05 PM

I think Mike Reiss is being awfully preachy for a guy who probably knows better. Reiss is a young guy. I don't buy he got into journalism "to tell people what they needed to know" - he got into journalism for the same reason everyone else gets into journalism - it's cool seeing your name in the paper, and once you "make it", it's not a super tough job. I don't buy for a minute that he's noticed a recent trend of reporting what will get clicks. That trend has always been there, except it didn't always used to be clicks. He sounds to me like an old ballplayer complaining about the lack of fundamentals these days.

I don't notice any difference between how Reiss sells himself and how Greg Bedard does certainly on twitter (I don't follow Curran or Borges). Reiss has an opinion too. He doesn't even try to hide it. He does the same "why something happened" and "what it means" stuff as everyone else too.

I dunno. I like Reiss, but the holier than thou routine is a bit weird from a guy who acts as a bit of a mouthpiece for the Patriots at times.

#3 TheoShmeo


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Posted 10 February 2012 - 12:12 PM

I don't share the view that Reiss is being "holier than thou." I think it's more that he's a "connoisseur of the obvious." That the internet media is playing for clicks isn't exactly news.

#4 drleather2001


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Posted 10 February 2012 - 12:32 PM

Sports journalism is at an especially interesting place because sports is, for those who don't make a living off it, entertainment.

That is, I think there's absolutely an ethical duty by journalists who write/report on "Hard News" (e.g. politics, the economy, foreign affairs, crime, etc...) to guide their actions by what is, objectively, important (or at least for their editors to do their best at discerning what is important). "Writing for clicks" undermines their ability to perform that duty and we get into murky waters, with journalism that looks either like Parade Magazine ("What's Michael J. Fox Up To NOW?") or Fox News/MSNBC "preaching to the choir" stuff. That's bad for society, on some level, because there is a value to having an informed society on matters which impact the people who live in it.

However, sports is entertainment. I don't think sports journalists have that same responsibility to their readers. I don't really want to read about the Butterfingers thing, but if people want to spend 45 seconds of their leisure time reading up on it, who cares? Who am I, or Mike Reiss for that matter, to say "The stuff you read for enjoyment isn't what you should be reading...for enjoyment!"

At a fundamental level, what's the difference between choosing to read about the Butterfingers thing and reading an interview with Tom Brady? There is none.

Edited by drleather2001, 10 February 2012 - 12:36 PM.


#5 E5 Yaz


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Posted 10 February 2012 - 12:33 PM

I think Mike Reiss is being awfully preachy for a guy who probably knows better. Reiss is a young guy. I don't buy he got into journalism "to tell people what they needed to know" - he got into journalism for the same reason everyone else gets into journalism - it's cool seeing your name in the paper, and once you "make it", it's not a super tough job.


Talk about being preachy.

#6 Dick Pole Upside

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Posted 10 February 2012 - 12:52 PM

I like Reiss... I also like Ian Rapoport. Rapoport tweets like crazy, but he seems to be a little more comfortable reporting the info as well as clearly identifying his personal "take" on things. Then there's Breer, who can be a good reporter, but tends to go all Tim-Thomas-insane on Twitter.

Reiss is a good reporter, but he is a little stiff... I see this more as comparing and questioning his style of interacting with his "audience" in comparison to guys like Rapoport vis-a-vis Twitter.

He works his ass off, rarely presents a personal opinion as "news" and never misses a story. He isn't sensational or controversial and he doesn't do anything to "get clicks" - he just does his job, reporting the daily news from the Patriots/Foxboro in detail and without spin.


This I agree with and like. Very Belichickian: DO YOUR JOB!

Edited by Dick Pole Upside, 11 February 2012 - 03:26 PM.


#7 Gambler7

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Posted 10 February 2012 - 01:07 PM

Then there's Breer, who can be a good reporter, but tends to go all Tim-Thomas-insane on Twitter.

"I can tell you this"...Breer is obnoxious. Only way to put it.

It's amazing to me what twitter has done with sports reporters/columnists. I've thought a bunch of times over the last year about how unprofessional a media member was being on twitter (most include their company in their name or byline, it's not a personal account, they use it for both). A lot of lines have definitely been crossed, the word "professionalism" is becoming extinct with regards to sports media, for sure.

Edited by Gambler7, 10 February 2012 - 01:08 PM.


