News Sites Must Find Balance in Sports Reporting
Usually, I open Mozilla Firefox and expect to find typical sporting news on ESPN.com: the Red Sox won; the Yankees lost; Mark Cuban complained about X, Y, and Z; Scott Boras’ clients are holding out for more money; another Cincinnati Bengal was arrested; Shaquille O’Neal said something profound; the Celtics’ front office did something horrifying. In other words, I expect to find news causing the average fan to smile a little wider or groan a little louder.
Lately, however, all that anyone hears about are the scandals and tragedies. The nightmare of every person involved in sports: National Basketball Association referee Tim Donaghy’s gambling problem and subsequent betting. The soap opera that is Barry Bonds flirting with Hank Aaron’s record of 755 home runs, with a syringe of steroids and an injection of Bud Selig. The indictment of Michael Vick on charges of sponsoring a dogfighting operation, now even grimmer since a codefendant pleaded guilty and pointed his finger at Vick.
How serious are the scandals? Well, the National Hockey League — the organization that used to be the laughingstock of the sports world — is looking more saintly every day.
The sound you just heard was me smacking my head against the wall in disgust.
Then there are the deaths of prominent sports figures. Skip Prosser, the former Wake Forest men’s basketball coach, collapsed unexpectedly while at the gym. Mike Coolbaugh, a former major leaguer and minor-league coach, was struck in the head by a foul ball and pronounced dead an hour later. Bill Walsh, the college and National Football League coach who popularized the West Coast offense, just lost a battle with leukemia.
What’s the upshot of all of this? It actually feels like I’ve navigated to CNN.com instead of ESPN.com every time I launch Firefox. (The rare exception falls on days like this past Tuesday, when Kevin Garnett and Eric Gagne both miraculously landed in Boston. Shocking, the Celtics did something right.)
Granted, this news clearly needs to be addressed. I’m not asking the sports world to turn a blind eye to betting, steroids, or dogfighting, nor do I advocate ignoring the deaths of great sportsmen. However, I do miss the balance struck between serious news and amusing features, such as interviews with Shaq regarding his television show (Shaq’s Big Challenge), which tackled childhood obesity.
Sports are often a respite from the real world. For the duration of a game, or even an article, small frustrations — hell, even significant problems — evaporate until it’s just the fans, the players, and (sometimes) the officials. Unfortunately, when the integrity of professional sports is repeatedly questioned, there is no respite, just the unwelcome reality that the sports world is exactly like the rest of the world. When death is thrown into the mix, that reality becomes even more apparent.
In response to the sudden dearth of amusement in sports, I’ve written some shorts that might liven up the tone of ESPN.com’s front page. At the very least, these might belong on a less-serious volume of Page 2, the section of ESPN.com billed as “Humor, columns, commentary, lists, and analysis.” (As a further illustration of the gloomy mood in sports, even Page 2 has focused almost exclusively on the “columns, commentary, lists, and analysis” rather than the “humor” department as of late.) One caveat? These shorts are not exactly true …
¶ Bill Belichick developed laryngitis and was unable to finish his second coaching session of the day. Team doctors determined the cause of his illness was revealing too much information to the media.
¶ David Stern, Bud Selig, and Roger Goodell have decided to hold a forum on damage control. Sources say NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has been proposed as a keynotes speaker.
¶ David Beckham may be traded from the Los Angeles Galaxy to the Toronto Football Club, thus making soccer more popular than hockey in Canada. Posh Spice — excuse me, Victoria Beckham — is reportedly “thrilled aboot the potential move.”
¶ The Yankees have decided to emulate the Oakland Athletics and Minnesota Twins in order to “increase efficiency” and “decrease excessive spending.” George Steinbrenner is said to have introduced the new team motto of “Fiscal responsibility, dammit!”
¶ Curt Schilling unknowingly agreed to steer clear of making controversial comments in his blog, 38 Pitches, for the duration of his Red Sox contract. A fan, who turned out to be a Sox lawyer in disguise, asked for an autograph. Schilling obliged, but he was really signing a document that said he would concentrate solely on pitching after his stint on the disabled list. Future incidents will result in Schilling being forbidden to speak to media members.
¶ Recently drafted Brady Quinn, the No. 22 pick who went to the Cleveland Browns, realized that charging $75 per autograph and holding out for a lucrative contract — particularly one that is unreasonable for a No. 22 pick — is far less profitable than modeling. He has since switched careers.
¶ Another reason that KG wanted to be a Celtic: as a member of the Minnesota Timberwolves, he had to listen to guard Troy Hudson’s rap album … which sold a mere 78 copies in its first week. (Yes, that is fact — go ahead and Google it. How large do you think his entourage is? I’m guessing somewhere in the neighborhood of 78 people.) Furthermore, as a veteran, he was expected to be supportive of his teammate. T-wolves fans should quit blaming General Manager Kevin McHale for trading KG and confront the real culprit: Hudson. There’s a reason the T-wolves bought out Hudson’s contract …
On second thought, the last short may actually be true.