"They go to dinner at a trendy restaurant. Their guest is an upbeat reporter who has come to write a story about him because that is what reporters do these days, interview athlete-celebrities over plates of drizzled lettuce and Atlantic pink salmon and just a glass of water, please, thank you very much. None of that locker-room-game-following stuff; this is human interest, this is the inside story, this is what readers want to know."
To read the rest of Claire Novak's "Cry", check out our Spring & Summer 2011 issue (all about baseball!) and turn to page 74. Here's more from Claire.

What inspired you to write "Cry" from the viewpoint of an athlete's significant other?

The media has always been interested in athletes' personal lives and the social pressures they face, and in some ways I think we've broadened that view to include an interest in their wives (or husbands) and children. But so many girlfriends are involved with male athletes in these slightly ambiguous relationships, and I think because we're not quite sure where to place them, we tend to overlook them aside from the typically shallow "hot chick at her boyfriend's ballgame" coverage. That's why I wanted to write about this woman who is caught up in a relationship where the guy's public persona is completely different from the man she knows he really is. She gets the real guy, not the media facade, but she's helping build this hypocritical public image and in the meantime she can't stop the interior battle over why she's still with him when she knows it's destroying every part of her.

Stymie: Do you think there is a unique aspect to the fame of athletes (versus, say, a movie star) that would impact their relationships?

Claire: Absolutely. I think athletes, especially in certain sports, are certainly unprepared to deal with the overwhelming fame they encounter. It becomes very difficult for them to maintain meaningful relationships with people they can trust, because so many people are ready to take advantage of them, especially in their younger days. Is this girl dating the guy for who he is as an individual, or is she dating him because he's so-and-so the baseball player? There's that development of the public image accompanied by this kind of wariness that hardens as the athlete becomes more seasoned, and letting someone in past the superficial level becomes increasingly difficult. Also, I think the highly-physical aspect of athleticism ends up playing a significant part in domestic violence issues.

Stymie: Tell us a little about your sports interests and writing beyond fiction!

Claire: Lit fic is my hobby and a definite passion, but my full-time job is to cover horse racing for ESPN.com and a variety of other media outlets. I started writing about the sport because of my personal interest in horses and also because of the game's rich human interest aspect. Racing isn't over-commercialized where media coverage is concerned, and I like that. You can still find these great stories that aren't being pushed by agents or communications departments, and most of the sport's "big stars" are easily accessible and approachable. There's a real love for the game among a high percentage of the human participants, and thanks to the fact that the races come down to equine athletes competing against each other, the game maintains an aspect of purity that has been lost in many of the "big money" sports today.

Stymie: Where can we keep up with you and your writing?

Claire: You can catch a Voices column from me in the current issue of ESPN The Magazine, where I take on the issue of drugs in racing. You may also find my coverage of the Preakness this weekend at ESPN.com and follow me on twitter @clairenovak.

Claire's full bio and website are here.