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 (