#8 JBill

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Posted 10 February 2012 - 01:14 PM

It's amazing to me what twitter has done with sports reporters/columnists. I've thought a bunch of times over the last year about how unprofessional a media member was being on twitter (most include their company in their name or byline, it's not a personal account, they use it for both). A lot of lines have definitely been crossed, the word "professionalism" is becoming extinct with regards to sports media, for sure.


Couldn't agree more. I've gone from liking a reporter to dislike after a twitter follow. As for Pats reporters, Reiss and Rappaport are the two I follow, although Rap is close to my personal pet peeve of "tweets too much." But what one misses, the other usually picks up.

#9 John Marzano Olympic Hero


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Posted 10 February 2012 - 01:18 PM

I think Mike Reiss is being awfully preachy for a guy who probably knows better. Reiss is a young guy. I don't buy he got into journalism "to tell people what they needed to know" - he got into journalism for the same reason everyone else gets into journalism - it's cool seeing your name in the paper, and once you "make it", it's not a super tough job


You literally have no idea what you're talking about. No one goes into journalism to see his/her name in print. It might be cool when you're 16 or 17 years-old, but if you've done it enough it's old hat. In fact most writers I know never look at their byline. If they do it's only to make sure their name is spelled correctly.

Secondly, do you know how many journalists actually "make it"? And when you say "make it" I assume you mean someone like Peter King, Bob Ryan, CHB, Peter Gammons, Stephen A. Smith, a national or local guy with a lot of juice. In any event it's a bitch. For one thing, most journalism jobs at a big paper are few and far between. And if you're a white guy, it might be a little tougher because an editor is going to want diversity (which, IMO is a good thing). To even get looked at you're going to need to start at a small paper and work your way up to medium sized papers, not a lot of guys are like Gasper who intern at the Globe and are hired when they graduate college. So I hope that you really, really enjoy watching sports because you'll be watching Division 4 girl's soccer, all sorts of Little League games and maybe a few beer league softball games.

Then if you something to get hired at a large daily, get ready to watch a shit load of high school, prep and lower-level college games for three or four years because that's where you're starting your writing. And the days that you aren't writing (which at the beginning of your career is going to be more than the days that you do write) you're editing wire reports, making sure the transactions are correct and other bullshit that 99.99% of readers don't care about. But if you screw up, you will hear about it and your editor is going to think you're a moron who can't be trusted. Oh yeah, you're barely making minimum wage at this point in your life.

Say you are one of the lucky ones that does get promoted to a beat writer. For eight to nine months a year you're on the beat and you're following a team, you're interviewing people who don't like or trust you and you're writing stories for readers who think you're a hack, have an agenda or just plain suck. For the next 10-15 years you're going to such awesome cities as Cincinnati, St. Louis, Oakland and eating like shit, sleeping another bed and spending a great amount of your time on a plane. Oh yeah, news cycles are much shorter and there are more folks breaking stuff; so you're insanely paranoid about getting scooped. And you have to make sure your sources aren't thinking that you're fucking them because guess what, when they think that your pipeline dries up and no more exclusives for you. Your boss will be pumped about that.

So now you're about 35 or 40, you've spent 20 years putting your career first and you haven't been around that much for your kids. But you're a columnist now and instead of having a beat, you can write about whatever you want, which is cool. But if you want to "make it" that's only part of the deal. You have to still hustle for radio and TV spots and get your name out there. Then you've made it, which you're right is so fucking easy I can't believe everyone isn't a professional sports writer.

#10 Phenom


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Posted 10 February 2012 - 01:23 PM

I think it’s pretty clear, actually, what the “roles of media” should be:

Beat reporters are supposed to relay information about the team they’re covering to the public. The news should be reported in an unbiased manner, and all sides should be represented.

Columnists are supposed to write about their opinion on a particular subject. If a columnist goes to cover a game, the story should include quotes and anecdotes that support the premise of the column. People don’t read columns for the game story, because the beat reporter has conceivably already filed that.

Radio/television talk show hosts are supposed to generate the highest ratings possible. The higher a show’s ratings are means the station can charge more money for advertising, and thus create more revenue. Radio and television stations are businesses.

Talk show hosts can choose how they format their programs, but the reality is that a “sensationalist viewpoint” often trumps “level-headed thinking” in the ratings. It is simply impossible for somebody to have a passionate opinion on every subject, however the medium demands that every host must have a “take” on everything and everybody. This often results in manufactured arguments and some manufactured storylines that are only discussed for the sake of “stirring the pot.”

