I don’t know Kristin Kill. Couldn’t pick her out of a lineup. She seemed nice enough in the two-sentence exchange we had after the Niagara University softball team dropped a doubleheader to Canisius on a sunny Sunday in April, but if she bumped into me at the Fashion Outlets the only way I’d recognize her is if she was wearing an NU softball windbreaker with the initials KK.

Even then, it might take me a second to put the two together.

Still, I sat unprofessionally pulling for the Purple Eagles’ right fielder while soaking up sun from the left field bleachers that day six weeks ago, largely because I was sitting with NU goalie Juliano Pagliero, with whom Kill has long been involved. Pagliero explained some of the team’s nuances, having sat through his share of chilly spring afternoons, stockpiling important relationship points in the process. No word on if he doubled them by taking her to see “Sex and the City” this weekend.

As a group of teammates gathered around Pagliero, who was decked in a Miikka Kiprusoff shirt in homage to his hometown Calgary Flames, we chatted about NU’s NCAA Tournament trip to Albany, the team’s chances next season, and the Stanley Cup playoffs. Pagliero is an awkward, yet charming guy, quirky enough to fit the stereotype of goaltender, yet likable enough to become the team’s spokesperson.

This is relevant because a hot topic making the sports journalism rounds is the changing dynamic of player-media relations. Pat Jordan, who’s had pieces appear in power players like Sports Illustrated and the New York Times Magazine, recently wrote at slate.com that he couldn’t get Josh Beckett to return his calls. Jordan’s point, and it’s a good one, is that the middlemen of sports information have become a bigger barrier than boon to fostering player-media relations.

It’s not their fault, mind you.

Guys like Chris Jenkins of the Buffalo Bills do their best on a daily basis. Jenkins, the team’s director of media relations, has always accommodated our requests for assistant coaches, front-office folks, and even specific trend stories. He’s well-versed in what the local media does, commenting occasionally on a column we’ll write, even though we’re one of a number of print products that cover the team’s home games.

But where reporters used to chum it up with local heroes — I love listening to longtime Welland Tribune writer Wayne Redshaw tell stories about escapades with various Sabres in the 70s — mingling with the players other than at a post-game press conference is all but impossible.

For bigger media outlets, sending reporters on the road with local pro teams is still a possibility. In their travels, some of the beat guys get closer to the players, although not nearly at the level they once did. A recent story in the Boston Globe explained that Celtics’ backup Rick Robey used to carpool with then beat guy Bob Ryan to the airport.

None of the Sabres have dialed my cell looking for a ride in my Olds Alero.

As the disparity in salaries between players and reporters has grown, relating to pro athletes has become more complicated. I’m not immersed in the culture, but I get to sample it. These are regular guys, like you and me, or at least they were until fame and fortune worked their deviltry. When Brian Campbell snubs a contract worth $18 million — and Campbell was one of the best guys to talk to in the Sabres locker room — it’s hard for regular schmucks like me to understand it on a personal level. Fans feel the same way.

But in the case of Pagliero, a good kid trying to get through college while maintaining a healthy relationship with his girlfriend, it’s easy to see where he’s coming from. The struggles he goes through any of us could have faced. Classes. Practice. Girlfriends.

At the professional level, sports continue to evolve as big business. Many local media outlets have narrowed their scope, focusing primarily on the two pro teams and leaving any smaller college or high school programs on the outside.

It’s a shame. Where the pros are fun to watch — and therefore we should continue to play their stories prominently in our sections — the detachment between player and fan has become so extreme that media members have trouble navigating the divide.

The fun of sports journalism was getting to know the athletes, then passing their stories — good or bad — onto fans.

In Pagliero’s case, it was good. A star goalie relaxing while his girlfriend patrolled the outfield. Wondering what a senior season will bring. I know because he told me, off the cuff, while taking in softball. We both smirked when the NU softball team started chanting and clapping in unison, joking what that would be like if the men’s hockey team did the same.

It’s a funny mental image. And now you have it, because we had it.

Unfortunately, those moments in sports journalism are dwindling.

Contact sports editor Tim Schmitt at 282-2311, ext. 2266.

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