Thursday, August 20, 2009

Oddities and Ends

So, now that we know Tiger Woods is human, can be beaten, stared down, caught from behind (by the tail; Tiger by the tail, get it?), are we going to start being more sensible as media in our coverage of him?

Just how much reverence does he deserve? The heretofore current level? Does anyone? We gave it to Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire, didn't we? They had a loss of a rear view mirror and English-speaking ability, respectively, in front of a congressional sub-committee. We gave it to Roger Clemens. We all know where that went (to a 15-year-old country singer's diary, apparently, and to a relatively unknown locker room attendant's laundry basket-turned-safe deposit box).

We gave it to Barry Bonds. His trial starts sometime next year. We gave it to Wilt Chamberlain. He, in turn, gave it to 20,000 women, or so he claimed. We gave it to Patrick Kane of the Chicago Blackhawks. He got indicted. We gave it Ray Lewis, and still do, despite the past charges against him and his still-overt haughtiness.

We are hero-worshipping assholes who just happen to get the last word, that's all. God knows we need it. Tiger doesn't though, and we need not be apologists for him. He doesn't want us to be anymore than he wants us stalking him like paparazzi. Let's start treating him like what he is. A great golfer, no more, no less, and not the God we make him out to be.


I was very impressed to hear that the Professional Bowlers Association (PBA), still the longest-running continuous regular sportscast in history, is adding a new "World Series" event. It will run for two months at the end of each year (sometimes it seems like baseball's World Series runs that long, y'know what I mean).

It will feature the world's best bowlers, with the emphasis on "world's," because the format will make it more accommodating for a global field to compete. It will rotate from city to city, venue to venue, to whet the appetites of fans eager to attend live events. Men, women and senior men will each have their own brackets of competition to maximize the demographics of the viewing audience (and the advertisers advertising). It'll be on ESPN, which means 9 p.m. starts and no venues west of Grand Rapids, but the PBA, which would like to do at least one event in its demographic dreamland of Milwaukee, will live with that anyway for the exposure. It'll feature documentary-style coverage sometimes and up-close-and-personal tidbits.

In fact, it'll debut in greater Detroit, where the fan base is hanging out in bowling alleys already anyway. Mostly at the bar.

I'll be watching - if they have cheerleaders, that is.


To listen to ESPN tell it, you'd think any and every Yankees-Red Sox series is the "bomb," the end of the world as we know it and nothing else matters in sports when they play.

Well, that is, unless you live in Chicago right now, where, as the Sox and Cubs do fade routines, the only thing happening according to the local media is the ascension of the Bears on the arm and mind of Jay Cutler.

Which is all big news, unless you live in Cleveland (my apologies) and you'd think the only thing going on in sports is the quarterback battle between Derek what's-his-name and Brady Quinn, whom we are regularly reminded is a Notre Dame product (we dare not insult the Golden Dome or miss a chance to mention it).

The Indians are a non-story as they drift toward AAA-level status and LeBron James might as well have already signed with the Knicks, to listen to ESPN tell it.
Which is all big news, unless you live in Pittsburgh, America's new No. 1 sports town, and thank goodness it is, or else those allegations against the Notorious B.I.G. Ben might not be dismissed as readily by the media because the golden-boy/Super-Bowl MVP could not have done what this lady - uh, girl - accused him of doing, right? Hopefully he called Kobe Bryant for an attorney reference. No wonder Shaq invited Ben on his reality show - he was taking a slap at Kobe, not Ben.

Which is all big news, unless you live in Cincinnati, where - can this be true? - no players have been arrested yet this preseason. Aha, I understand charges are coming down the pike though anytime now against many of them on the roster for impersonating NFL players.


Speaking of impersonating NFL players, who's that guy with the single-digit jersey playing for the Eagles being relentlessly followed by reporters? I am disgusted by my fellow media brethren who have defended Michael Vick's right to play in the NFL again.

He is a murderer, self-admittedly, of dogs, that is. Plus, figuratively, two head coaches and one promising NFL season that-was-supposed-to-have-been in Atlanta.

Now, in Philadelphia, he makes his comeback. Good for him. How many of you, HOW MANY OF YOU think you could just walk back in at your old place of employment after being convicted of the charges Vick was and having served the sentence Vick did (and still is) and get your old job back?

Well, how many of you? In the media? In the post office? In the 7-11? In the Albertson's? In the Home Depot? At the U.S. Department of Defense? At the Milwaukee Zoo (bad example, OK). At a collection agency? At a bank? Driving a semi-trailer cross-country?

Yeah, right. Welcome to the cab-driving business, if you're lucky. Unless you play in the NFL, which means, despite the standards imposed by the new commish, a.k.a. the tough new sheriff in town, you're back in, bro. Welcome back, Michael Vick. But isn't it kind of obvious why they didn't want you, say, in Cleveland? Cause of the 'Dawg Pound, dude, woof woof.


Howard Schlossberg is an associate professor of journalism at Columbia College Chicago (, and is a sports correspondent for The Daily Herald (, the only Chicagoland major-metro daily not operating in Chapter 11 right now. He also serves on the founding editorial advisory board of and contributes regularly to the Journal of Sports Media (, the first-of-its-kind academically research-oriented publication in the genre.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Letting You Down, Not Softly

We, the media, the sports media, have let you down. You the sports fan, that is.

Our coverage sucks. We've let ourselves be bullied by team and league flacks and we've allowed the athletes and people you want quoted most to bypass us in their "tweets," "fbk messages" and personal web sites. Who needs us, right? Heck, you, the fan, can blog and tweet all you like as well.

Us? We've got to maintain our places "in line" for interviews and/or press conferences with team stars and management, even if their availability is restricted to Wednesday and Saturday mornings (a la Jay Cutler's with the Bears during training camp '09).

