July 7, 2009

The truth about sportswriters

Obviously writing about sports is something that I enjoy, but I would classify myself more as a blogger than a writer. Namely because I can't write proper sentences and I'm not doing any real journalism, just spitting out bad jokes about Derek Jeter.

However, what blogging does allow me to do is voice my opinion, which some may not agree with, some may - it's a toss up. However, it's understood that this is opinion and not a credible media report.

Here in lies the problem with today's sports writers. It seems more and more that it's becoming about opinions, speculation and judgement. It's become a smear fest.

Example: steroids.

On Colin Cowherd's show on ESPN today, he made the point that fans don't care about steroids nearly as much as the sports media. However, since the steroids scandal in baseball a few years ago was a virtual cash cow for sports writers - they just keep jamming it down our throats.

Fans don't really care about the moral implications and the guys that keep bringing it up are the writers who long for the "pure" age of baseball - you know, when they didn't allow people of a different race play or the ball was a goat's head. Wouldn't it make better sense to explore WHY the players took steroids as opposed to putting a full-time beat reporter on Manny Ramirez's stool?

And for a profession that claims to be looking for the truth and reporting on stories that matter - it's a little fishy that we have a book about how A-Rod is a poor tipper at Hooters.

And here in lies the problem with today's journalism. With the Internet, blogs and mass media in general, sports writers have become less and less influential. It use to be that you're only avenue of communication with your baseball team was. Now with all these other sources, writers have to make a name for themselves by being moral blowhards. And the ones that scream the loudest get the most attention.

This means that less care and more guess work is thrown into the equation. More and more of the writing is fluff meant to piss people off than serve any real purpose.

Look at ESPN, how much of their programming and website is opinion? How much of it is just reporting the facts? With things like GameCast, box scores and a quick highlight reel, writers aren't going to get much attention for a 400-word game story. But a 800-word piece tearing down a baseball player for taking steroids? Brilliant! Put it on the first page! We're the media and we're going to take this player down because it's our responsibility. Look at us!

It's this kind of philosophy that has skewed sports coverage to the point where we're filming TO bench pressing in his driveway. It has gone from being a somewhat respected occupation to something that is now comparable to Entertainment Tonight but with athletes.

I will credit the media and sports writers with the way they've held off on judgement in the Steve McNair death, reporting the facts and not trying to jump to any conclusions. But instances like those are far and few between in the world of sports writing.

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