Again, I feel like these roles are pretty simply defined. I’m always amazed when somebody like Bruce Allen, whose job is to critique media, bashes Michael Felger for “not just talking about the facts!” Of course Felger (or any other talk show host) isn’t going to just “talk about the facts.” It is assumed that the listener already knows the story of the day, and is listening to “Felger and Mazz” to hear Felger’s and Massarotti’s opinion on the story. Relying on sports talk radio for unbiased sports news is just as ludicrous as watching Sean Hannity for unbiased political coverage.

Now due to technology, this all gets a little more complicated. For example, when Ian Rapoport (for example) is a guest on “Sports Tonight,” should he still be expected to fulfill the obligations of a beat reporter? The answer is no, because when Rapoport is a guest commentator on a TV show, he isn’t breaking news. He’s asked to express his opinion on a subject.

If one reads Rapoport’s game stories, they’re not going to include any biases because in that medium he’s a reporter. But when Rapoport is on a talk show, he is going to be biased because he’s asked to be something different.

The trouble comes with Twitter. Beat reporters use the same twitter account to report news AND to opine on whatever they feel like. This definitely clouds the picture, as it becomes unclear which tweet is intended to be news and which tweet is intended to be analysis. I think that more responsibility needs to be taken in regards to twitter accounts and things of the like.

Last thing…anything a public figure does in a public domain is newsworthy. There is nothing wrong with publishing a picture of Rob Gronkowski dancing in a nightclub after the Patriots lost the Super Bowl. There is also nothing wrong with a talk show host dedicating a show to it, or a columnist writing a column about it. They can give their opinions on whichever topics they choose. If you as a consumer don’t want to hear or read about Gronk dancing in a nightclub, then don’t listen the show and don’t read the column.

Edited by Phenom, 10 February 2012 - 01:31 PM.


#11 MyDaughterLovesTomGordon

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Posted 10 February 2012 - 01:43 PM

What Reiss is talking about isn't just happening in sports, obviously. As a working reporter in the technology field, online only, I feel the same pressure. You write what you feel is an "important" story, really digging into a trend or interviewing a really forward-thinking technologist and placing it in context, and if you don't give it some kind of flashy "oh my god!" headline, no one clicks. But you write about someone fucking up and it's click city. It just makes you feel dirty as a reporter because you're judged on clicks and it's easy to come up with stories that you KNOW people will click the shit out of while other, much meatier stories get neglected because you know they're not going to be crazy pageview generators.

I made my peace with it a while ago - my philosophy is that it's my job to write stuff that people want to read, not "educate" them. If people want to read about disasters and explosions and messy company break-ups, that's what I'll give them.

I keep my personal stuff out of Twitter, though. That stuff goes on Facebook.

#12 berniecarbo1

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Posted 10 February 2012 - 02:07 PM

You literally have no idea what you're talking about. No one goes into journalism to see his/her name in print. It might be cool when you're 16 or 17 years-old, but if you've done it enough it's old hat. In fact most writers I know never look at their byline. If they do it's only to make sure their name is spelled correctly.

Secondly, do you know how many journalists actually "make it"? And when you say "make it" I assume you mean someone like Peter King, Bob Ryan, CHB, Peter Gammons, Stephen A. Smith, a national or local guy with a lot of juice. In any event it's a bitch. For one thing, most journalism jobs at a big paper are few and far between. And if you're a white guy, it might be a little tougher because an editor is going to want diversity (which, IMO is a good thing). To even get looked at you're going to need to start at a small paper and work your way up to medium sized papers, not a lot of guys are like Gasper who intern at the Globe and are hired when they graduate college. So I hope that you really, really enjoy watching sports because you'll be watching Division 4 girl's soccer, all sorts of Little League games and maybe a few beer league softball games.

Then if you something to get hired at a large daily, get ready to watch a shit load of high school, prep and lower-level college games for three or four years because that's where you're starting your writing. And the days that you aren't writing (which at the beginning of your career is going to be more than the days that you do write) you're editing wire reports, making sure the transactions are correct and other bullshit that 99.99% of readers don't care about. But if you screw up, you will hear about it and your editor is going to think you're a moron who can't be trusted. Oh yeah, you're barely making minimum wage at this point in your life.