Or we've got to leave our communication devices behind (cell phones, PDAs, etc.) while observing practices of the Indianapolis Colts and about a dozen other NFL teams. As one scribe pointed out, fans observing practice can call/tweet/fbk/email from their own portable devices all they want while observing practice on a grassy knoll behind a fence (sound familiar?). But the real reporters have to wait till they get back to the distant media room to file stories, details of which have already been forgotten before any keys were touched on a laptop computer.

Candid, on-the-spot interviews after practice? Fughedaboudid! Save your questions for the formal media time later, however limited that may be. Meanwhile, 'Joe Fan' has 'tweeted/fbk'd/emailed' from his remote after observing something, perhaps critical, in practice, albeit however inaccurately.

What's a sports reporter to do? When I turned to my colleagues in the media and academia, respectively, they had little, if any relief. Complain? To the league? To the team? To the Society of Professional Journalists? To the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication?

Yeah, right, said my fellow scribes. And I fear my fellow academics at the Journal of Sports Media may not be able to salvage this, at the sports media-research convergence point where the last shavings of an independent press live on, at least in athletics.

We already have enough black marks against us before turning to fight this battle. We have to build back the credibility we once had before tweeting "betwayed" us. For instance:
  • Maybe we could've reported the real steroid story before/during/immediately thereafter McGwire and Sosa lit up baseball in 1998;
  • Maybe we can stop drinking the local 'Cool-Aid," the one that lets us predict our favorite hometown teams will be playoff- or championship-bound before the season begins (see Chicago media reports already putting the Bears in the Super Bowl for 2010);
  • Maybe we can stop pretending that Michael Vick should be playing in the National Football League again. As if any of us, or any of you reading this, would get your job back if you had done the same thing he did and suffered the same sentence;
  • Maybe we can ask intelligent questions when we get our turn, questions that separate us from the 'Joe Fan' who gets to tweet before we get to compose. You know, sorta' not like the idiot in Detroit who arrogantly challenged (not asked, challenged) soon-to-be-disposed, winless head coach Rod Marinelli about his son-in-law/assistant coach;
  • Maybe we shouldn't have let the NFL off the hook when it honored the memory of "War on Terror" hero Pat Tillmon within days of the former defensive back's death overseas without honoring in any similar manner any of the other 5,000-plus who made the ultimate sacrifice as well;
  • And maybe we should just stop kissing the asses of the guys with whom we want to spend "quality time." Maybe we should ask insightful questions, get them to make introspective observations and maybe we should produce, in general, entertaining stories someone really wants to read, review, see, listen to, etc. All too precious few of us do that now, what with ratings and circulation, respectively, tied to winning and winning tied to cheerleading and cheerleading tied to fan reading/viewing loyalty.

Don't get me wrong. Plenty of us still writhe over our local/favorite teams' performances, come down hard on players, coaches and managers and deliver punches to which all of the latter have no choice but to respond - on their cell phones, PDAs, laptops, etc.

Is it just me, or do you too hear that growing-ever-louder "Tweet, tweet."


Howard Schlossberg is an associate professor of journalism at Columbia College Chicago ( and a sports correspondent for The Daily Herald (, the only Chicagoland major-metro daily not operating in chapter 11. He also serves on the founding editorial advisory board of and contributes to the Journal of Sports Media (see link above), a first-of-its-kind, academically research-oriented publication on the topic (

Tuesday, July 28, 2009


Sex sells. We all know that.

But what about sexy? There is a difference. You know sexy, the art of "sexing" up something so it looks like it has sex, appeal that is.

Sports are sexy. Especially sports between the sexes. Take, for instance, July 27th's so-called "Battle of the Sexes" between the women's pro fastpitch-softball Chicago Bandits and the men's MLB-unaffiliated Class A Schaumburg Flyers, both of Chicago's northwest suburbs.

Think it was one-sided? Think it wasn't sexy? Then how come it drew a Flyers' stadium record 8,918 paid. How come it drew more media credential requests than any other event in Flyers' history except their opening night 10-plus years ago?

And how come the Bandits won, 4-2? This despite the Flyers bringing in three men's pro fast-pitch hurlers to "level the playing field." And how come the stands were full of Bandit orange-clad young girls, swaying the crowd clearly in the Bandits' favor?

And you don't suppose the men there were in attendance to watch the Flyers play softball, do you? No, they were there clearly hoping "the face of softball" herself, Jenny Finch, a member of the Bandits' roster, would be pitching. Unfortunately for them, the "poster-girl" and no-doubt "centerfold" of women's softball was on duty with the U.S. national team.

So how to "sex" this up to "sexy" status? The match-up in and of itself was "sexy," a women's team tackling a men's pro team, even if in the women's game on the women's rules and even with, as mentioned, special pitchers brought in for the men.

Why else was I sitting next to a local daily's education-beat reporter covering the game on my right and a talented yet albeit rookie-sports writer wannabe' just out of college on my left, scribing for a local web site newspaper. They were all over the pre-game field, getting quotes from players and fans alike about the prospects for the game, the prospects, that is, of boosting the fortunes of the Bandits, who unfortunately struggle to draw at their nearby home field.

Young girls told one of the reporters they wanted to be like Jenny Finch. I hope they meant the pitcher (wife and Mom), not the centerfold.

Flyers' "dancers" were there to entertain and supervise on-field promotional activities between innings, a popular minor-league staple that helps those teams deliver better value for the buck than many MLB teams do. Let's just say though that the dancers' uniforms did not leave a lot to the imagination and did enable them much, much flexibility when they led the crowd between innings in a rendition of The Village People's "YMCA." Once upon a time I had abs like that. In my dreams.

