Sunday, February 27, 2011

What To Do, How To Do It, About...Everything

So, I've got this problem. No, not that problem...

...what should I write my blog about this week?
  • How about the National Football League and the inability of the grown men who play in it and do the coaching and administration of it to fairly split up $9 billion? Nine billion dollars! That's 9 billion. What the ...?
  • I know, how about what happens despite the best intentions of doctors, scientists, trainers, coaches, referees, rules makers and the people in charge of them all when athletes collide head-to-head and then forget what they were doing there. Like, forever...
  • How about, why did Dave Duerson kill himself? Kill himself? Why did a two-time Super Bowl safety and a proud, retired athlete and family man, just 50 years old, take a gun and kill himself? Was it the concussions? Or the aftermath thereof? Was it the violence of the game he played and loved or the violent men who made it so? I suppose it could've been worse. How? He could've played in the same era as James Harrison of the Steelers.
  • Why is it that all four major sports (hockey's No. 4, not NASCAR, you dummy) have their collective bargaining agreements expire within a year of each other? First time ever. Maybe all four sports will have to shut down. Cancel their postseasons, their championships. No Super Bowl. No Stanley Cup Finals (eh, no biggie, already happened and the Red Sox took advantage to win the World Series for the first time since there previously was no Stanley Cup Final - 86 years before that). No NBA Finals. No World Series (been there, done that too).
All because grown men can't split up a lot of money. Two billion dollars. Three billion. Nine billion. Does it make a difference?

What will you do if there's no NFL season? No MLB season? No hockey (celebrate actually on that one)? What if players had to take time off while billionaires decided just how much money they wanted to take back from their millionaire employees? What would you do in the meantime?

Watch college football (same old concussions)? Watch minor-league baseball (whoopee!). Watch your kids play soccer (there's a novel idea)? Develop a workout regime of your own? Discover (God forbid) your family? Do cultural (yuck) stuff? Join a bridge club? Play chess? Stalk Erin Andrews (no, strike that).

Travel? What's that? You already throw the family into the trailer every weekend and follow NASCAR around? Alas...

I've got it - UCF! No, wait, that's a concussion waiting to happen. Boxing? The same. WWE? Who doesn't love Smackdown? Raw? Wrestlemania? It's fixed, you say? Hasn't that happened in pro and college football and basketball anyway?

Hey, gambling, of course, gambling. Gimme' the Packers, lay the points. No, wait...

And kiss your fantasy sports good-bye too. No more computer drafts, or better yet, barroom drafts, and drafts, know what I mean? You might have to take your girlfriend out to dinner. Or dancing. Yeah, dancing. Remember how to do that?

"American Idol" or some trashy show like "Cake Boss" or "Say Yes To The Dress" on Monday nights in the fall is looking pretty good about now. You might get so hooked on it you won't go back to MNF when the NFL returns.

Yeah, the NFL, remember that? And SportsCenter. The Top 10 would be billiards shots and gymnastic floor routines. And the lead story on the nightly news would be who got eliminated on "Survivor" or "Celebrity Apprentice." Hopefully, it was Rod Blagojevich.

But just to keep things in balance, maybe they should donate his brain to science too for further study.

Like, now, maybe?

DeMaurice, Roger, good luck. Call when you have something.


Howard Schlossberg (hbssports) is editor of "Journal of Sports Media," the only publication totally dedicated to groundbreaking academic research in the field. He's also an Associate Professor of Journalism at Columbia College Chicago and is a sports correspondent for The Daily Herald, a Chicago-area metro daily. He is the author of two books.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Just Me and the F'Kowie Tribe

Little is known about the F'Kowie Indians. So few are left they don't even have casinos. It is believed that discovering their secret, sacred stones - which resembled dice - will lead you to wealth and good fortune on gambling tables. So, while the bold treasure-hunters among us continue to search for their secrets, think about this...

Anyone notice that ESPN's Sports Reporters show on Sunday morning, for the first time I can remember, featured an entirely African-American panel on its four-member set? Maybe they've done that before, I don't know. But it was the first time I'd noticed.

Maybe it was because February is Black History Month. Maybe it was because that was just the way their rotating panel of contributors shaped up that week. Maybe it was because if you just listened to the show instead of watching it, you wouldn't have known the ethnic origin of the quartet.

Now, this is where you're expecting a patronizing remark to the effect of how it's about time they did this. No, instead, this is the patronizing remark about how much I enjoyed it and how much I didn't miss regular panelist Mike Lupica of the NY Daily News cut off and interrupt everyone so as to deliver his rant on everything (he's an expert on whatever it is, just ask him).

What I am going to say though is that ESPN doesn't have to wait for Black History Month to feature a panel such as this. Whether it's Barry Bonds or Satchel Paige, Warren Moon or Cam Newton, Rafer Johnson or Michael Johnson, Walter Payton or Peyton Hillis, the time is never wrong to be retrospective about the black athletic experience and legacy in this country.

Except I must have missed the commentary where they cited a piece by former ESPN'er Dan Patrick, who, in an interview with Cleveland Browns running back Peyton Hillis, got the rookie's revelation that he regularly gets trash talk from opposing black players to the effect of, "You ain't runnin' on us today, white boy," or something to that direction.

