For fans all across the state of Minnesota, Darren “Doogie” Wolfson is the go-to reporter for their favorite sports teams. Whether there is news concerning the Gophers, Timberwolves, Vikings, Wild, or Twins, Doogie always seems to have the scoop. The KSTP reporter has made a living becoming one of the most accurate and in tune sports reporters that the Twin Cities have to offer. Breakdown from the Bench was able to ask Darren “Doogie” Wolfson a few questions about his career path and some of his favorite memories along the way.
Take us through your education journey journey a little bit. Where did you go to school growing up and where did you attend college? What did you major in while in college?
My path is pretty atypical. I grew up in West St. Paul, and attended Henry Sibley high school. I did a mentorship with KSTP’s Joe Schmit Fall of 1996, through a mentorship class at Sibley – the instructor had a relationship with KSTP’s Dave Dahl that helped. I then, through a recommendation from my mom, reached out to Eric Webster at KFAN seeing if they could use some help – I listened to KFAN religiously. Turned out that Eric took me under his wing and I assisted the FAN a couple days a week. So with my foot in the door at two media outlets in town, staying in town for college seemed logical. I was admitted into the U of M, and happily said yes. So I have a journalism degree from the U, and I actually focused more on print journalism in college since I was getting real world electronic media experience at KFAN and KSTP – both outlets kept me on board and eventually hired me to part-time roles while I was in college.
When did you know that you wanted to get into sports media?
When I knew I wasn’t good enough to play sports beyond high school, so like 9th grade! I always enjoyed watching sports on TV, listening to KFAN, and reading the newspaper daily. I thought covering sports would be the next best thing to playing.
Do you have a mentor or someone that influenced you and the way you do your job?
I do, and he’s my boss today: KSTP’s Joe Schmit. I also was guided a ton at KFAN by the likes of Eric Webster, Sam Sigelman, Chad Hartman, Chad Abbott, Dan Barreiro, Doug Westerman, and others. Working with Chad for many years on KFAN has made me a better listener and a way better interviewer today. Chad, hands down, is the best interviewer in the media in town. He’s brilliant at asking questions, and listening intently to ask the proper follow-up questions.
What is your most memorable sporting event that you have covered?
Getting to cover games since Fall 1996 offers many possibilities. I was there when Dennis Rodman of the Bulls infamously kicked a cameraman courtside at a Timberwolves game… Being in the clubhouse in 2002, 2003, etc. for any number of Twins celebrations is certainly memorable… any number of playoff games, including the Wild’s shocking conference finals run in 2003 or Kevin Garnett’s epic performance vs. the Kings in Game 7 of the 2004 conference semifinals. But my answer has to be one of two football games: either the Super Bowl here last February, or being in New Orleans for the Vikings-Saints Jan. 2010 NFC Title Game. In fact, it’s probably the latter. I was with the Vikings daily that season for cbssports.com as a beat reporter. This was in-between when KFAN laid me off (January 2009) and being re-hired at KSTP (Feb. 2010 in a new role being on-air enough). That game was unreal with twists-and-turns, then to be out in New Orleans until 5 a.m. soaking in the vibe of Saints fans on Bourbon Street is something I will never forget.
You have developed a reputation as an accurate and reliable reporter for sports in Minnesota. What makes you passionate about reporting on Twins, Timberwolves, Vikings, Wild, Gophers, etc.?
A desire to be right, and to never get laid off again! No joke! Those few months after KFAN laid me off and was scratching and clawing looking for freelance gigs was the worst. I was also getting married that October, which made things even worse from a financial standpoint. Thankfully, MLB Network gave me some work, then cbssports.com gave me the gig covering the Vikings. Then soon thereafter Schmit rejoined KSTP and he called me, and the rest is history, for now! I just enjoy being on top of things, and cultivating relationships with those who can help me in that regard. Along the way you get to know a lot of people, and I can root for their professional well-being.
You are known as a very fan friendly reporter and sports media personality. What makes you so open to conversing with fans when you could easily just ignore their remarks and tweets?
My stance is this: if someone takes the time to reach out to me, I darn well better take the time to get back to them. Now, I don’t bat 1.000. It’s hard to see every tweet, Facebook message, Instagram message, email, text, etc., although I am perfect on emails and texts! Plus, there’s no way to really quantify this, but I hope treating others as you want to be treated leads people to watch Channel 5 and to listen to 1500-ESPN and to my podcast.
How does your job change during big and hectic events in Minnesota sports such as the Jimmy Butler debacle, the Brett Favre signing, the Minneapolis Miracle, and the Twins’ numerous game 163’s?
It’s just that many more news hits. Instead of our normal 6, 9, and 10 p.m. sportscasts, we have many more hits during the 4:30 news, 5 news, top of the 6 news, top of the 10 news, and even stuff for the morning show, which is very popular for news viewing. It also means I need to carve out time for an emergency podcast, and social media time too. All that while still trying to balance a home life that includes my wife, two sons, and a dog. Life is too busy!
It also means I am calling and texting sources that much more frequently, and trying to do things fast, while also making sure the information is right. It’s an adrenaline rush, but you better make sure you’re right. Being first doesn’t matter if you’re wrong.
How has your job changed with the evolution of social media and Twitter? Do you like that change?
Surely. I like being able to reach people in different ways. I realize that our TV audience, maybe sometimes that skews older, is different in some ways from the people I reach on social media, and hopefully also somewhat different from those I reach on the radio or through my podcast.
The change is more time-consuming. My wife will tell you that she hates how often I check my phone. Sadly, my 7-year-old would say the same thing. I am far from perfect in trying to find the right personal to professional balance.
Through the years, you have done reporting at the prep, college, and professional level. Do you prefer to cover one skill level more than others?
High school, and it’s not close. They actually want us there. Now, I will add that hockey players at all levels are the easiest athletes to deal with. Baseball would be second.
Who have been some of your favorite sports personalities in Twin Cities to cover during your time? What made them so special?
Guys like Sam Mitchell, Richard Pitino, Tim Brewster, Kyle Rudolph, Jamal Crawford, Paul Molitor, Ron Gardenhire, Terry Ryan, Ryan Suter, and others instantly come to mind. But nothing will compare to Flip Saunders. We used to talk late at night 1-2 times a week, especially after my 4-year-old was born June 2014. I always took the late shift, and Flip was a night owl. We’d sometimes talk at 1 in the morning, and he shared a TON. He was an open book in an era where many coaches and executives have massive walls up.
How did you get the nickname Doogie?
It was KFAN. Late 1996 the TV show ‘Doogie Howser, MD’ was still popular – Doogie was a child prodigy doctor. Anyway, either Eric Webster or Chad Abbott called me ‘Doogie’ comparing me to the TV character. Now my comeback to that is if I was any sort of child prodigy, I would’ve run far from TV/radio. I’d be a real doctor, or savvy businessman/business owner, or a lawyer!
Thank you to Doogie for taking time to answer our questions! Breakdown from the Bench and its supporters appreciates you and your work!
You can keep tabs on Darren “Doogie” Wolfson and breaking Minnesota sports news by following him on Twitter at @DWolfsonKSTP and listening to his podcast, The Scoop. Here, Doogie discusses all the ongoings in the Minnesota sports world, while hosting some of the best possible guests in the Land of 10,000 Lakes.