And then there was "Bat-Girl," (no, really), dressed up like the comic book/cartoon character. OK, not dressed up like her - actually dressed a lot less like her, key word, "less." She flashed around the Flyers' dugout (naturally) all game, picking up stray bats and balls and on deck-circle kinds of materials. I'm sure the adult-male fans and Flyer players didn't mind having her around.

None of this means the game was played to get Playboy to request press credentials. In fact, just the opposite. I really enjoyed it. The longest ball hit by any player was off the bat off Bandits' zippy little lead-off hitter, Stacey May, far over the head of surely surprised Flyers' left fielder Jeff Dunbar. It was followed by a solidly stroked single to right by catcher Rachel Folden, which knocked in the tying and ultimately game-winning runs. "Sexy" was the furthest thing from Folden's mind after the game, after she went 1-for-3 with a walk, 2 runs scored and 2 knocked in.

"That was fun," she asserted later as the teams lined up in a row around the infield to await an onslaught of fans to be allowed on the field for autographs from both squads. She appreciated the size of the crowd and the way the Flyers approached the game.

"I've never in my life seen a crowd this large," she said through a grin wide enough to make the blackout under her eyes actually crack a little. And as to the Flyers, "They didn't treat us like some novelty," she noted, adding that they were gracious and congratulatory in defeat and had put out their best effort, even if in an out-of-kilter game for them.

And as to her own team, "This is going to do big things for our organization," she said, noting it will likely help draw the bigger crowds they need, draw the increased media attention they need and, perhaps most importantly, draw the admiration and respect of the kids who finally saw them play and realized growing up to be like them is a goal to be forever mindful of.

I just wish she had 'Bat-Girl's" phone number or email address.

Howard Schlossberg is an associate professor of journalism at Columbia College Chicago ( and a sports correspondent at the Chicago suburban-based Daily Herald ( in Arlington Heights, Ill., the only Chicago-area, major-metro daily not operating in Chapter 11. He also serves on the founding editorial board of and as a contributor to the first-of-its-kind, academically research-oriented Journal of Sports Media (

Friday, July 24, 2009

Twitter is Twuseless

Recently, it has come to my attention that I've been Twittering (tweeting, twitting, whatever) more than I've been blogging. Unfortunately, that's twue.

I registered on Twitter strictly to keep up, be part of the flow, see what was posted there and what wasn't, who was posting there, and who wasn't. Many of my students post their every move in life there. So do many former students. And other assorted friends and acquaintances.

The other day, noticing that just four people were followng all four posts I've put up on Twitter in the last six months, I decided to go crazy and show, once and for all, that Twitter is twuly twuseless. And I banged out 200+ tweets (twits, whatever).

Some were sports related. (What's a Twitter account holder's favorite thing to see happen at a baseball game? A twouble-play. Who's a Twitter account holder's favorite player on a football team? The twuarterback.)

Some weren't sports related. (Did you hear about Twitter's new corporate motto? If at first you don't succeed, twy, twy again; What do you call a hooker with a Twitter account? Someone who stwuts her stuff.)

Suddenly, I had close to 90 followers on Twitter in less than 48 hours. It didn't matter how inane my posts were, as above. All the posts included "...a Twitter holder..." so as to make sure Twitter account holders knew I was spoofing them big-time, to let them know I didn't care that they were waiting in line at the car wash, stuck in LA traffic, deciding what zit cream to buy, or whatever they had to tweet (twit, whatever) with the rest of the world.

Something tells me I'm not alone, which is likely in good part why my number of followers on Twitter has increased rapidly.

But this is a sports blog, linked to my Journal of Sports Media blog line (, a professional journal for academics and working professionals interested in increasing their knowledge of and criticial-thinking perimeters about the work and world of sports media.

Think about it. There are plenty of sports and general media uses for Twitter, even if only in 140 character-max entries. I met a reporter at the Society of Professional Journalists conference in Atlanta last year who covered an entire murder trial on Twitter, sending his entries constantly to his office for immediate web-site posting and to any and all other followers trying to keep up with the high-profile murder trial instantly and immediately.

And it worked. When he took a break, when the trial took an adjournment, when the court stopped for lunch, he got hundreds of tweets (twits, whatever), inquiring what was going on, why he wasn't posting anymore, what was the delay. He was stunned, shocked, amazed.

This has sports applications too. Imagine updating instantly on Twitter from a sporting event, any sporting event, from the World Series to your local, urchin soccer game. Hundreds, even millions who couldn't be there or keep up in any other way, might appreciate it. OK, well, not millions and not at the local, urchin soccer game.

OK, I'll buy that. But please, tweeters (twitterers, whateverers) everywhere, please, stop telling me you need help deciding what shoes to wear, what sandals to buy and in what order to perform your daily toiletry routine: Twit, shower, shave; Shower, twit, shave; Shave, twit, shower.

OK, I've got to get back on Twitter. My loyal followerers miss me. Hey, someone's got to hold their hands while they twit, shower, shave.


Howard Schlossberg is an associate professor of journalism at Columbia College Chicago ( and a sports correspondent for Paddock Publications' Daily Herald (, Arlington Heights, Ill., the only Chicago-area major-metro daily newspaper not operating in Chapter 11. He also serves on the editorial board of and as a contributor to The Journal of Sports Media (

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Give them my best...

I've got 50 million reasons to write this blog right now.

Most of them are spelled S-T-E-P-H-E-N S-T-R-A-S-B-U-R-G.

That translates to S-C-O-T-T B-O-R-A-S.

Boras is the agent who is going to boldly go where no agent has gone before: He's going to ask for that much money for the recent No. 1 MLB draft pick of the Washington Nationals, who can barely afford to light up all the letters on their stadium logo.