Now then, if white defensive players had said that to a black running back, do you sort of wonder if the NFL investigation by the commissioner's office would still be ongoing? And can you imagine where the football media would've gone with a story like that? They'd still be camped out at NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell's door awaiting judgment on the situation. And the columns and blogs would be merciless.

I'm just sayin' all. Now, before we resume the search for the all-knowing, all-seeing F'Kowie...


...Baseball teams are at spring training and the sports writing flow of words and columns and blogs is as slathering as ever. All over, the optimism spews, with repeated chants of how good "we" look this year, how much better "we" look this year, how much improved "our" pitching is this year and how "we" can't be overlooked as a legitimate division contender this year. Yes, it's "we," because you and the sports writer on the beat are part of the team and don't you forget it.


Each off-season acquisition has the sports scribes who follow their local teams making World Series reservations already. And did you know Albert Pujols is joining the Cubs? Well, maybe next year. Did you know The White Sox are the pick to dethrone the Twins in the A.L. Central? OK, maybe the Tigers will do it. Except their slugger, Miguel Cabrera, just got busted again. Don't worry, despite that and the media whiplash he's experiencing, he'll bust some balls over walls too. He always does, no matter how much trouble he's in over how much booze he allegedly had in his car.

Did you know the Orioles loaded up with free agents and are serious this year? Yes, that's right, the Yankees and Red Sox might even take them seriously for 4 or 5 of the 19 games they each play against them. And Tampa Bay, well, watch out. With retirement-home residents Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez, they are the da' bomb this season. Except neither one of them can run like the departed Carl Crawford (Red Sox) or pitch like the departed Rafael Soriano (Yankees) or Matt Garza (Cubs). The Rays are dead in the water. Just ask the media.

Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds are making comebacks this year. In court. We'll find out which one of them has been lying about steroids, let alone affairs with teenage country recording stars and travel privileges with personal trainers and concubines, respectively. Somebody close down the Hall of Fame for a while - nothing but Steroid Era guys coming up for eligibility for the next few years anyway. And we all know the sports reporting community that votes on their admission has made up its collective mind that they ain't gettin' in.

And will someone tell me why it's such a big deal that Kerry Wood is back with the Cubs? He was supposed to be the next great thing after he struck out 20 Houston Astros in 1998. Instead, his prospectively greatest moments went up in smoke when he blew the biggest game of his career in the 2003 National League Championship Series against Florida. The Cubs were headed for the World Series when he let the lowly Marlins complete an improbable comeback and win game 7. The media blamed it on manager Dusty Baker for overusing the injury-prone right-hander. In reality, it doesn't really matter how he used Wood, because the Cubs aren't even in game 7 without Dusty's "managing." And they would've won it if not for Wood's faulty pitching that night. And "overused" Mark Prior's the previous night. And a guy named 'Bartman.'

That's all Dusty Baker's fault too, y'know.

Now Wood's back with the Cubs, finishing up his journeyman career as a middle reliever plagued by a surgically interrupted career that otherwise kept him from being a Hall-of-Fame starter. Big news. Big news indeed. I'd rather they'd have brought back Dusty Baker to manage the club. Y'know, the Dusty Baker who won the division last year with the Reds. Yeah, that Dusty Baker.

So, go Cubs go. And take the Kerry Wood fan club with ya', please.

Sort of like the legend of the ever-lost, ever-wandering F'Kowie... where the heck are they anyway?


Howard Schlossberg is editor of "The Journal of Sports Media," a twice yearly publication dedicated solely to academic research on the impact of sports coverage. He teaches journalism at Columbia College Chicago, where's he an Associate Professor and is a Sports Correspondent for the "Daily Herald," a major metro in Chicago's suburbs.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Those Nasty F-Bombs

Those nasty f-bombs. They are everywhere.

I hear them uttered while I'm walking through the mall, with all kinds of accents attached to them, from unknown Eastern European to something South American.

I hear them on TV, if I'm watching something racy on HBO, that is.

I hear them, or better yet, see them mouthed on TV, along the sidelines of a football game by a coach whose team just got burned by a penalty flag or a challenged call not overturned. Cameras are oh so quick to zoom in on the colorful coach who TV directors calling the shots and camera angles from the truck know are mouthing something unprintable.

Rex Ryan, says the director, we love you. We can't hear what you're saying, we can't retransmit what you're saying and we can't let our announcers and sideline reporters repeat what they know you just said. But we can let our viewers, ages 9 to 90, watch you mouth the f-bomb.
Networks live for these moments. Or so it seems. It's ESPN's Jon Gruden as he guided the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to a Super Bowl championship. It's Ozzie Guillen, as he rants over a call against his White Sox or angrily laments over the firing of his son from the Sox organization because his son tweeted something as foul as Ozzie often launches aloud.
We laugh. We repeat the word aloud. In our living rooms, comfortably ensconced on our couches and recliners. We chuckle over it. We profess admiration and respect for the athletes and coaches who don't hesitate to utter an f-bomb when it suits them over a play that has gone against them.