Say you are one of the lucky ones that does get promoted to a beat writer. For eight to nine months a year you're on the beat and you're following a team, you're interviewing people who don't like or trust you and you're writing stories for readers who think you're a hack, have an agenda or just plain suck. For the next 10-15 years you're going to such awesome cities as Cincinnati, St. Louis, Oakland and eating like shit, sleeping another bed and spending a great amount of your time on a plane. Oh yeah, news cycles are much shorter and there are more folks breaking stuff; so you're insanely paranoid about getting scooped. And you have to make sure your sources aren't thinking that you're fucking them because guess what, when they think that your pipeline dries up and no more exclusives for you. Your boss will be pumped about that.

So now you're about 35 or 40, you've spent 20 years putting your career first and you haven't been around that much for your kids. But you're a columnist now and instead of having a beat, you can write about whatever you want, which is cool. But if you want to "make it" that's only part of the deal. You have to still hustle for radio and TV spots and get your name out there. Then you've made it, which you're right is so fucking easy I can't believe everyone isn't a professional sports writer.


EXCELLENT!!! Why do think Amalie Benjamin stepped it back and Jeff Horrigan who was the Sox beat writer for the Herald got out of the business after he had "made it". He was a kid who grew up in Dedham, followed the Sox for years as a kid, always wanted to be a sports writer, went the route as outlined above and was the Cncinnati Reds beat writer before coming back home to Boston. Only Jeff lived and saw what Marzano here is talking about. And he got out of it completely in his early 40's, moved to Milwaukee and is a father with a normal job. There is no glamour in being a beat writer, especially for baseball, football and hockey. the travel sucks. The best "beat' job is football since you only have 10-12 road trips a yeart, on the weekends and you can have some sort of "normalcy". There is a ton of personal sacrifice in that business and most of these guys end up as alcoholics and bitter old men when their wriitng days are over.

#13 Shelterdog


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Posted 10 February 2012 - 02:48 PM

Two random bits:

1.) This is all just Reiss bitching about Rappoport, who did "report" on the pawngo butterfingers stunt with a lot of disclaimers about how it was a stupid, lowclass PR stunt with no news value.

2.) Reiss is a lot older than people think-probably because he looks like an adolescent elf. He's been covering the Pats since about 1997. It's not fair to talk about him as the young guy, even if his next job might be doing PR for the Lollipop Guild.

#14 Jack Sox

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Posted 10 February 2012 - 03:37 PM

Two random bits:

1.) This is all just Reiss bitching about Rappoport, who did "report" on the pawngo butterfingers stunt with a lot of disclaimers about how it was a stupid, lowclass PR stunt with no news value.


I think this is bingo. I know personally that I've grown immensely tired of Rapoport and his incessant, not to mention often irrelevant, use of twitter - which let's face it - is pretty much the direction sports media is trending. Rapoport seems equally concerned with becoming twitter bros with the players he covers as he does with actually covering the Patriots. It was fun for a while but now it's just obnoxious.

#15 WayBackVazquez


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Posted 10 February 2012 - 04:30 PM

I think Mike Reiss is being awfully preachy for a guy who probably knows better. Reiss is a young guy. I don't buy he got into journalism "to tell people what they needed to know" - he got into journalism for the same reason everyone else gets into journalism - it's cool seeing your name in the paper, and once you "make it", it's not a super tough job. I don't buy for a minute that he's noticed a recent trend of reporting what will get clicks. That trend has always been there, except it didn't always used to be clicks. He sounds to me like an old ballplayer complaining about the lack of fundamentals these days.


Mike and I worked together at the Collegian and WMUA in the early-mid 90s. I appreciate the young guy comment, but as stated above, he's probably not as young as you think. I can tell you that back then, he was about as hard a worker as you'll ever find in that environment, and I very much doubt that's changed since. If anyone got into journalism for the right reasons, it's Mike.

#16 Corsi


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Posted 10 February 2012 - 04:34 PM

Rapoport seems equally concerned with becoming twitter bros with the players he covers as he does with actually covering the Patriots. It was fun for a while but now it's just obnoxious.


This is it. He tweets/retweets them like they're his best friends. It's lame.

Rap is alright, but he's on Comcast Sports Tonight every so often and pretty much contributes nothing.

I mean, Rap has 47K tweets and Reiss has 18K.