I'm not sure which one of them is on steroids: Strasburg's 95-mph arm or Boras' brain. Strasburg just completed a brilliant pitching career at San Diego State. Boras is, well, just an asshole who manipulates asshole owners into bidding against themselves (hi, Tom Hicks). If I was a Major League Baseball GM, I would never -- repeat never -- negotiate with a Boras client. Which is funny for me, especially since I've always been on the players' side in that the "reserve clause" amounted to slavery and with its demise they deserved all the money the owners were foolish enough to give them.

But Boras is one of those agents trying to make up a seven-run deficit with one swing instead of mounting a long-lasting rally.

Fifty million dollars is more than Barack Obama makes. More than Bill Clinton gets for a speaking appearance. More than Peyton Manning gets per completed pass. More than Dick Cheney's boys at Halliburton get for knocking down and rebuilding Iraq.

Well, maybe not for that last one.

But it's a lot. A lot to play a game. A lot to save the Nationals from themselves. MLB couldn't save them as "absentee" owners, so what makes anyone think they'll do it on their own?

Yo, Scott, Stephen, good luck. But now you know why I don't go to MLB games anymore (haven't since '94). It's not because of the price of the tickets - it's because of the size of the egos that fuel the price of the tickets.

I'm loving Dave Winfield as an analyst on ESPN's "Baseball Tonight." Hey Dave, ran into Luke Witte. He said to say hi and to shove a size 13 down your throat. Not sure of which you're more proud - the moment your Minnesota team stomped on him and his Ohio State teammates or when you knocked down a bird with a baseball.

With you aboard for baseball and Matt Millen for football, ESPN is sitting pretty, huh? ESPN always has the next Rush Limbaugh, Michael Irvin and/or Harold Reynolds ready to come on board, it seems. Real examples of a moral compass. Irvin, or course, has wasted no time blasting ESPN while promoting his new show on Spike, declaring that the all-sports network crowns whatever team signs Brett Favre out of retirement will be Super Bowl-bound.

Yeah, right, if they can all get tickets.
Anyone else impressed that Sammy Sosa announced he would soon announce formally that he was announcing his retirement from baseball and awaiting the official announcement of his admission into the Hall of Fame?

Yeah, me neither.

Sammy, don't wait in the green room at the announcement ceremony, unless you're with Rafael Palmiero, Mark McGwire, Manny Ramirez, A-Rod, Roger Clemens and whoever else pops up on the steroid radar. Proven or not, it's perception that counts, and the perception of the media guys who vote for hall enshrinement is that you're as guilty as Ty Cobb was a racist, as Babe Ruth was an over-eater, as Mickey Mantle was deserving of that new kidney he got just before he died anyway and as hockey deserves a national TV contract.

And, oh yeah, Greg, you gonna' sue me, or what?
Howard Schlossberg is an associate professor of journalism at Columbia College Chicago ( and a sports correspondent for The Daily Herald ( Arlington Heights, Ill.), the only Chicago-area metro daily not in Chapter 11. He also serves on the editorial advisory board of and contributes to The Journal of Sports Media (

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Why Teach (Sports) Journalism?

Why Teach Sports Journalism, or Journalism, for that matter?

Someone asked me recently how I justify to my students that they should go into journalism when the industry is being hit so hard by newspaper closures and industry-wide layoffs. What do I tell them?

Simply, that they have a chance to atone for the mistakes made by my generation of journalists. We did a lot of good stuff, yeah, but we screwed up for the most part and celebrated our sinners (Stephen Glass, Jason Blair) in sports and elsewhere. For instance…

Steroids: We let athletes get away with it and praised them and waited in line to interview them instead of getting the real story, from MLB to the Olympics.

Facilities: We praised our beauties of architecture, their sightlines, their creature comforts, their amenities, the jobs they supposedly created and the tax revenue they supposedly generated. Meanwhile, we forgot to check out the cost overruns until it was too late and the taxpayers got stuck with the bill. And when it comes to aesthetics, Soldier Field here in my Chicago resembles nothing else near it along the Windy City’s gorgeous lakefront, destroying an otherwise beautiful and consistent look there.

Meanwhile, financially, check out what Vancouver and London are experiencing now in terms of their budgets as they prep for their Olympics. Who do you think is gonna' pay the bill when Chicago gets the bid and the costs are way under-estimated? That has not yet been written about extensively enough and certainly wasn’t when the whistles should’ve been blown. Mayor Daley in Chicago is blowing smoke on this one.

Politics: Where were we while politicians were committing crimes? They're falling like flies now and former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich is going to take down as many with him as he can. He is going to taint President Obama. You watch. Believable or not, you watch. Where are the warnings? Where were the warnings? That's our job!

News priorities: Remember when you taught the six (yes, 6) ‘Dubyas’ and an H? Yet, Madonna, Shawn Johnson (Dancing With the Stars), American Idol, Survivor, et. al., continue to lead the newscasts. Wake up, America. We're in a war we aren't winning, we have a budget deficit that thousands of dollars per citizen couldn't erase and yet, Britney Spears was the leading name searched on Yahoo last year. Britney Spears!

So, all that in mind, I tell my students they have a lot of work to do in straightening out what's important in America, to America, while there is still an America we recognize.

I hope my rambling answered my friend/colleague’s question. But think about it, if you were an alien and you just landed in America from outer space and looked about, what would you think is most important around here?

In any event, see you at the Britney Spears concert. How about Britney and Paris in 2012...quite a ticket, huh? Can you see their campaign? Concerts and ‘A-list’ parties! Sign me up to cover that. At least they pay their taxes (don't they?). That's more than we can say for many in Obama's inner circle. No wonder so many of them are millionaires. Oops – we forgot to report that in a timely manner too, didn't we?