It's gotten so commonplace in sports that it has completely spilled over into life. Hey, if it's OK for some of our sporting heroes to mumble f-bombs that are easily recognized by even the most-casual of lip readers watching live on a Sunday afternoon or in prime time, then we figure it's OK for us to do it too. And our kids.

Athletes and sportsmen profess to not be role models. Yet, they mutter the f-bomb word regularly and follow it up with a "WTF."

WTF? What the (f-bomb) does that mean? Uh, that's exactly what it means. Athletes and coaches are the people Americans look up to, yet they f-bomb away freely, on HBO documentary specials covering football teams in training camp or, as aforementioned, along the sidelines when questioning what they feel is a bad call or what should become or should have become an overturned call upon the flinging of the f-bombing challenge flag.

Fans in front of their TVs and all throughout sold-out stadiums and high school gyms utter the word over and over. Sometimes they use the "push it" chant in unison to simulate their feelings for a call with which they disagree. "Push it, push it."

Get it, get it?

So, next time your 9-year old lets an f-bomb rip or mutters "WTF" when asking what this sordid-looking vegetable is you're trying to get him or her to eat, remember, they either got it listening to you yell at the TV when a call went against your team or when the coach or manager made a questionable decision with which you disagreed.

Or they watched Rex Ryan or Ozzie Guillen repeat it over and over.

Funny, I watched Rex Ryan play ball in high school when he roamed sideline to sideline for his alma mater, Stevenson, in Lincolnshire, Ill. Don't recall hearing him say the f-bomb then, although he likely did under his breath, trash-talking an opponent out of earshot of a referee. I've heard it all walking the sidelines at football games, from coaches, players and most definitely fans.

Schools and park districts have instituted rules that spectators and participants for that matter can't utter language like that and get away with it. There will be a penalty, a technical foul, maybe a dismissal from the game.

As fans cheer the offender being chased off the field, someone, somewhere in the arena is asking, "WTF?" But when it's your turn, don't forget to carefully craft your answer to your kid when he or she inquires about the dismissal of said player, coach or fan by asking you the same thing. And don't have a surprised look on your face when that happens while your kid has an innocent look and the built-in excuse that he lip-read Rex Ryan and Ozzie Guillen doing it.

I mean, after all, WTF?

Howard Schlossberg is editor of the "Journal of Sports Media," a twice yearly academic research-based publication featuring the latest and best on trends in the genre from the best minds studying it in the industry. He's also an associate professor of journalism at Columbia College Chicago and a sports correspondent for "The Daily Herald," a Paddock Publications product out of Arlington Heights, Ill. And he ain't gonna' let any WTF-bombs get into the journal either.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Stupor Bowl Memories...

Cherished moments from SB XLV:

Take it from the top, which Christina Aguilera should do. Thank you, Christina, for reinventing the lyrics to the national anthem. The freakin' national anthem, girlfriend! Sorry, but Maurice Cheeks wasn't there to bail you out. And thanks to you, now, for future Super Bowls, the national anthem will have to be prerecorded and lip-sync'd. If I want a real offbeat interpretation of the anthem, I'll call up my Jose Feliciano version from the World Series a few decades ago.

Speaking of musical interpretations, loved the Super Bowl halftime show, but is it over yet? Anyone else they're gonna' trot out? Maybe Smokey Robinson? Robby Robinson? Sugar Ray Robinson? Tell 'em to turn on Fergie's mike next time. And You're not. I am hereby nominating Cheap Trick for next year's halftime show. Rock icons, legacy band, don't need Slash and Usher to make 'em complete. Sound as good live as they do in the studio. Plus, they're from Rockford, Ill., so at least one entity from the Prairie State will be a winner at the Super Bowl for the first time since "SB XX."

And as noted in the latest WIRED, as Super Bowl games keep getting better, closer and more competitively exciting, halftime shows couldn't be getting more distant (Paul McCartney?), sterile (Tom Petty) and predictable (last night) since the Justin Timberlake-Janet Jackson wardrobe malfunction. The Black-Eyed Peas are good - very good - but that performance would've been better taped in a studio and rebroadcast on the Jumbotron. And it wouldn't have looked much different if they had.

Sorta' like Ben Roethlisberger's performance (on the field, that is), y'know what I mean?

Speaking of Big Ben, I kept hearing and reading commentaries all week and all day game day, that a Steelers' win would've given him redemption from his off-season fiasco that earned him a four-game suspension (should've been four years). Redemption, huh? Is that so? As if that would've made him a better person? Somewhere in Georgia (or wherever), a young girl who thought she was going to meet a football hero at a bar one night, got her redemption, so to speak.

The Rooney family may deserve better as pioneers of the game. But I don't think an "At Home With The Roethlisbergers" reality show is going to be appearing on VH-1 any time in the immediate future. I'd sooner watch Ozzie Osbourne and Justin Bieber do a commercial together.

No, wait...


Howard Schlossberg is the editor of the academic research-oriented "Journal of Sports Media" and invites your submissions. See the web site for details. He is also an Associate Professor of Journalism at Columbia College Chicago and a sports correspondent for "The Daily Herald" in Arlington Heights, Ill.