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The Future of Sports Journalism

December 7, 2010

Sports Journalism in the coming decades will almost certainly be nothing like it was in the past.  Journalism as a whole has been heading towards dramatic change for years now.  Newspapers are cutting budgets and staff left and right as television and the internet expand.

So what exactly is in store for sports fans?

Well, to put it simply, sports are going viral.  Fans can now get up to date coverage of teams and specific players (don’t discount the popularity of fantasy sports in the internet’s increasing dominance).  They can test there opinions and engage in debate in an ever increasing catalog of forums and blogs.  In many ways, the Monday morning watercooler has been replaced by the Sunday night comment section.   Read more…

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The Ines Sainz Incident

November 29, 2010

In an NFL season rife with sex-related controversy (see: Roethlisberger, Ben and Favre, Brett), one of the major stories early in the season emerged from the practice field of the New York Jets.  Ines Sainz’s accounts of offensive comments and immature behavior at a Jets practice earlier this season became a national story.  There was little agreement, however, over who was to blame, if anyone at all.

First things first, the behavior of the Jets players, who directed flirtatious and lewd comments at Sanchez, was inappropriate.  The practice field and locker room are ultimately part of the workplace, and such behavior needs to be controlled.

That said, was anyone actually surprised?  Professionals though they may be, the Jets, and NFL players in general, are mostly young men in their 20s, many of them fresh out of college.

Sainz's outfit at the Jets' practice. Unprofessional? Maybe. Unintentional? No way (Twitter)

Combine that with the power-trip of being a highly paid athlete and you have a recipe for impulsive and stupid behavior.  It has a lot to do with our culture as a whole and, regrettable though it may be, it isn’t changing any time soon.

That’s not to say that such behavior should be encouraged or even allowed to continue.  In this particular case, in fact, it wasn’t.  Sainz received an apology from Jets owner Woody Johnson and the organization requested that the  Association of Women in Sports Media hold an education session for Jets players.  So there you have it, the team acknowledged the situation and addressed the issue in an apparently appropriate manner.

The more shameful actions were those undertaken by head coach Rex Ryan.  Ryan, along with defensive backs coach Dennis Thurman, purposefully overthrew passes so that players could get closer to Sainz.  As head coach, Ryan is supposed to characterize the professionalism and maturity we ask of his players, and his actions are in blatant contradiction to that idea.

So what are we left with?  We have a group of young men in a locker room who acted like idiots and were then told they were idiots and taught how not to be idiots again.  And we have a coach who forgot his role and sunk to the level of his players, who were being idiots.

As for Sainz, do I care how she dresses? No, not personally.  Do I think her outfit was somewhat unprofessional and purposefully accentuated certain parts of her body? You bet.  Does that mean she deserves to be the subject of name-calling and flirtation? I don’t think so.  Do I think it’s the best way to get respect as a journalist or be treated fairly in a locker room? No, not at all.

So ultimately, what does this story say about sports or sports journalism? Nothing specifically I think.  In the end we learned that some men can act like boys (I’m looking at you, Ryan), and that if you put a provocatively dressed, attractive woman in a locker room with a bunch of guys in their 20s, there’s a good chance someone’s going to say something stupid.

This may represent a barrier for women looking to make it in sports journalism, but the problem itself is by no means unique to that field.  Instead, its just a part of our culture, one that’s hopefully changing.

Until then though, let’s just make sure this kind of behavior is discouraged and do everything we can to make sure women have equal opportunities when it comes to covering sports.  Oh, and can we not act so shocked when something like this happens?

Jeter’s Gold Glove Undeserved

November 22, 2010

Derek Jeter is not a good defensive shortstop.

The Gold Glove, America's favorite alliterative baseball award. That's right Silver Slugger (tripwatch.com)

Waiting for the screams of angry Yankee fans to subside

I’m sorry, but it’s true.  Jeter’s a great player, and I’d love for him to be on my team.  His career OPS of .837 is very good.  He does,  in fact, deserve a good amount of the praise he gets.  But the five gold gloves, including the brand new shiny one just given to him, are ridiculous.

“But wait!”, you say, “He led all shortstops in fielding percentage! And he only had 6 errors! That’s great!”.