Howard Schlossberg is an associate professor of journalism at Columbia College Chicago ( and a sports correspondent for The Daily Herald (, Arlington Heights, Ill.), the only Chicago-area metro daily not in Chapter 11. He also serves on the editorial advisory board of and contributes to The Journal of Sports Media (http://muse/

Sunday, April 19, 2009

All's happy in Chicago

You're kidding, right?

Chicago pro teams go 4-for-4 on Saturday, April 18, and Chicago goes wild. Media celebrate like the Cubs broke their 101-year World Series drought. Fan posts on Facebook, Twitter, et. al., would make you think all the world's a big, fat happy Greek wedding because of the fabulous day in which:

  • The Cubs beat the hated Cardinals in extra innings;

  • The Blackhawks rallied to win and go up 2-0 in their opening-round Stanley Cup series with Calgary;

  • The White Sox pounded the defending AL champion Rays;

  • And the Bulls pulled the biggest miracle of all, beating the (Kevin Garnett-less) Celtics in overtime in Boston in the first game of their first-round NBA playoff series.

What's wrong with this picture?

Does the media get a pass on this? They're supposed to "celebrate," such as it is, the Chicago point of view when it comes to winning, especially as accustomed as we've become to losing and choking around here.

But the fans placing posts on all the social media sites are either whacked, drunk, or some combination thereof (most likely). Cubs and Sox fans do not get along (check local court documents and police blotters for brutal beatings and killings - no, seriously). Cubs fans have two favorite teams: The Cubs, and who's ever playing the White Sox. White Sox fans have the same: Their Sox and who's ever playing the Cubs.

So how can Sox and Cubs fans both be happy about this. At best, they each had a 3-out-of-4 day as their arch-enemies won, as did their "friends" who are fans of their arch-enemies.

Sorry, Chicago. Can't have it both ways. And we in the media should've been noting that and getting fan reaction as well from that perspective. But we were drinking the 4-for-4 Kool-Aid, weren't we(?) and overlooking an even more-dynamic story that runs right to the aorta of this city's sports heart.


I see where the Yankees gave up 14 runs to the Indians at the new Yankee Stadium, the most ever allowed in a second inning anytime, anywhere, in MLB history. And kindly notice how I wrote that: The Yankees gave up 14 runs, not the Indians scored 14.

It's all about the Yankees, win or lose, isn't it? Until they lose enough to become irrelevant. Don't you wish that would happen? I predict Brian Cashman is going to love being the Assistant GM of the Orioles and Joe Girardi will be a great third-base coach for the Royals.

And to think, highly overpaid, free-agent players run to the Yankees because they say it's the place that gives them the best chance to win. Yeah, right? Win what? It's always the money, and the player who tells you differently is lying. Period. Exclamation point! Please remember that my sports-media brethren.


The NFL is claiming that the Bears' acquisition of franchise quarterback Jay Cutler is not behind their being scheduled five times in prime-time games this coming season. No, I'm sure it's because Brian Urlacher has become ordinary and they're hoping some sideline reporter "babe" gets Lance Briggs to admit on-air that he was outright cold smashed/stoned when he wrapped his Lamborghini around a utility pole last year.


Somewhere, somewhere up above, Harry Kalas just joined a conversation with Skip and Harry Caray, Lindsey Nelson, Curt Gowdy, Pete Axthelm and Jim McKay about where in heck did they find the current crop of look-alike, sound-alike, think-alike, speak-alike preppy sportscasters who all spout the company line.

Come to think of it, where did they find them?


Howard Schlossberg is an associate professor of journalism at Columbia College Chicago ( and a sports correspondent for the Arlington Heights, Ill.-based Daily Herald (, the only Chicago-area major metro daily not in Chapter 11. He serves on the editorial advisory board of and contributes to The Journal of Sports Media ( and

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Lightning doesn't strike twice...but bad news does

For those hoping CBS would have another Friday night like the one it had the first weekend of the NCAA tournament, fuh-ged-aboud-id.

That first Friday night, going back and forth between those two phenomenal overtime games (Ohio State-Sienna and Wisconsin's stunning upset win) was amazing. No commercial breaks, no awkward pauses for unnecessary free throws, seamless back-and-forth coverage. A fantastic way to end a fantastic first round.

Since then - boooorrrrrrrrinnnggggg! One-sided games. Only a few close ones (thank you Missouri). And I'm tired of 37 minutes of good basketball then three minutes of score/timeout/foul/free throws, repeat. The final three minutes can and often do take as long as the first 37. Unnecessarily. Ridiculous.

It's time to change the rules. If you can't beat the other team by playing basketball, you are allowed to cheat to beat them at the end (yes, fouling is cheating, that's why the other team gets the ball or free throws or some combination thereof). But these are deliberate fouls committed by a team that couldn't play well enough to stay in the game otherwise, so they "cheat" and catch up.

And then listening to the "expert network analysts" tell me over and over that the only way the trailing team has to make up the lead is to foul and stop the clock, well, that certainly adds a lot of insight and color to my enjoyment of the coverage. Does it turn you on too?

Let's change things and speed up everything. From now on, in this situation, you foul, you give up two free throws and the offended team keeps the ball. Then you have to (omigosh!) play basketball to get back in the game instead. If you couldn't outplay them the first 37 minutes, you shouldn't be allowed to out-cheat them the final three and steal the game. So why is it allowed?

Because it works and the rules let it work and the networks love it because it provides extra timeouts for more commercials. Well, unless you're Chris Webber and Michigan, that is. I'm sorry, but I just can't watch what was a basketball game become a free throw-shooting contest. That's not "basketball," not "pure" basketball. Free throws are part of the game. They shouldn't be the game.

Stick to excitement and hustle and hard work and you'll get results like the first Friday night of this year's tournament. Too bad UConn just knocked out Mizzou. The Tigers played the game right, but they and my argument just got knocked out. Sorry, Catherine (Mizzou, M.A. '09).

