Just over five years ago, Adrian Dater’s career collapsed in a rather public fashion. After covering the Colorado Avalanche for nearly 20 years at the Denver Post, Dater was fired in December 2014 for sending harassing Twitter messages to a female hockey fan.
But that incident was the culmination of a pattern of questionable, disturbing behavior for the writer on social media. Two months earlier, Dater was suspended by the Post for several vulgar rants, including ripping Brayden McNabb for “a pussy play” and lashing out at fellow hockey writer Jesse Spector via email.
After his firing, Dater admitted to substance abuse problems and mental health issues that contributed to his indefensible conduct. In the year since being dismissed by the Post, Dater has written for several outlets, including Bleacher Report, and currently runs his own site, Colorado Hockey Now, while also writing for Bookies.com and contributing as an Avalanche insider for Denver’s 104.3 The Fan.
Dater appeared this week on author Jeff Pearlman’s podcast, Two Writers Slinging Yang, to talk about his very public downfall, the issues he dealt (and continues to deal) with, the cost to his journalism career, his efforts to rebuild his professional life, and the difficulties of covering a professional sports team with his own resources.
Here’s an excerpt:
— The Podcass (@thepodcass) February 19, 2020
Dater also recounts some of his work as a substitute teacher, during which he dealt with one second-grade student who was experiencing some familiar issues with depression.
“He was a handful, he was the kid who talked a lot in class and that kind of thing,” Dater told Pearlman. “He had a thing when he went to the bathroom, he couldn’t go alone. I had to walk him there and he hated that. I could tell this kid was really bright, very intelligent-sounding, put together sentences much more developed than other kids his age.
“On the way to the bathroom — he didn’t like that I was walking him, he was mad about it — he said ‘I just wanna friggin’ kill myself.’ I was stunned, but I was like ‘I’m here to tell you that I see some smarts in you and I’m here to tell you that we all go through rough times as kids, and it’s all gonna get better someday. I promise you.'”
I enjoyed being the guest on @jeffpearlman’s podcast, even if most everything was hard for me to talk about. But if it helps some other kids out there, as I detail here how it did for some, that’s still a win in the Big Book https://t.co/d8kctoevXk
— Adrian Dater (@adater) February 19, 2020
Additionally, Dater shares the differences between covering the Avalanche for a major metropolitan newspaper versus a start-up website, including the process of getting credentialed and the less-established hotels he now has to stay in when following the team on the road.
Listening to the conversation, it’s apparent that Dater has some difficulty recapping his past and admitting the many problems that led to his downfall. But it also seems therapeutic for him to address these matters publicly, helped by Pearlman’s encouragement. And the entire story is a cautionary tale detailing how the stress of beat reporting, pressure to break news, and aggressive reader feedback aren’t ideal elements for certain personalities to deal with — especially in a certain state of mind.