Oh, how wrong you are my exclamatory friend.  The truth is that errors and fielding percentage aren’t that important, especially for a shortstop.  Skill at shortstop, like the outfield positions (and, well, every position to some extent) comes down mostly to range. Read more…

The Impact of ESPN and Sports Television

November 15, 2010

The Sportscenter Desk has been a driving force in sports media for 30 years (espn.go.com)

Since the network’s introduction in 1979, ESPN has had a tremendous impact on sports and sports media.  First, the idea of a sports-only network separated the subject from the rest of the news.  Where traditionally sports journalism was presented alongside other subjects in a newspaper or nightly news broadcast, ESPN (along with magazines like sports illustrated and others) made sports the sole focus.

In addition, ESPN was influential in creating a national sports scene.  ESPN’s ability to offer up to date, 24/7 national sports news allowed fans, who had been previously limited to local teams and a few nationally televised games, to follow sports and leagues nationwide.

This new source of information changed the national sports culture.  For example, a fan in New York can watch highlights of a team in Seattle every night.  ESPN is therefore largely responsible for the increase in athlete celebrity.  Players who were formerly limited to local stardom could now gain national exposure on a nightly basis. Read more…

Tabloid Athletes

November 1, 2010

Tabloid Athlete #1: Alex Rodriguez

A-rod is one of the foremost examples of celebrity in sports.  Long considered one of the top players in the game, his move to the Yankees in 2004 made him a tabloid staple.  His place in the (non-sports related) headlines reached its peak in 2008 with rumors about a troubled marriage and an alleged affair with Madonna.  He has a net worth of $300 million

Counterpart: Albert Pujols

Pujols is considered by many to be the best player in Major League Baseball.  Yet his net worth of $50 million is considerably less than A-rod’s, and he is essentially ignored by the tabloids. Read more…

Sports Media

October 25, 2010

I would say the majority of my sports media intake comes from the internet.  I check sites like espn.com, espn.com/boston, and insidelacrosse.com regularly to see the top stories and latest news.  I’ll read the occasional column from ESPN, something by Simmons or Reilly or something that looks interesting.

I don’t get too much sports information from blogs, only the occasional link from a Yahoo! headline.  I’d never checked twitter before this week, and I doubt I’ll become a regular, but I’ll admit following Bill Simmons’s tweets during the Pats game was entertaining.  Oh, and I guess I was one of the first people to see Paul Pierce’s new tattoo.

Aside from the internet, I get a decent amount of information from television.  Most of this comes in the form of game broadcasts and recaps, although my roommate and I will throw on the NFL network on occasion to get some updates.  My sports media intake from television would be much higher (and is when I’m home) if Tufts provided ESPN in its dorms.  It’s the lack of ESPN that’s pushed me more towards the internet I’d say, as I even watch a good number of college football games on ESPN3.

Most of my print intake comes from the occasional magazine that’ll come in the mail or a quick peek at the sports section in the Tufts Daily.  That’s pretty much it for paper though.

I don’t have a smart phone or anything like that so the closest I get to sports media on my phone is texts about the games from my dad or stepdad.

Potential Heat-Celtics Series Will Come Down to Big Men

October 18, 2010

 

As electrifying as shooters Ray Allen and Dwayne Wade can be, a Celtics-Heat series probably won't be decided by them (Getty Images)

 

ESPN recently held an NBA Roundtable discussion about what teams could pose a threat the the Miami Heat in the East.  They general consensus among the panelists was that the Celtics stood the best chance of knocking off the NBA’s new super team.

It may be a little early to start talking about a potential playoff series between Miami and Boston.  But given how weak the rest of the conference is (outside of Orlando, Chicago, and maybe Atlanta), it’s not hard to envision the two teams meeting in May.  So who wins a battle of “Big Three”s?  The answer will likely have little to do with each team’s star power.

NBA playoff series are often won and lost in the paint.  Shooting touch can fluctuate throughout the course of a seven game series (look no further than Ray Allen in last year’s finals).  But defense, rebounding, and the ability to draw fouls are less victim to the whims of the basketball gods.

The focus in the playoffs shifts, therefore, from the scorers to big men.  From 1999 to 2007, all but one NBA championship went to either Tim Duncan or Shaquille O’Neal, the two most dominant post players of their generation.  The two of them earned a combined six Finals MVP’s in that period.  Since then titles have gone to Kevin Garnett and the defensive minded Celtics and the imposing Laker frontcourt of Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum (not to mention Ron Artest’s defense or the 6’10” Lamar Odom coming off of the bench). Read more…