Enjoy the free throws, everybody....


I have no sympathy for the Houston Texan player who was pulled over by a Dallas cop en route to the hospital to try to see his ailing mother-in-law's final moments. He drove excessively fast and violated any other number of traffic rules, endangering himself, his passenger (his wife) and any number of other motorists whose paths he crossed.

But he's an athlete, so he gets the media's sympathy. I have to believe if he'd pulled over immediately when the officer first tried to approach him and if he'd told the officer his story, then the officer likely would've accommodated him and expedited his trip to the hospital.

Puh-leez. If that was you or me, we both know the officer involved never would've been issuing the media statement he did, apologizing for his treatment of someone driving illegally, allegedly to go see his ailing relative. I say "allegedly" because it could've been a drug dealer on the run or a robber on the lam or a kidnapper on the fly or a drunk out of control, for all the officer knew. Or it could've been you or me and we'd still be in a jail cell.

But the media played it so sympathetically for the Houston Texans' player that you'd have thought he was league MVP and a former Heisman Trophy winner. I heard no media commentary about what would've happened if the driver had just been an ordinary "Joe" like you or me. Where's "Joe the Plumber" when we need him?

Which reminds me, next time I get pulled over, I'll tell the officer I'm en route to the hospital to see my ailing mother-in-law, who does live in Dallas. I just happen to live in Chicago.


Depressingly, a good friend and former student who I helped line up a job as the most unlikely but super-effective sports writer at the newspaper where I work was laid off this week after seven years there. Seven years of loyalty. Seven years of hard work. Seven years of always-improving work. Seven years of long hours, pay freezes, pay cuts, ever-increasing workload and never a complaint. Always a good attitude and even better production. Someone who sculpted herself from a writer into a solid sports reporter.

Until last week.

The industry is suffering and no one has figured out the formula for making money steadily online. The old days of sending out reps to pick up ads and checks to go with them are long ago over. Only the strong will survive, if they figure out what the content mix is that will allow them to survive, in print or online. The other day, a friend at the health club on the cross-trainer next to me with a newspaper to peruse griped instead, "This is hardly thick enough to line my bird cage."

Please, forget all this synergy and convergence stuff. Go do good work. Build a positive attitude around the newsroom. Pays off. Sometimes.

I'll miss ya' Jen, but I love ya' and am here for ya' was nice to have a beer with you the other night. Stay strong. I'll stay on the lookout for you, in the meantime.


Grow up, Joan.

Howard Schlossberg is an associate professor of journalism at Columbia College Chicago ( and a sports correspondent for The Daily Herald ( He also serves on the editorial advisory board of and contributes to The Journal of Sports Media ( and

Friday, March 13, 2009

Hockey and High School Hoops Errors

From the "you've-got-to-be-kidding-me" department:

I see where the Illinois High School Association reinstated all-stater Jerome Richmond of Waukegan in time for the 6-foot-7 junior forward to play in his Class 4A sectional against highly touted Zion-Benton.

Interesting...he'd been automatically disqualified for that game because he collected two technical fouls in the previous game, an 80-50 win over Palatine-Fremd in the regional finals. 'T' No. 2 was for hanging on the rim on a bush-league slam dunk in the fourth quarter. With 4:39 remaining, a teammate, on a breakaway, with a huge lead at the time, popped the ball off the backboard for the trailing Richmond instead of just laying it in. Real classy, huh?

Richmond missed the high-flying dunk opportunity, but was whistled for hanging on the rim, his second 'T' of the game, an automatic ejection and disqualification for the next game. After his coach argued the call to no avail, claiming he didn't hang, the refs conferred as a group and upheld the call.

The Illinois High School Association subsequently overruled, saying it wasn't a technical because he didn't hang on the play. So, my question is, since when does a state athletic association overrule a judgment call? And should the technical free throws Fremd's Dan Bruno subsequently hit be wiped out? Should the game just be replayed from that point?

And if I was one of those refs, I'd tell my IHSA overseers where to stick their judgment. What the IHSA apparently didn't consider well enough here is that it just opened the door for every judgment call in every game of every sport to be appealed. And where are my fellow prep journalism brethren in protesting this or calling this oversight into account?

I sincerely hope that ad infinitum every coach in Illinois in every sport who disagrees with a call made by a ref subsequently takes it to the IHSA, flooding them with appeals, especially now that they've opened the door and set a precedent.

And by the way, Coach Ashlaw at Waukegan, if that's the kind of play you're tolerating from your kids, you should have gotten a technical. Memo to Bruce Weber at Illinois: Are you still recruiting this kid? Memo to Chicago Sun-Times: Are you sure he's your Player of the Year?


So I see where NHL general managers are gathering to try to curtail fighting in the game. Good luck. These guys are goons on and off the ice. Need proof?

Colleague Barry Rozner at The Daily Herald recently applauded Colton Orr of the NY Rangers for walking away from a fight he would've won by TKO when his opponent's jersey was pulled up over his head, subsequently blinding him, giving Barry pause to say not all NHL'ers are goons. Maybe so.

But they're rotten tippers. Rotten. My Columbia College Chicago students who hustle to pay their bills as servers at restaurants around the city tell me pro hockey players routinely tip 5-10 percent, if that, regardless of the amount of the bill or the size of the party they're with.

And as long as Todd Bertuzzi is earning an NHL paycheck somewhere, NHL'ers are goons. Period. I love ya' Barry and you've earned all the best-columnist awards you've received (hey, I voted for you). You are regularly out front of the competition on so many things. But you are wrong on this one.

Dead wrong. Don't ask me, ask the family that just buried a late Canadian senior amateur player. Outlaw fighting? No. Curtail fighting. Absolutely!
Howard Schlossberg is an associate professor of journalism at Columbia College Chicago ( and a sports correspondent for The Daily Herald ( He also serves on the editorial advisory board of and contributes to The Journal of Sports Media ( and

Monday, March 2, 2009

A few questions

A few questions regarding everything from covering the Olympics to looking within ourselves...

