Is the Media Destroying Sports?

Joe OneillCorrespondent IIMay 15, 2009

I went to my mailbox yesterday as Thursday is generally the day I receive my new Sports Illustrated in the mail.

I've been an SI subscriber since about 1985 and it's a ritual I've come to love.

Opening the box, I was hoping to see a cover featuring the Lakers-Rockets duel, the great series being played between the Penguins-Capitals, or perhaps even a cover featuring the fantastic Manny Pacquiao.

I know the last one was wishful thinking but I'm a huge boxing fan.

Instead, I was treated to a photo of Manny Ramirez and the latest superstar to be caught using steroids.

Let's see...two biggest baseball stories this year have been A-Rod and his steroid confession and Manny and his positive steroid test.

What have been the biggest football stories? Anquan Boldin and his contract hold-out. Brett Favre and his latest retirement/unretirement/retirement. Jay Cutler whining his way out of Denver. Michael Vick and his never-ending saga with pit-bull fighting.

It's no secret the mainstream media thrives on negativity. Editors aren't stupid. They know a story featuring Alex Rodriguez and a stripper or steroid allegation is going to produce many, many more article reads than a feel-good story.

I'm even guilty of writing about A-Rod and his steroid abuse—although as a Seattle Mariner fan, I should be given a certain amount of leeway in anything relating to Rodriguez.

They know the public all too well.

Put a story up about an athlete and his charitable causes and the public yawns. Put a story up about an athlete in a strip club and the everyone is grabbing for a paper.

And, compared to 20 years ago, there's unprecedented competition for the public's dollars. It used to be three or four channels and a couple of newspapers. Now it's hundreds of channels, web sites, satellite radio, 24-hour sports AM radio, and more magazines than ever.

Every little tidbit of gossip or scandal is blown up and up and up.

How would Babe Ruth fare in today's game? Or those Yankees team featuring Micky Mantle?

Certainly, those guys were no saints and engaged in a fair amount of debauchery, womanizing, and boozing.

But the public never heard about it.

The media, to a certain extent, protected players.

Now, the media seems so negative. So mean spirited. 

I can't watch Jim Rome, or Pardon the Interruption, or any number of mind-numbing shows featuring shouting without substance or style.

Personally, I'm not sure I want to know how much athletes make, or what drug they're guilty of using, or what their social life is comprised of. I'm not really sure why that's "news."

I don't know what my plumber makes annually or if he's cheating on his wife, and I don't care. I just want him to fix the damn pipes.

It also makes me glad there's a media outlet like Bleacher Report because I'm starting to lose faith in the mainstream media. I actually find many of the writers on Bleacher Report to be on par with paid writers at newspapers and magazines.

But there isn't the cynicism for the most part. It's mostly very passionate fans who love writing about and discussing sports.

I find myself more and more going to Bleacher Report to read about sports rather than or other traditional sites.

I don't understand this need of the media to bring down anyone with a little bit of success. It's true that they love to build up players and then tear them down.


A writer recently wrote a great article on Bleacher Report about the San Diego Chargers. She wrote about how generous they were and how real class acts. It was actually refreshing to read that athletes are good people and not snorting cocaine, hiring prostitute's, or shooting themselves up with the latest designer steroid.

So here's one story about a very unselfish athlete.

It was 1992 and I was fresh out of college. I was playing some pick-up ball at a local gym.

Who walks in? None other than Ken Griffey Jr.

I immediately knew who he was—as did everyone else. He didn't act like a cocky jock, just a nice guy who wanted to play some ball.

My team won, his team was up, and he guarded me. I'll be honest, it was really hard not to crack a huge smile. He looked at me, smiled huge, and then gave me a big bear hug. I was like a 10-year-old kid.

I played two games against him. He was a far superior athlete to anyone on the court but never engaged in any kind of trash talking or rim rattling dunks. He passed the ball, shot from the outside, and even let me get my jump shot off.

After the games, a little boy stood on the sideline mesmerized watching Griffey Jr. Rather that sign an autograph, Griffey shot around with the kid, joked with him, and then told him to take care.

He was a normal, good guy and it was an experience I'll never forget. 

I absolutely love sports and will until the day I die. I love watching them and talking about them and reading about them. I especially love writing about them.

I just don't care to hear about the negativity anymore. Life's hard enough, I don't to read about all the lousy stuff on the sports page.

Save that for politics.


    Iconic Sports Illustrated Writer Deford Dies at Age 78

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    Iconic Sports Illustrated Writer Deford Dies at Age 78

    Tyler Conway
    via Bleacher Report