Too put that into perspective, Ochocinco has 32K.

Edited by Corsi, 10 February 2012 - 04:35 PM.


#17 jp9183

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Posted 10 February 2012 - 05:39 PM

As a journalism major here, i`ll butt in. A lot of it used to be report the news and get the good story and your a good writer. People want to hear what going on. But i`ve had professors tell me if you want to make it big, be a troll. Some people will ignore you but theres that large group of people that just go read it to see what "that idiot" wrote today. Going Reiss' way is not easy. With the slow on-going death of newspapers and all the former jocks and random blogger trying to write it`s become a flooded market. The good writers get stuck doing small time work before they can even get into sports journalism (like i was assigned a city hall beat covering ordinances) and a lot end up going over to PR and making more money.

Edited by jp9183, 10 February 2012 - 05:40 PM.


#18 LMontro

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Posted 10 February 2012 - 07:24 PM

I think this is bingo. I know personally that I've grown immensely tired of Rapoport and his incessant, not to mention often irrelevant, use of twitter - which let's face it - is pretty much the direction sports media is trending. Rapoport seems equally concerned with becoming twitter bros with the players he covers as he does with actually covering the Patriots. It was fun for a while but now it's just obnoxious.


Rap is not alone with this and it is a big part of why I stopped following much of the media on Twitter. Way too much jock-sniffing and "LOL, Can we be best friends?" type of posts. Heyman was awful with this too but not sure lately since I unfollowed. Rap and Breer are awful. I really dislike it but I agree that this appears to be the direction things are heading.

#19 Smiling Joe Hesketh


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Posted 11 February 2012 - 10:58 AM

Rap is not alone with this and it is a big part of why I stopped following much of the media on Twitter. Way too much jock-sniffing and "LOL, Can we be best friends?" type of posts. Heyman was awful with this too but not sure lately since I unfollowed. Rap and Breer are awful. I really dislike it but I agree that this appears to be the direction things are heading.


Breer is by far the worst. He's an immature dickbag.

#20 Smiling Joe Hesketh


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Posted 11 February 2012 - 10:59 AM

BTW there's an excellent column by Howard Bryant over on ESPN that touches on many of the same issues Reiss is talking about in his own comments. Perhaps another "What the hell are we really doing here?" moment.

#21 soxfan121


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Posted 11 February 2012 - 04:02 PM

Bryant's column

Maybe it's the sports culture's bent toward quantitative analysis -- the need to find a reason for each outcome -- combined with the incessant and instant punditry on television and in the blogosphere, on Twitter as well as in newspapers, and of course on sports radio and websites, but sports, like much of society, have taken an ugly turn. As technology expands and speeds discourse, edges have sharpened. The attraction to and appreciation for high-level competition -- ostensibly the reason we watch these golden athletes -- disappear as soon as the final gun sounds. The blame game is our new national pastime.



#22 dirtynine

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Posted 13 February 2012 - 02:49 PM

This sentiment is coming up all over the place as people get burned out by the insane (and often inane) news cycle. Tech news was mentioned upthread, and it's a close analogue to sports news in that it's a softer, more entertainment-infused form of reporting than front-page stuff. MG Siegler wrote about this same thing today, from the tech end.

The backlash is going to continue to grow, and many "good" writers are going to split off from the hypercharged, story-breaking, click-bait-centric news cycle to focus on (correctly) writing less content, with less-splashy ledes, less often - but with more substance, research and gravity. The other stuff will continue but the focus on breaking something (I still don't know who, besides reporters, care anyway) will be left to the wolves.

#23 nattysez

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Posted 06 March 2012 - 12:26 PM

Well, it worked out for RapSheet. He got hired by NFL Network and is leaving the Herald.

https://twitter.com/#!/RapSheet/status/177077863776923648
link to tweet

#24 Corsi


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Posted 21 November 2013 - 03:01 PM

BZnrts8CYAAzJuh.jpg



#25 Andy Merchant

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Posted 21 November 2013 - 05:57 PM

I didn't really appreciate how huge those dudes were until I saw then in person at training camp. Near the end of practice, the entire offensive line came over and signed for all of the gathered kids. Logan Mankins signed for my kids and he was a big dude, but Solder and Vollmer were particularly enormous. I'm assuming that I'm taller than Reiss, but the above pic pretty much describes how I felt standing there.



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