...Does anyone, ANYONE, really believe the politicians in Chicago who say they will make up any shortfall (about $4 billion) in required funding for the 2016 Olympics? Are you kidding? We all know who will make up any, the good taxpaying citizens of Illinois.

The pols here are assuring the IOC they will raise the required funds from selling naming rights to venues and other sponsorship vehicles. What about vehicles to get around to the venues? The Chicago Transit Authority is broke (and broken) and the people who run it are vastly under-qualified (but are apparently qualified to run Chicago's schools, as one of them now is doing - go figure - he can't even get kids to school on public transportation, but he can run the schools - hopefully not into the ground).

From Vancouver (2010) to London (2012) and dating back to Montreal ('76), Olympic facility budget shortfalls run amok. But we're in the catbird seat here in Illinois, huh? Sorry, not buying it.

So, where are the media? Why aren't we challenging this more vigorously? Why?

Because we want the games here. The games here are good for business and business is bad these days. We have a vested interest in promoting the games and bringing all that economic-development cash flow this way. Except it's going to flow right into Lake Michigan if we're not more careful.

We under-projected and overspent on the reconstructed Soldier Field. We did the same on the tourist-sensational Millenium Park. The media didn't come down on all this until way after the fact. After all, who cares about multi million-dollar budget shortfalls to be made up by taxpayers when there are cute, human interest photos to get of kids splashing in the wading pool on a hot summer day at Millenium Park or fans reacting to the Bears making believe they're a championship team on a crisp fall Sunday afternoon.

Must sell papers, generate ratings, not stink up relationships with athletes and coaches by doing real reporting.

Actually, our local media has plunged into the depths of overspending and under-delivering in Illinois sporting and tourism construction projects, but to no avail. The politicians don't care. And that's an all-star roster.

We are the state of Rod Blagojevich, George Ryan, Jack (and Jeri) Ryan, Otto Kerner, Dan Walker, Roland Burris and...Abraham Lincoln? Yikes! Did I really just mention all their names in the same sentence. We extort money for contracts and jobs, we run for respected public offices after dragging our significant others through celebrity sex clubs and we generate political-campaign funds by extorting money for truck-drivers' licenses that were never officially sanctioned and led to the deaths of at least one family's beloved children.

And we visibly go to sporting events in Chicago when we're supposed to be in the state capitol attending to official business. In fact, corporate campaign contributors spend as much money treating politicians to games at Wrigley, U.S. Commiscular and the UC as they do on almost any other underwriting of ways and means to achieve corporate goals.

We, the media, report on it, every so often. Now, we have to expose it, publicize it, blast it and blare it, spread it like wildfire and goose it for the greater good of the gander. If not, the usual contractors are going to get the usual contracts and do the usual piecemeal work that does the damage to the original cost projections that we promised the IOC we'd make up if there were shortfalls.

If we do get the bid (and who's to say we won't?), I propose making local-broadcasting "Monster of the Morning" Mike North chair of the organizing committee, or at least its ombudsman, keeping a watchful eye on it to keep it honest. He's as equally unafraid to blow the whistle as he is eager to look at the lighthearted side of things that keep us all laughing in the face of our dire economic straits.

But, God forbid he get such a position - he'd tell the truth.


Speaking of telling the truth, we in journalism education, especially those of us who came first from the ranks of real media, need to remember to do the same in our venerable halls and classrooms as we tried to in print and on the air. Being in the habit of telling award-winning page designers that they don't know how to teach said art and telling award-winning feature writers that the only reason they're considered good instructors is because their students think they're "great guys" is no way to run an airline, if I can borrow a cliche. People who get years and years of excellent teaching reviews on top of years and years of producing peer-recognized journalism excellence didn't build up that kind of consistency by accident. The people who think that are accidents waiting to happen.


Howard Schlossberg is an associate professor of journalism at Columbia College Chicago ( and a sports correspondent for The Daily Herald ( He also serves on the editorial advisory board of and contributes to The Journal of Sports Media ( and

Monday, February 9, 2009

Politics, Law and Sports: Strange Bedfellows

Politics and sports make for strange bedfellows.

For instance, President Obama can predict the winner of the Super Bowl, in a close game to boot, but he can't predict that three of his top-level administration picks have tax problems. Think about it: if he hadn't nominated them, they likely never would've paid their taxes. Meanwhile, for the rest of us, we're bailing out the basketball president with our own hard-earned tax dollars and would-be NCAA Tournament and/or NBA playoff-ticket money. That's fair, huh?

I still like him and I like his style. But while he can whip off Education Secretary Arne Duncan's Harvard basketball stats he can't fathom three other nominees' glaring tax gaps.

Now race is coming into the fray, and I don't mean race horses or racehorse-paced basketball. Here in Chicago, athlete-turned-sportscaster-turned-news anchor Warner Saunders took retired Sun-Times media critic Robert Feder to task, alleging he was racist "in his treatment of minority news personalties," according to a Chicago Tribune account of Saunders' comments at a speaking engagement in which Feder was in the audience. No proof, no examples, just allegations of racism by a once-respected newscaster in this town. Thanks, Warner, but you just got me off NBC-5 News and on to CBS-2, which means I won't have to change the channel to watch Letterman. He does better sports-related jokes anyway, always jabbing fun at whichever of New York's teams is experiencing losing ways.

I can't stomach racist allegations, especially unproven. I had my fill of them during the O.J. Simpson criminal murder trail. Now the former all-time great runningback is in jail for anything but racially charged murderous behavior. Maybe he'll bump into the real killers there.

I've sat through meetings where racial charges have flown regarding the credentials of people coming up for job candidacy. One who didn't make the cut at a recent meeting through which I sat is a person so gentle of nature, so pure of heart and so kind as an angel and patient as a saint but was yet painted out to be Lester Maddox and George Wallace all rolled into one. And those charges flew from an African-American supposed media maven who is known for having an unmistakable bias as well.

We in the media, we in the sports media, have to be very careful how we exercise our ability to "get in the last word." We can, as the aforementioned Warner Saunders attempted, callously ruin someone's reputation in the name of "fair commentary" and get away with it, even if we're wrong. We can call O.J. Simpson one thing or listen as his lawyers do the same. We can accuse Howard Cosell of racism over what he no doubt took to his grave thinking was a harmless comment during a Monday Night Football game he was calling (remember his "...that little monkey" remark?).

But then Josh Howard of the Dallas Mavericks comes along and makes a dumb comment about how being on the verge of having a black president will absolve him of any and all wrongdoing in the future. Gee, but how come that didn't work for me when we had all those white presidents so far?

Yet, we (including Josh Howard and Warner Saunders) rarely go to bat often enough in the cause of the hiring of black coaches in NCAA Division I football while the same old white guys get recycled in coaching position after coaching position at colleges around the country and the NFL has to mandate that minority candidates get a fair shake in the coaching-consideration process (even though they generally stand no chance of getting hired).

We can do better. We can exercise more fairness in judgment. Our bitterness and often our rushes to judgement in the name of "fair commentary" will only beget more of the same and do nothing to preserve and promote equality in this country.

Same old politics, huh?

Howard Schlossberg is an associate professor of journalism at Columbia College Chicago ( and a sports correspondent for The Daily Herald ( He also serves on the editorial advisory board of and contributes to The Journal of Sports Media ( and

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Big Picture, Local Focus

Today's title, with all due respect to one of my current employers, "The Daily Herald," discusses Comcast/Chicago's "Monsters in the Morning" and our new Chicago-native president, Barack "Basketball" Obama.

First of all, Barack - uh, President Obama - I hope, I truly hope, you can make the war in Iraq and the struggling economy as invisible and of less impact in our society as you did the impact and visibility on your campaign of William Ayers, Tony Rezko, Rod Blagojevich, Roland Burris, Rev. Wright, Rev. Pfleger and your wife's alleged conflict of interest between her consulting work and the hospital on which board she serves. Your campaign was brilliant. Now please make your administration the same. Turn it into a giant, pick-up basketball game of fun, peace and love for all (and stop smoking - trust me, I know the impact it'll have on your full-court game).

And to all the fans (not citizens, but fans) and the adoring media following this presidency, please remember: There is no six-month honeymoon - he was elected for four years, not three years and six months.

Before anyone jumps on me, I voted for him. I always vote straight Democratic and he stands for every single one of the party's long-held principles. Period.

Hey "Monsters in the Morning" on Comcast in Chicago: It is very nice to see you guys - Dan Jiggetts and Mike North - back on the air, with the lovely Columbia College grad Jen Patterson on board. Guys, I can't speak for her, but she's a sportscaster, so let her do more in-depth sports updates, interviews and break into the conversation more with studio guests - she's not a "Traffic and Weather" girl. She can spend that time doing so much more for the sports aspects of your show. Let's face it - she's easy on the eyes too (that's a compliment, Jen). And I suggest you stop having the Notre Dame High School nun on the set select her wardrobe. Yikes!

Mike, Dan: you guys are killer interviewers, killer! On radio, Mike, you never let anyone off the hook and always asked the questions on the fans' minds, which is maybe because you have the killer instincts and don't have the starstruck reservations that so many trained-and-schooled sports journalists have.

So when are you guys going to start "killing" on the TV show? I know you've haven't been on two weeks yet as I write this, but tougher questions were asked of Craig Kenney at the Cubs Fanfest than when you had him on for that extended conversation. C'mon. We know, you know, you can be tougher without being impolite, pushy or over-the-top controversial. You've got that down. You always have.

All that said, go ahead, you and your loyal followers tell me to shut up and that the difference between you guys and me is that I'm writing this blog and you're on TV. And I know you beat your nemeses, "Mike and Mike," in the ratings so far. Congrats. I'm glad of that because of the product you deliver. And keep it up. Truly. I love you guys. I have watched at least one hour every morning so far (except the first 60 minutes - I'm at the gym and then, Mike, walking my Black Lab, Clio).

Anyway, I believe you'll truly ease into the right direction for which you're already headed over time and as situations call for it. I'm sticking around - you've got a loyal viewer in me and I like that your show, unlike "Mike and Mike," gives me what "The Daily Herald," to which I contribute, strives to do - Big Picture, Local Focus. But the Notre Dame High School stuff is too focused. Enough - we get it, Mike. You went there and it's a good school. I completely agree. That in mind, why not mention Jen's high school, Dan's, and mine (Brooklyn Tech, Brooklyn, NY, an outstanding magnet school also attended by my brother and my late father - enrollment, a staggering "...6,000 strong," as per the words to our alma mater)? Thanks.

You guys will take all of this as a rip and so might many of your fans, of which I'm one. Which is exactly why I wrote it. I'm a good college instructor, a good sports reporter, a good blogger, a good husband and a good dad. But I could get better at all of that and I'm constantly trying to. We all should try to get better at what we do no matter how good we are at it. You guys too. I'll bet some of this has come up at production meetings (which Jen walks out of, you say? - She did the same thing in my classroom - j/k).

Love you guys, really,


Howard Schlossberg
is an associate professor of journalism at Columbia College Chicago ( and a sports correspondent for The Daily Herald ( He also serves on the editorial advisory board of and contributes to The Journal of Sports Media ( and